In the world of football, players frequently struggle to reproduce their top form after a change in surroundings, whether it be in a new country or simply a new club. That has never been a problem for 23-year-old Brazil midfielder Ramires, however, who throughout his career has shown an enviable ability to adapt and thrive with every fresh challenge.
In a recent interview with FIFA.com, Dorival Junior, the player’s former coach at Cruzeiro, told of the then 20-year-old’s impact at A Raposa after arriving from Joinville in 2007. “I’d only seen him for 20 minutes in training before putting him in the first team,” said the current Atletico-MG boss, with Ramires immediately becoming a fixture in the side until making the switch to Portuguese giants Benfica in summer 2009.
Nor did a transfer to one of the Old Continent’s historically most successful clubs overawe the young midfield dynamo, with Ramires quickly becoming an integral member of Os Encarnados’ side which powered to victory in the 2009/10 Liga Sagres. Part of the Brazil squad that finished third at the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament Beijing 2008, the versatile performer was one of the few individuals in that group to remain in favour with senior Seleção coach Dunga.
Indeed, Ramires became a regular under Brazil’s 1994 FIFA World Cup™-winning captain, since replaced by Mano Menezes, and went toe-to-toe with the experienced Elano for a starting berth at the FIFA Confederations Cup 2009 and South Africa 2010. Moreover, having been one of A Seleção Pentacampeã’s key men in the 3-0 round-of-16 victory over Chile at the latter tournament, his absence through suspension was sorely felt in Brazil’s quarter-final exit to eventual runners-up the Netherlands.
Signed by Premier League champions Chelsea in August 2010, for the first time in his career the midfielder also has a language barrier to overcome in his bid to adapt at a new club. “I’d never played in a country with a different language before, which makes things a bit trickier, but I’m taking English classes and hope to get a handle on it soon,” Ramires told FIFA.com.
“There are times when I’ll have an off day or not perform as well as expected, just like any other player, but that won’t have anything to do with how I’ve adapted or not. The players here at Chelsea couldn’t have welcomed me any better and the club provide me with everything I could need."
Boasting an impressive CV for one so young, it is perhaps unsurprising that Ramires appears unruffled at the prospect of fighting for a place in the Blues’ star-studded first team. “At Cruzeiro and Benfica there was also huge pressure to get good results, the difference at Chelsea is that the level of visibility is so much greater. That means you’re singled out more when you play badly and there’s more hype when you play well,” said Ramires, a two-time Mineiro state champion with Cruzeiro and a Portuguese league and League Cup winner with Benfica.
“I know that our coach Carlo Ancelotti believes in me, which means I can relax and keep working hard,” continued the No7, who has already started four league games and one Carling Cup tie this campaign. “For example, I was really pleased with the ovation I received from the fans after our (2-0 Premier League) victory over Arsenal at Stamford Bridge.”
Working in Ramires’ favour is the fact that his style of play is undeniably suited to the fast-paced English game. Technical ability, speed, stamina and versatility all combine to give his manager Ancelotti a top-drawer alternative in the holding position, in right midfield, as a box-to-box central midfielder or even further forward in a linking role. “I was brought into the team early on to fill in for the injured [Frank] Lampard,” said Ramires, who hails from Barra do Pirai in Rio de Janeiro state.
“Since then I’ve played a few times as a box-to-box midfielder, which is my original position and the same one where Mano Menezes has been using me for A Seleção. But to be honest, it’s not hard for me to play anywhere in midfield. I’ll play whichever way Ancelotti thinks works best for the team at any given time.”
This straightforward and adaptable approach has clearly worked for the player in the past and, though quiet and reserved off the pitch, Ramires cuts a no-nonsense figure on it. “English football is very fast and physical, so you don’t get much time on the ball and you have to make decisions quickly. As well as being a player who tries to start moves when I have the ball, I’ve always liked a tackle, so that’s why I’m not finding it very hard to adapt,” continued the Brazilian, as the interview drew to a close.
“I’m already getting used to the speed of the game over here. All I need to do now is to keep working hard to earn my spot in the side and help the team stay as successful as they’ve been in recent years.” And given his record at previous clubs, allied to the Blues’ flying start to the season, does anybody doubt Ramires will do just that?