French Connection: Rai, Ronaldinho, Neymar and PSG's love affair with the boys from Brazil

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The former Barcelona star is the 33rd player from the South American nation to pull on the red, white and blue of the Parisians

In a city that houses some of the world’s greatest works of art, on show in some of Earth’s most spectacular buildings, it should come as no surprise that Parisians have developed a taste for looking at the flamboyant and daring in all walks of life.

This applies to football as much as anything and is perhaps one of the chief reasons that Paris Saint-Germain fans have forged a special bond with the game’s greatest draw: Brazilian superstars.

Over the years, 33 different players from the South American nation have pulled on the iconic red, white and blue of PSG, and when Thomas Tuchel sends his side out to face Rennes in Saturday’s Coupe de France final, his starting XI could comprise of more Brazilians than French.

Among those stars will be the most lavish of them all: Neymar. The game’s most expensive player at €222 million, he recovered from injury sufficiently to play 45 minutes against Monaco last weekend and is fully expected to play from the outset at Stade de France.

The 27-year-old former Barcelona player best embodies what is so admired about Brazilian players in the City of Lights: he has an eye for the spectacular, a swaggering self-belief and the ability to cap it off with the most artistic of flourishes. He is box office in a city that traditionally demands only the finest in all walks of life.

Compatriots Thiago Silva, Marquinhos and Dani Alves will also be pushing to start, though that depends on the state of their various injuries.

French Connection Brazil

This cluster of four players is nothing new in the French capital. PSG supporters have marvelled at Brazilians since the 90s, when Geraldao, Ricardo Gomes and Valdo arrived from Portuguese football in 1991. There had been predecessors, Joel Camargo was the first Brazilian to turn out for the club in 1971, but the arrival of this triumvirate was the beginning of a new era.

And then Rai, signed in 1993 from Sao Paulo, sealed the bond between the city and players from the samba nation. The midfielder, who agreed to join the club in part curious at the city’s history and culture, became an icon of the club over his five-year stay, during which he lifted the 1994 World Cup with Brazil.

Then came Ronaldinho in 2001. Signed from Gremio and billed as the next big thing in the world game, his penchant for entertaining was perfect for the PSG support, though his taste for the high life was not so ideal for head coach Luis Fernandez.

“I don’t have a problem with him. Ronaldinho has a problem with himself. He doesn’t have the lifestyle of a top-level sportsman,” Fernandez was left to lament.

But even if he did not necessarily fulfil his potential in Paris, he regaled the crowds with his outrageous technique and stood out sufficiently to earn a move to Barcelona, where he would go on to win the 2005 Ballon d’Or, FIFA World Player of the Year twice and establish himself as one of the iconic players of the decade.

Following his departure, it was not until QSI took charge of the Parc des Princes club in 2011 that they were truly able to capture the best talent from Brazil once again.

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In this regard, Maxwell was a key addition. A close ally of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, he was seen as a key member of the squad not only for his experience at left-back, but because he was expert at integrating his compatriots into a diverse dressing room.

Thiago Silva, meanwhile, has been an underpinning influence in the squad since arriving from AC Milan in 2012, with the veteran centre-back set to join an elite club of just six players who have made 300 or more appearances for the team should he see out his contract, which expires in 2020.

Marquinhos is not too far behind, having made himself one of the game’s most reliable centre-backs and having also shown an ability to play as a defensive midfielder. He has the potential to become a PSG great.

But it is Neymar who continues to attract the spotlight. The scorer of 48 goals in just 54 appearances for the Parisians, he will hope – even expect – to add to that tally at the weekend.

He has yet to be fit when PSG have lifted a trophy, so it promises to be a special evening for one of the game's most special Brazilians.

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