Brazilian football is not short of quality strikers. The likes of Kleber, Diego Tardelli, Ronaldo and Fred can all justifiably lay claim to being the finest finishers in the land, an honorary title that Adriano and Vagner Love would also have been in the running for not so long ago.
One name not featuring so high on the list of candidates, however, is that of Alecsandro, a curious state of affairs given his commendable prolificacy. The Internacional forward hit 28 goals in 2009 and already has 20 to his name this year, a return that makes his relatively low profile all the more puzzling.
The 29-year-old is now doing his very best to gain a lasting place in the limelight. The scorer of the goal that downed Sao Paulo in the semi-finals of the Copa Libertadores last week, Alecsandro will be leading the line again for O Colorado in the first leg of the final against Guadalajara this evening. Yet, as he told FIFA.com, there is a very good reason why he has still to win the battle for the widespread recognition that he deserves.
"I had very good spells at Vitoria and Cruzeiro and now I’m doing well at Internacional,” he said. “I’ve scored goals wherever I’ve gone and there’s no question they’re all big clubs. The thing is, though, I’ve never played in the major footballing states of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo. The game’s bigger there, there’s more media coverage and more investment. And if I’d done what I’ve done so far in Rio or Sao Paulo, then I would have already had an opportunity or two with the national team.”
A native of Sao Paulo state, his hopes of achieving that goal would seem to hinge on Internacional's ability to stay in contention for major trophies. “Last year [former national coach] Dunga said something that I agree with, that a player can only be called up if he’s doing well at his club and if his club are getting good results,” explained the Brasileirao 2010's six-goal leading marksman.
“And if Inter are doing well, we all get the benefit. I’m the top scorer in a big team that’s reached the final of the Libertadores and is riding high in the Brasileirao. Sooner or later that should bring its rewards.”
Such is the strength of the Internacional squad, however, that Alecsandro needs to keep on scoring goals just to hold on to his club place, let alone push for a slot in A Seleção. Colorado coach Celso Roth has a dizzying array of midfield and attacking talent to call on, with the likes of Andrezinho, Andres D’Alessandro, Giuliano, Taison and Rafael Sobis all keeping the No9 on his toes.
“We’ve got so many high-profile players that people probably think it’s a problem for us,” Alecsandro continued. “It’s not though. It only helps us when we go out on the pitch because we have so many players that our opponents need to worry about. And if we can keep on winning, it’s only going to be a positive thing for everyone concerned. If we end up lifting the Libertadores, there’ll be more than enough glory to go round.”
Internacional are certainly battle-hardened, having overcome some stiff tests in the knockout phase, beating Argentinian duo Banfield and Estudiantes and then overcoming Sao Paulo in the semi-finals. In all those ties they relied on the away-goals rule to advance, a pattern that Alecsandro believes could well continue against Guadalajara in the decider.
“They are a very, very dangerous team,” he said. “They’re probably not as tough defensively as the other teams we’ve faced, but they have a lot of firepower up front. Just look at the second leg of their semi-final at Universidad de Chile. They weren’t playing that well and they still managed to get the job done. They deserve their place in the final for sure.”
Whatever happens in that final, the Porto Alegre outfit will be representing South America at the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2010 in December, where they could well face reigning European champions Inter Milan. Yet though the possibility of taking on compatriots Julio Cesar and Lucio is a tantalising one, Alecsandro is intent on keeping present objectives in mind.
“One step at a time is what I say," he remarked. "For a start there’s no way I want to lose this Libertadores title. I’ve spent time in Abu Dhabi (with Al-Wahda in 2008) and I’m in no great rush to go back there just yet. And in any case, both Inter and Inter Milan have games to win if they’re going to play each other in the final. So I’ll start thinking about taking on Lucio if and when we make it.”
By that time the Nerazzurri centre-back and Colorado striker could even be team-mates in A Seleção. “Who knows?” said a smiling Alecsandro in response. “I don’t see why not.”