Picked out by Diego Maradona as the revelation of international football in 2009, Felipe Melo was awarded this high praise just five months after he was - to the surprise of many Brazilian pundits - chosen for A Seleção for the first time.
After getting his big break at Rio de Janeiro giants Flamengo, where Melo stayed from 2001 to 2003, he joined first Cruzeiro and then Gremio before making the move to La Liga outfit Mallorca in 2005. From there his nomadic existence continued, his time in Spain also featuring spells at Racing Santander and then notably Almeria, with his performances at the latter club catching the eye of Serie A outfit Fiorentina.
Originally a defensive midfielder, Melo’s attacking qualities had come to the fore in Andalucia and his good form continued in Florence, leading to a call-up from Dunga. A member of the Brazil squad that won the FIFA Confederations Cup last year, the hard-working player joined Juventus after the tournament.
“I always had that dream of making the national team. Every player does," Melo told FIFA.com recently. "People used to laugh at me for talking about it in public, but I worked hard and never gave up and it finally came true for me. I was 25 when I got the call, though some players make it when they’re 18 or 20. Even so, a few of them haven’t gone on to achieve very much.
“We play as a team and there’s a lot of unity out on the pitch. You can see how much everyone helps each other,” continued Melo, who helped Brazil to wins in five of his last six appearances in South American Zone qualifying for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™. “Everyone runs, closes players down and gives their all, and players like Kaka and Robinho do their fair share of marking too. It’s things like that have brought A Seleção closer to the fans again.”