Analysis - Rupert Fryer & Raisa Simplicio
The 2019 Brazilian first division came to an end last week with former Selecao boss Luiz Felipe Scolari leading a dominant Palmeiras to a deserved league title.
Major investment in the Sao Paulo club has seen them bring in a wealth of talent from around the country to secure a triumphant return to the Verdao.
Scolari won his second Brazilian national league crown, more than 20 years after his first, which arrived at Gremio in 1996, and was named the Brazilian coach of the Year for 2018.
There was also a happy ending for Internacional, who secured a third-place finish in their first season back in the top flight.
And the Porto Alegre club’s achievements were marked at the weekend as they had three players in the Brasileirao Team of the Year (Bola de Prata).
Goalkeeper Marcelo Lomba, defender Victor Cuesta and midfielder Rodrigo Dourado ensured no club trumped their trio of inclusions as Brazil enjoyed its annual award season.
Palmeiras, unsurprisingly, had the joint-highest number of players as Mayke, Bruno Henrique and the overall Player of the Season (Craque do Brasileirao) Dudu were included.
And 26-year-old Dudu will be one of a number of locally-based players hoping to force their way into Tite’s plans for Copa America 2019.
Dudu last appeared for Brazil in January of 2017, probably the standout performer as he hit the only goal of the game when a team restricted only to home-based players faced Colombia in a match to remember the victims of the Chapecoense air disaster.
His club-mate Bruno Henrique was considered by Tite ahead of the World Cup and a strong domestic showing will do his hopes no harm in 2019.
Two others are also eyeing a Selecao return when the Brasil Global Tour resumes in March, with Italy-bound Gabriel Barbosa and Lucas Paqueta picking up gongs for their fabulous form in 2018.
Gabigol is set to head back to Inter after a loan return to Santos brought a return to form as he stormed the goalscoring charts with a stunning 18-goal return that saw him end the season five clear of the next highest scorer.
Both Flamengo and Palmeiras are said to be keen on his signature ahead of the new year and the 22-year-old must be tempted to remain at home after his misadventures in Italy last year.
"The rumours? I am proud of these rumours about big clubs,” he said. “I am linked to Santos, but I do not close the door to anyone. Now I am going back to Inter, but I like the rumours, I just want to be happy and play, no matter where. I am happy to be an Inter player, it is a great club.”
Flamengo star Lucas Paqueta, meanwhile, has agreed a move to AC Milan and, after only missing out on the last couple of Brazil squads due to clashes with the domestic calendar in Brazil, he is most certainly in Tite’s plans next year.
The 21-year-old bid a tearful farewell to Flamengo fans in what was his last game for the club and will now hope to settle quickly in Serie A and confirm his place at the Copa America.
At the other end of the spectrum is Gremio defender Pedro Geromel, who went to Russia 2018 and was named in the Team of the Year for the fourth consecutive season. At 33-years-old, he is unlikely to have much of a future with the national team but will still hope to edge the likes of Dede and Pablo to make up one of Tite’s four defenders.
Right-back is fast proving a problem for Tite, who has been unable to find a comfortable replacement for Dani Alves. Both Danilo and Fabinho are yet to to make the position their own and Palmeiras’ Mayke will certainly be sparking debate among the Selecao’s coaching staff.
Further forward, 2016 Olympic gold medallist Rodrigo Dourado responded brilliantly from a personally disappointing 2017 to rightfully earn his place in the Team of the Year. His return to form has prompted interest from AC Milan and sparked fresh hopes of a full senior debut for Brazil.
And another recognised for a stellar 2018 was Fluminense forward Pedro, who missed out on his Brazil debut his year only due to an untimely knee injury in September that ended his year just days before he was primed to make his Selecao debut.
Named the Brazilian top flight’s rookie of the season (Revelacao do Campeonato Brasileiro 2018) and, alongside Gremio’s Everton, will be hopeful of another chance with Tite’s Selecao, if not for the Copa America then certainly for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers.