Brazil is a nation well known for producing top-quality forwards. And while South American goal-grabbers are to be found strutting their stuff the world over, recent years have witnessed them make made their presence felt particularly strongly in China PR.
Muriqui became the first Brazilian since Eber Luis in 2008 to top the league’s scoring chart when the speedy and agile forward ended the 2011 edition with 16 goals as Guangzhou Evergrande took the title, becoming the first newly-promoted side to do so. And after conceding the Golden Boot to Jiangsu Sainty’s Romanian Cristian Danalache last year, the Brazilian gang have been unstoppable this season, with the race to finish top marksman dominated thus far by a series of fresh imports from this hotbed of football talent.
Leading the goalscoring race is Elkeson, a lively debutant who has set an impressive pace by scoring 13 times in only seven appearances for Marcello Lippi's Evergrande. Hot on his heels, though, is Liaoning Whowin's new signing Edu, with eight, while Qingdao Jonoon's Bruno Meneghel shares third place with Chinese Wu Lei from Shanghai SIPG on five.
"Everyone knows our country produces good attackers and goalscorers," Edu, who made the move to China from Greuther Furth at the start of this season, recently told FIFA.com. "Football is our tradition. I am happy I have discovered my goalscoring form since joining Liaoning, and I am glad to see my compatriots have done their jobs so well with their respective clubs."
The 31-year-old has indeed returned to the kind of fine form he showed while scoring regularly for the likes of Bochum and Suwon Bluewings. Forming one of the league's most formidable attacking partnership with Zambian James Chamanga, Edu has proved a nightmare for Super League defences with his nose for goal and shooting ability.
"After the spell with Bochum I moved to the K-League with Suwon and spent some good seasons there,” he continued. "The Bundesliga is full off top-quality players and I wasn't given enough playing time, but in Suwon I gained the recognition through my goals. It has been a good start with Liaoning as of now, and I hope to maintain my performance level with my club."
The Liaoning No10 completed his second brace of the season as his club overcame hosts Shanghai SIPG 2-1 on Sunday to move into the top five. And he is relishing every moment. "We Brazilians see football as part of our life,” he explained. “And while playing football is our work, we very much enjoy it.”
Elkeson the new king
While Edu has been impressing, it is 23-year-old Elkeson who has dominated attention, mesmerising fans with his pace, vision and work-rate. As a rising star in Brazil, he cut his teeth with Vitoria's youth academy before joining Botafogo, with whom he scored 19 times in 66 appearances. His talents certainly did not go unnoticed by Evergrande’s FIFA World Cup™-winning coach Lippi, who left no stone unturned to secure his service.
Elkeson, for his part, has more than justified Lippi’s faith. He opened his account with a brace in Evergrande’s 5-1 demolition of Shanghai Shenxin in the season opener before grabbing a hat-trick as they saw off Jiangsu 3-0. Since then, he has gone on to racked up a second treble in the 6-1 rout of Changchun Yatai, before taking his tally to 13 in the victory over Tianjin Teda that restored his team to the top of the table.
Having seen his new signing average nearly two goals per game, Lippi has spoken of his delight at the forward’s progress. "We travelled to Brazil to take him to Guangzhou, and he is now repaying our faith,” said the former Italy and Juventus coach. “(It is good) he is in prolific form, but his goal-scoring tally matters only if the team defend the league title this season. We are lucky, though, that he is part of our team."
Lippi's view was echoed by the dynamic marksman, who has fixed his sights on winning the Chinese league in his first season. "The most important thing is that the team win matches and claim the title,” he said. “This is a good team and, with the support of my team-mates, I will try to help out by scoring more goals."