Today kids are scouted and lured to Europe from South America - the traditional hotbed of footballing talent at a really young age. Superstars like Lionel Messi stand testimony to the famed academy system which believes in “catching em’ young”!
Even if that doesn't happen, we seldom come across major internationals who decide to continue and ply their trade in the region which is administered by CONMEBOL. Invariably players are lured by the big money leagues and to be fair to them, it isn't entirely unnatural either. Right from the early 1980s, when a certain Diego Armando Maradona wrecked havoc in Napoli, there has been this trend of footballers from Latin America to migrate.
While its hard to find a modern day anomaly to this trend, one of the biggest names in world football, Pele, never moved to Europe despite repeated offers from a host of big clubs from the region.
Interacting with the media in a press conference here in Delhi, the ‘Black Pearl’ as he was known as, finally put to rest the queries about his non-participation in European football, “You see, I was declared a national treasure by the Brazilian government. They insisted and ensured on me not leaving the country till I was playing.
It was only after I retired from international football and was approaching retirement that I decided to move to New York Cosmos.”
Asked if staying in Brazil and playing club football with his mates from the national team helped, he added, “That it did, today there are just two players who play in the local league in Brazil and are representing the Selecao. Back in our day, it was different. We knew each other’s game really well and that helped.”
A three time World Cup winner from 1958, 1962 and 1970, he also holds the record of scoring 1283 goals professionally. Commenting upon what kept him going for so long, he exclaimed it was the urge to continuously improve.
Maintaining that it has been wrongly portrayed over the last few decades that he wanted to move out of Brazil much earlier, “Santos was my life, my everything. My son played as a goal keeper for it too.
The club evolved to become my family and I never ever regretted not going to Europe or anywhere else for that matter.”