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By Jules Marshall at Philips stadium
Although in recent times PSV Eindhoven have been closely associated with the Korean Republic, the Dutch side have a strong bond with Brazil stretching back over the past decade.
The association with the Korean Republic goes back to the 2002 FIFA World Cup, where Dutch coach Guus Hiddink guided the co-hosts to the semi-finals before returning to his homeland to take charge of PSV, bringing Ji-Sung Park and Young-Pyo Lee with him.
All three have exerted a sizeable influence in Eindhoven, but the club's Brazilian influences can be traced back further. The precocious talents of Romario, Vampeta and Ronaldo were all nurtured at the Philips stadium since the early 1990s, and more than a dozen of their countrymen have subsequently followed their path to PSV.
It is no surprise, therefore, that PSV have established a strong reputation for identifying and developing South American talent, with the majority of the players that have blossomed at the club departing with reputations enhanced. Last summer Hiddink moved to sign goalkeeper Heurelho Gomes and full-back Alex, both defensive stalwarts.
"PSV are one of the best-known European clubs in Brazil thanks to Ronaldo and Romario," said Alex, who spoke to the Real Madrid CF forward before completing his move to PSV. "There is lots of interest, and many young boys dream of playing for the team their heroes played for."
Freedom to settle
The challenges involved in moving from one continent, with its own culture and climate, to another can be huge. But the relatively low profile of PSV, a club run outside the media spotlight, helps players stay focused. "Eindhoven is a quiet city compared to Madrid, London or even Amsterdam," points out PSV spokesman Pedro Salazar Hewitt, who handles translation for the club's Brazilian players. "There is no aggressive, intrusive press."
"The success Brazilian players have enjoyed at PSV, and once they have moved on, shows that it is an excellent club with which to learn the European game," said Gomes. "It gives players confidence. We come here and it soon feels like home. We get a lot of help off the pitch, and if it's not right there, it's hard to play at your best."
The problem for PSV is that once the players do show their best form, bigger clubs quickly become interested. However, Hewitt insists that no one at PSV resents the lengthy process of unearthing and polishing these jewels, only for them to end up set in a bigger, richer crown.
"We know they will move on and we're happy," said Hewitt. "The only way we can get great players, whether from Brazil, or the Netherlands, is when they are young and full of talent. They develop and when they move on we get good money to invest in scouting the next new talent."
On the bench against AS Monaco FC on Tuesday was PSV's latest Brazilian signing, 23-year-old striker Robert, who scored 33 times in 43 matches for Mexico's Club Atlas. Hiddink concedes that it may be a while before he reproduces the same form for PSV, saying: "The weather is just one aspect of settling in. Robert has come from Mexico to a Dutch winter. He's taking time to adapt to our style, but he is getting to the level we want, step by step."
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