x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Nilmar talent now has stage to shine

Nilmar Honorato da Silva was largely unknown outside Brazil and Spain before his country's only goal in their 1-0 friendly win over England in Doha.

Nilmar Honorato da Silva was largely unknown outside Brazil and Spain before last weekend. That was until the Brazil striker, 25, scored his country's only goal in their 1-0 friendly win over England in Doha. It was not just his delightful header which won approval, but Nilmar's man-of-the-match performance which saw him constantly causing problems for the England defence and included winning a penalty. His ability to constantly flit in field baffled England's Wes Brown as he created space for teammates such as Michel Bastos and Kaka to attack. Nilmar was Brazil's principle weapon - as he is expected to be at the World Cup finals next year.

Life should be looking good for the player from Brazil's south whose potential was first realised by Internacional of Porto Alegre when he was 18. Within two seasons, the then French champions Olympique Lyon had spotted and signed him, ostensibly for his injured compatriot Elber. Nilmar scored two goals on his Lyon debut, but could not add to that total in the next 30 league games. Lyon loaned Nilmar back to Brazil, with Corinthians of Sao Paulo. He continued the form first shown at Internacional but there were off-the-field problems as Corinthians did not pay his full wages. With ?2 million (Dh10.8m) outstanding, he took the club to court and they ruled the young striker to be a free agent. Perhaps understandably given his experiences, he spurned offers from Europe to return to Internacional in 2007.

A year later he scored the winning goal as Inter won the Copa Sudamerica - the South American equivalent of the Uefa Cup - a competition Nilmar finished as top scorer. And revenge was served sweetly against Corinthians as Nilmar dribbled past five opponents to score an implausible winner in the home of the club who had stung him financially. Such form saw Nilmar called up to make his full Brazil debut in 2008 and he played a bit part in this summer's Confederations Cup win in South Africa. He returned from Africa to sign for Spanish club Villarreal in a club record ?11m deal in July. It seemed a neat move, joining a financially stable club where players are usually content.

Their president Fernando Roig talked of Nilmar's speed, technical ability and goalscoring record before boasting that that never before had the club signed a player with such ability - that from someone who had purchased Juan Roman Riquelme, Diego Forlan and Santi Cazorla. Despite losing their coach Manuel Pellegrini to Real Madrid, Nilmar anticipated joining a side whose attacking football and outstanding domestic form has made them Champions League mainstays. Instead, he joined an outfit who did not register a win in their first seven league games under new coach Ernesto Valverde. Worse, Nilmar barely featured as a front pairing of Giuseppe Rossi and Joseba Llorente was preferred. Rossi has started 10 league games so far this season, Nilmar four.

Club discomfort contrasted sharply with his international fortunes. In September, Nilmar scored a hat-trick for Brazil in their 4-2 World Cup qualifying win against Chile. And on Saturday he scored the winner against England. Villarreal appear to have realised the error in their ways in recent weeks and it is no coincidence that their form has finally improved as Nilmar started more games. He scored in Villarreal's 2-1 win over Malaga which lifted them off the bottom of the table and started in the 4-1 Europa Cup win against Lazio. Maybe now, he will get a run at club level to show his glorious talents which he keeps revealing for his country. @Email:amitten@thenational.ae