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Occasionally I will buy an issue of World Soccer magazine, if it feature an article that interest me. Here is one such article I recently found in an old issue, from December of 1997. It is about Denilson and his move to Real Betis for what was then a world record fee.

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Wonderkid!

Tim Vickery meets the world's most expensive player.

Not so long ago, Denilson needed all his ingenuity just to get to training. Without money to travel across the giant city of Sao Paulo, he had to find ways to take the bus without paying.

Nowadays he puts his creativity to more profitable uses. His outstanding displays on the left wing for Sao Paulo and Brazil are set to make him the most expensive player in the world when he joins Real Betis in Spain for a staggering £21.5 million. No wonder there is a glint in his eye as he says, "It's all happening so quickly, it seems that my life changed overnight."

Brazilians had known of Denilson's promise for some time. After Le Tournoi in June the secret was out, and the young star shot to the top of the shopping list. Barcelona came in with a bid and Lazio were interested, so there was widespread surprise when Denilson, now 20, opten for a long-term deal with Betis of Seville.

For the player, the personal touch was decisive. "I went there to have a look," he says, "and I saw that Betis are on the way up. They have a good structure and a good team. I felt very good there. The president treated me very well, with a lot of affection."

"There's no point ingoing to a bigger club if you don't feel their warmth and understanding. It's important because football is not the only reason I'm going. I want to make friends. I have signed for 10 years, so it's a new life for me, and I want to make sure it's a good one."

Adaptation does not worry him. "I can already understand a fair bit of Spanish, and I reckon that in a few months I'll be able to communicate."

The universal language of the ball presents few problems, either, and the Betis fans may not have to wait until the next year to watch Denilson. The transfer was announced as coming into effect after the World Cup, but, he says, "there's a chance that I'll go when the Brazilian Championship finishes. It's up to Sao Paulo and Betis. If they agree, I'll be on my way in December."

Despite Denilson's youth, Betis are acquiring a player with considerable experience. Coach Tele Santana put him in the Sao Paulo first team in 1995, where he shared midfield with Toninho Cerezo (from World Cups of 1978 and 82), Alemao (from 1986 and 90), and Juninho. Denilson says the chance to learn from such illustrious company "was great for me. Most of what I've learned came from playing with them."

He proved to be an excellent student. Mario Zagallo suspected that he had something special when he gave Denilson his international deput against Cameroon last November. Long before the 90 minutes were out, the Brazil coach had no doubt. A new star had arrived.

"I was nervous but Zagallo gave me a lot of support," says Denilson. "He told me that I didn't need to do anything more than I was doing for my club. He showed that he believed in me and this helped me relax."

That night Denilson displayed an acceleration as explosive as any in world football. He also made clear that he is much more than a speed merchant. His tight dribbling skills on his left foot were exceptional and he brushed opponents aside with the strength of a middleweight boxer. He has rarely been out of the team, played a key role as Brazil won the Copa America, and has won constant praise from his manager.

Zagallo analysed his new star as "an old-fashioned dribbling winger who knows how to mark", though he may have been premature in the second half of his appraisal. Denilson's defensive contribution has been criticised and the player acknowledges that "my natural strengths are as an attacker, but for my club and country my coaches want me to drop and mark the opposing full-back. It's something I still have to work on."

Many would say that it would do Brazil no harm to have more power in their midfield. Ever since Paulo Rossi of Italy shot down their superbly talented 1982 side, Brazil have been preoccupied with protecting themselves against counter-attacks. The midfield have borne the brunt of the changes. They have to provide cover when their full-backs push forward, with the result that the strikers often have been left isolated.

Aside from a Rai penalty in USA 94, the last time the Brazilian midfield contributed a World Cup goal was 16 games ago, when Socrates scored in their opening match in 1986. As his record of four goals in 14 internationals shows, Denilson has the potential to ease the burden on the front men.

In 1994, Denilson watched the World Cup at home with his family. Members of that team such as Leonardo - who he idolised - and Zinho are now his rivals for a place in the first team in France. Djalminha is another threat, although he seems to have fallen from favour as quickly as he rose to prominence. Then there is Rivaldo, whose recent performances have done little to clear up the doubts surround his ability at the highest level.

So for the moment, Denilson affirms: "I feel secure as first choice. But I know that there are a lot of people out to get my place. It depends on me." He is well aware that he is not the finished article. His right foot, for example, "is something I need to improve. It's never going to be 100 per cent but if an opportunity falls to my right foot then I have to know how to take it."

This factor could well determine whether he goes on to become a truly great player. With his strength, acceleration, dribbling skills and dependence on one foot, he can occasionally bring back memories of the young David Rocastle, the former England international who seemed set for a glittering career. Complete inability to use his left foot was one of the factors that caused Rocastle to peak at 22, and he was recently loaned to Third Division Hull City by Chelsea.

It would be foolish to suggest a similar fate awaits Denilson, but the ability to beat a full-back on both sides would make him an even more dangerous prospect.

Given his meteoric rise it is no surprise that there are signs of a backlash. Good performances, considered a bonus when he was seens as just a promising yongster, are now expected from the established international. Club football is getting harder.

"I often have two men marking me, which doesn't happen when I play for Brazil. I get more space then - probably because I'm not so well known abroad."

Denilson has paid the price for Sao Paulo's lowly position in the current Brazilian championship, and the supporters have turned against him in recent games. Coach Dario Pereyra springs to his defence, saying: "He's still very young, and just because he's being sold for so much money, that's no reason to think that he can do it all on his own on the field."

Some at Sao Paulo are concerned for Denilson. But the player is well aware that his current situation is beyond anything he could haver hoped for when he was a poor kid living on the outskirts of Sao Paulo.

If he wasn't a footballer he'd like to be a rap singer. "I really like this form of music," he says with a smile. "In Sao Paulo the rappers talk about everyday things, like violence and the need for it to stop."

His success on the field has given Denilson another song to sing.
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i haven't heard about denilson in a while.

will he play in the world cup?
if he is, where on the field? left midfield? striker?
 

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He will/should play on the left-wing.

After a great start to France 98,he eventually was found out by Numan(Holland),and couldn't prove decisive in that match.But by then,the world had seen the potential in this wonderful winger.Since that occasion,he has ups & downs - being loaned out when Betis got relegated.However,things are better now,and alongside his dribbling skills & pacy runs,he has demonstrated that he puts in a mean cross as well!He,alongside the attacking trio up front should un-do many defences this WC.He seems like a good kid,that has grown mentally,and is much better for it - his TEAM ethic is excellent,just what you need to win things.:)
 

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I too used to buy World Soccer years ago but what with the advent of the web and my own statistical knowledge of Brazil improving...............
 
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