When Carlos Eduardo signed for Bundesliga club Hoffenheim from Brazilian outfit Gremio in August 2007, he immediately set a new record for the highest transfer fee ever paid by a German second division club.  

However, the high price tag was the least of the Brazilian playmaker's worries at the time, as he explained in an exclusive interview with FIFA.com: "It was difficult when I first moved over because it was a new country and a new style of play, and that took a lot of getting used to," he said of his first few weeks in Germany. "I still miss my family a lot and always look forward to their visits because I'm very close to them, but my team-mates, the coach and the club all made me feel very welcome."

Key player in Hoffenheim
Since then, the 22-year-old has established himself as one of the key performers in Ralf Rangnick's young side, scoring five goals in 22 appearances and assisting a further five in his debut season as Hoffenheim powered into the Bundesliga for the first time in their history. 

"Looking back, I think that season was an important step in terms of my development," said the fleet-footed No10. "The robust, physical style of play wasn't easy at first, but I learned to release the ball quicker and how to shield it better. Now I'm profiting from that learning curve in the Bundesliga. Playing in the second division helped me a lot."

Carlos Eduardo has continued to impress in Germany's top tier with a number of outstanding displays demonstrating his superb vision and a composure in front of goal that belies his tender years. But how does the talented Brazilian rate his own abilities?  

"It's difficult to judge myself, I leave that to other people. I think I'm an important member of the team but there is plenty I can improve on, not least my consistency," he explained to FIFA.com.  

I had a few good moments during the game, but it only really sank in afterwards that I'd played for Brazil.

Carlos Eduardo on his debut against England

The 1.70m star's performances at club level have not gone unnoticed by Brazilian national coach Dunga, who selected Carlos Eduardo in his Seleção squad for the first time towards the end of last year. "I'd be lying if I said I wasn't surprised. I was so happy, the first thing I did when I heard the news was call my parents and friends," he recalls with a smile.  

Just a few days later and the Ajuricaba-born midfielder made his debut for the Auriverde against England. "I didn't think I was going to play, but as soon as the assistant coach told me I'd be on the bench I was fully focused. I had a few good moments during the game, but it only really sank in afterwards that I'd played for Brazil."  

Having previously appeared for his country at the FIFA U-20 World Cup Canada 2007, Carlos Eduardo is now set to win his second senior cap in this week's friendly match against the Republic of Ireland in London - the five-time FIFA World Cup™ winners' final test before the squad for South Africa 2010 is announced.

There's always a chance
"Every player dreams of competing at a major tournament and I'm no different," he says of his chances of making the final cut. "In Brazil, it's extremely difficult to get into the national team, so at least I've done that now. Whether I'll be in the World Cup squad or not I don't know, but there's always a chance. It depends whether I can perform consistently in the Bundesliga and in Brazil's final games [sic] before the decision."  

"It would be the highlight of my career so far. It's an honour for any player to represent his country, but I'm still young and could play in a few big tournaments yet, so if I don't make it this time, hopefully there will be another chance in the future."  

If Carlos Eduardo was modest about his own performances, he was far more forthcoming with his ambitions for South Africa 2010 should he indeed make the squad: "Brazil are always among the favourites at major tournaments. The 2006 World Cup was disappointing, but South Africa brings another chance for us to show the world that Brazil are the masters when it comes to football."  

Still, the 22-year-old is well aware that there will be several nations aspiring to FIFA World Cup glory come this June: "I think the usual suspects - Germany, Spain, Argentina and Italy - will all be a threat, but it wouldn't surprise me if an African team made it to the Final what with all the support they'll have."  

Brazil will of course be hosting the 2014 FIFA World Cup, but Carlos Eduardo insisted he is concentrating on the present for now: "It's quite a long way off and anything can happen between now and then, but it's going be a wonderful tournament."  

And if the jewel in Hoffenheim's crown continues to perform as he has been in the Bundesliga, then Carlos Eduardo might just be the man to fire the Brazilians to their first FIFA World Cup success on home soil in four years' time.