As an analyst on beIN Sports for the World Cup, former Brazil international and Ballon d’Or winner Kaka gave his insight on how Brazilian footballers can be more revered in Europe than they are in their home country. To illustrate his point, he used the example of Ronaldo Nazario.
The former Real Madrid and AC Milan midfielder said that being in Europe and in Qatar at the moment, he saw a lot more respect for Ronaldo than he sees from his compatriots, even though he is considered an icon of the global game, and Brazilian sports in general.
“It’s strange to say this, but many Brazilians don’t support Brazil,” he said. “It happens sometimes. If you see Ronaldo walking around here, you’ll be like: ‘Wow’, he has something different here. In Brazil, he’s just a fat man walking down the street.” The statement was met by a round of laughter by the panellists, which included Gary Neville and John Terry. Kaka further went on to clarify what he meant.
“Of course, many Brazilians love Ronaldo, I love Ronaldo,” he added. “(But) the way he is respected in Brazil and abroad is different, I see more respect for him outside the country than there.”
To make his point, he also gave the example of Neymar, who despite being the biggest international superstar of the current Brazilian team, is seen quite negatively by the people of Brazil. “In this moment right now, a lot of people in Brazil are talking about Neymar, but in a bad way,” he said. “It’s strange.” When asked if Neymar’s political views could be the reason, he replied: “Maybe, maybe it could be for political reasons. But we, as Brazilians, don’t always recognise talent.”
Neymar has been one of the top-performing players for Brazil’s national team in the recent past, but his political views – especially his public sponsorship of former president Jair Bolsonaro – have made him an incredibly divisive figure for the Selecao. Even though he could be key to Brazil’s success at the World Cup now, after recovering from an ankle injury, there is a view in Brazil, as Kaka mentioned, that he may not be heralded in the same breath as Pele, Ronaldo, Romario, and other national icons.