Nene has been perhaps been the standout star for Paris Saint-Germain this season and it is remarkable to think that for all his talent, he has yet to adorn a Brazilian shirt at full international level.
Despite notching up four caps for the Under-23’s, the number 10 has never made it to the senior squad. At 30 years of age he no longer has time on his side and is itching to make the grade for the 2014 FIFA World Cup – which is incidentally held in his homeland.
He has once again been in superb form this season and has been lavished with superlatives from fans and journalists alike. He has been integral to the system of the team, working in tandem with Jeremy Menez by coming inside from the wing and terrorising his opponents. The interchanging and movement is pivotal in the team’s strength to conduct quick counter-attacks and Nene has relished from this tactic, performing on a consistent basis.
His influence in his debut season last campaign was huge. Arriving for €5.5m from AS Monaco, he bagged 14 goals and 9 assists with the club just missing out on Champions League qualification. He has already found the back of the net seven times this season but his general play to influence games has been his main strength. With such quick feet, he can weave into tight areas and open up the space for his peers to run into and has the vision to pick out a defence splitting pass or even go alone.
Nene is not just a one trick pony, his set-pieces are on a par with soon to be – if reports are true – PSG star David Beckham. His left-foot can turn a game on sixpence with one swing and it is a trait that – in particular – goes unnoticed. More often than not his deliveries will find a PSG shirt resulting in an effort on goal.
Unfortunately, for all the good work he has demonstrated – especially in the last two years – he has yet to make the grade for the Samba boys. Reasoning as to why? The main being perhaps the strength in depth of their squad. The likes of Robinho and Neymar have been the occupants of the wing areas in a 4-2-1-3 formation over the course of the year and during the Copa America back in the summer. In actual fact, their formation it is not too dissimilar from how PSG set up their stall. Two anchorman sit just in front of the back four, with Javier Pastore filling the hole just behind sole striker Kevin Gameiro who will rely on service from out wide via Menez and Nene himself.
That being said, Nene has shown just how influential he is to the Parisians in that formation and would have no qualms in fulfilling a similar duty for his country. The only problem for him it seems is indeed the competition for places. Neymar is blossoming into one of the planet’s finest stars with Santos and Robinho has undergone a renaissance since his move to Italy last year. Nevertheless, Nene’s quality should not be underestimated and can certainly give any Brazilian a run for their money. Although he has had his injury problems this season, Robinho’s contribution to AC Milan thus far is inferior compared to his compatriot – just racking up two goals and one assist. Based on form Nene should at least be making the squad, never mind the team.
He has reiterated his desire to play for his country but also dropped a bombshell back in October when he said he would be more than willing at to adorn the blue and red of France. He has dual Brazilian/Spanish nationality and is on the verge of acquiring French as well.
He told French radio RMC; “I will give everything I can to play for Brazil at the 2014 World Cup. But if I see I can’t make it with Brazil, I will think about the French national team. It should not be a problem. I have dual nationality and I hope I will soon have triple nationality.”
That poses the question of why not? Les Bleus are blessed with an array of technical flavour in their squad but would Nene have something to offer? The answer is absolutely. Based on how well he has played with French regular Jeremy Menez this season, it will certainly give Coach Laurent Blanc food for thought.
Nevertheless, whether it is in blue of France or the yellow of Brazil, surely it is only a matter of time before he makes his bow at international level. For someone who trains so readily and performs so consistently, it just seems an utter waste that such a professional cannot earn a deserving call-up.
All Nene can do now is continue to do what he is doing and the eventuality will soon come. If not, then Brazil’s loss could be Les Bleus’ gain.