AS Monaco have continued their assault on the Ligue 1 title with the £52m signing of Brazil forward Hulk from Zenit St Petersburg, says the ‘Metro.’ Hulk joins other signings such as Falcao, Joao Moutinho, and Eric Abidal at the newly-promoted club, who have now spent close to £200million over this summer. Competing with PSG’s signings of Edinson Cavani and Hulk’s teenage compatriot Marquinhos from Roma, Monaco manager Claudio Ranieri has stated that more signings must be made if the Monte Carlo club are to challenge for the title in the coming season.
Since Hulk left Porto for Russia last September, he has endured a difficult time on the pitch in more than one respect. After suffering racist abuse from Zenit fans, he has scored only 11 goals in 30 games, a significant decrease from his impressive scoring record in Portugal and Japan.
He was widely regarded as one of the most disappointing players at the recent Confederations Cup in Brazil, despite playing in all five games in the hosts’ run to the trophy. That said, he was frequently substituted, providing only one assist and no goals over the course of the tournament. There is still obvious class, as evidenced by a thumping long-range free kick against Italy that was well kept out, and several powerful, pacy runs down the right wing.
The move will see Hulk reunited with his former Porto teammates Falcao, Moutinho, and James Rodriguez, and their partnerships may go some way to helping Monaco gel early in the season. So far, the new-look team hasn’t flourished, losing in pre-season friendlies to Fortuna Dusseldorf and Augsburg. Moutinho and Rodriguez will be the most important in that respect as they were still playing together last season, but the striking duo of Hulk and Falcao, who scored 128 Porto goals between them, will need to be firing on all cylinders if they are to challenge the PSG front-line of Ibrahimovic, Cavani, Lucas, and Lavezzi.
Hulk only made one domestic appearance in his native Brazil for Vitoria before making the unusual move to Japan, signing for Kawasaki Frontale. He also played in Sapporo and Tokyo in his four years in the J-League, scoring 74 goals in 111 games and winning many admirers on the way. He earned his big move to Porto in 2008, and although he only scored nine goals in his first season, he also assisted nine, and was called up to the Brazil squad for the first time in 2009; he now has 27 appearances for La Selecao.
His next season was better, with goals and assists in double figures for his club, but his third season in Portugal was his finest. He was the club’s top scorer in the league, even ahead of Falcao, and he contributed 21 assists in addition to 36 goals in all competitions. Porto won the league, Europa League, Portuguese Supercup, and the domestic cup under the leadership of Jesualdo Ferriera before Andre Villas-Boas took charge at the end of the season.
His form continued in 2011-12, and he scored all of his six Brazil goals in 2012, although they were all in international friendless due to Brazil’s lack of competitive matches. An unhappy few months in St. Petersburg followed, so Hulk will be hoping he can set his career back on track in the lavish setting of Monaco.
One criticism of Hulk is that he has never played in one of the major leagues; England, Italy, Germany, or Spain. The Russian league is certainly growing, and he was by no means the only star there, with Samuel Eto’o and fellow Brazilian Vagner Love having made the move in recent years for financial reasons or other.
The French first division is also growing in global influence, but declining in terms of competitiveness. Six clubs have won the league title in the last six years, but the influx of stars moving towards only two clubs means it is unthinkable that anyone other than PSG or Monaco can win it in the coming seasons. With Nasser Al-Khelaifi and Dmitry Rybolovlev investing millions, will this be a golden age for French football or the beginning of the end for historic clubs such as Lyon and Marseille?