Hulk: Maturing with age but still bulldozing defences in Brazil

Hulk: Maturing with age but still bulldozing defences in Brazil

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Glory in the Campeonata Mineiro was the perfect way for Atlético Mineiro to start the season. The Belo Horizonte outfit couldn’t be stopped as they swept aside rivals Cruzeiro in the competition’s final with expectations high ahead of the 2024 Brasileiro campaign. Hulk scored in both legs and is still delivering regularly in his homeland.


By Graham Ruthven


Hulk enjoyed a distinguished career in Europe. He was a key part of the Porto team that won three straight Portuguese titles and went the entire 2012/13 season unbeaten. After that, the Brazilian attacker joined Zenit Saint Petersburg for €60m as one of the most expensive forwards in the sport’s history.

Since 2021, though, Hulk has been at Atlético Mineiro where he has enjoyed a renaissance. His goalscoring display against Cruzeiro in the Campeonata Mineiro final wasn’t an exception – it was the sort of thing Galo supporters have come to expect from one of their team’s most consistent performers. 

In each of the last three Brasileiro seasons, Hulk has reached double figures. In all competitions, he has scored an impressive 102 goals in 185 games for Atlético and has started the 2024 season with seven goals in 13 outings. After finishing third in the Brazilian top flight last season, Galo want to push themselves even higher up the table – and Hulk could help them achieve this.

While the 37-year-old might have lost a yard or two of pace since his Porto and Zenit Saint Petersburg days, he has grown more intelligent with his movement. Hulk now sees more of the ball than was the case in his younger years with Atlético Mineiro known to use him as a creative hub in a central area. Most commonly, he is deployed as a number nine. 

Former Argentina centre-back Gabriel Milito has taken charge of Atlético Mineiro for the 2024 season and has quickly implemented a more energetic style of play. As Galo manager, Luiz Felipe Scolari was accused of being too conservative for the attacking talent at Arena MRV, but Milito appears ready to unleash his forwards – including Hulk.

Under Scolari, Hulk’s physicality was useful as it frequently allowed Atletico to easily gain a foothold up the pitch. Long balls were directed into the veteran who would bring the likes of Matias Zaracho, Hyoran Dalmuro and Christian Pavon into the game. Now, it seems Milito wants his team to build from the back.

“I had a lot of good coaches,” said Milito when asked to elaborate on his coaching identity. “[Pep] Guardiola was undoubtedly one of the best. I learned a lot of concepts from him, a lot. And then, with my own ideals of the game, of football, I try to apply them. The first thing we have to do is be authentic. We cannot imitate another coach.”

Hulk isn’t the first Brazilian star to have enjoyed a resurgence at Atlético Mineiro. Indeed, Ronaldinho spent two seasons in Belo Horizonte and helped inspire the club to win the Copa Libertadores for the first time in 2013. The hope within Atlético is that Hulk can also push them towards continental success this season.

Brazilian clubs have dominated the Copa Libertadores in recent times. Indeed, Brazil has produced each of the competition’s last five winners with all-Brazilian finals in three seasons since 2019. The gulf is growing between the Brasileirão and other South American domestic leagues and that is illustrated most starkly in the Copa Libertadores.

Many clubs have spent big to lure Brazilian stars back to the country. Last season, for example, Fluminense won the Copa Libertadores with a squad that included Marcelo and Felipe Melo. The season before that, Gabriel ‘Gabigol’ Barbosa scored the winner in the final for Flamengo. Hulk is just one part of a wider trend right now.

After winning the Brazilian title in dominant fashion back in 2021, Atlético Mineiro have endured two challenging seasons, finishing seventh in 2022 and third in 2023. This is a club with greater ambitions than that and the early signs this year have been encouraging. Galo appear rejuvenated. There has been a lot of change at Arena MRV since the end of last season. Hulk’s goals, however, are a constant.


(Cover image from IMAGO)


You can follow every Brasileirão game live with FotMob — featuring deep stats coverage including xG, shot maps, and player ratings. Download the free app here.

Hulk: Maturing with age but still bulldozing defences in Brazil

Glory in the Campeonata Mineiro was the perfect way for Atlético Mineiro to start the season. The Belo Horizonte outfit couldn’t be stopped as they swept aside rivals Cruzeiro in the competition’s final with expectations high ahead of the 2024 Brasileiro campaign. Hulk scored in both legs and is still delivering regularly in his homeland.


By Graham Ruthven


Hulk enjoyed a distinguished career in Europe. He was a key part of the Porto team that won three straight Portuguese titles and went the entire 2012/13 season unbeaten. After that, the Brazilian attacker joined Zenit Saint Petersburg for €60m as one of the most expensive forwards in the sport’s history.

Since 2021, though, Hulk has been at Atlético Mineiro where he has enjoyed a renaissance. His goalscoring display against Cruzeiro in the Campeonata Mineiro final wasn’t an exception – it was the sort of thing Galo supporters have come to expect from one of their team’s most consistent performers. 

In each of the last three Brasileiro seasons, Hulk has reached double figures. In all competitions, he has scored an impressive 102 goals in 185 games for Atlético and has started the 2024 season with seven goals in 13 outings. After finishing third in the Brazilian top flight last season, Galo want to push themselves even higher up the table – and Hulk could help them achieve this.

While the 37-year-old might have lost a yard or two of pace since his Porto and Zenit Saint Petersburg days, he has grown more intelligent with his movement. Hulk now sees more of the ball than was the case in his younger years with Atlético Mineiro known to use him as a creative hub in a central area. Most commonly, he is deployed as a number nine. 

Former Argentina centre-back Gabriel Milito has taken charge of Atlético Mineiro for the 2024 season and has quickly implemented a more energetic style of play. As Galo manager, Luiz Felipe Scolari was accused of being too conservative for the attacking talent at Arena MRV, but Milito appears ready to unleash his forwards – including Hulk.

Under Scolari, Hulk’s physicality was useful as it frequently allowed Atletico to easily gain a foothold up the pitch. Long balls were directed into the veteran who would bring the likes of Matias Zaracho, Hyoran Dalmuro and Christian Pavon into the game. Now, it seems Milito wants his team to build from the back.

“I had a lot of good coaches,” said Milito when asked to elaborate on his coaching identity. “[Pep] Guardiola was undoubtedly one of the best. I learned a lot of concepts from him, a lot. And then, with my own ideals of the game, of football, I try to apply them. The first thing we have to do is be authentic. We cannot imitate another coach.”

Hulk isn’t the first Brazilian star to have enjoyed a resurgence at Atlético Mineiro. Indeed, Ronaldinho spent two seasons in Belo Horizonte and helped inspire the club to win the Copa Libertadores for the first time in 2013. The hope within Atlético is that Hulk can also push them towards continental success this season.

Brazilian clubs have dominated the Copa Libertadores in recent times. Indeed, Brazil has produced each of the competition’s last five winners with all-Brazilian finals in three seasons since 2019. The gulf is growing between the Brasileirão and other South American domestic leagues and that is illustrated most starkly in the Copa Libertadores.

Many clubs have spent big to lure Brazilian stars back to the country. Last season, for example, Fluminense won the Copa Libertadores with a squad that included Marcelo and Felipe Melo. The season before that, Gabriel ‘Gabigol’ Barbosa scored the winner in the final for Flamengo. Hulk is just one part of a wider trend right now.

After winning the Brazilian title in dominant fashion back in 2021, Atlético Mineiro have endured two challenging seasons, finishing seventh in 2022 and third in 2023. This is a club with greater ambitions than that and the early signs this year have been encouraging. Galo appear rejuvenated. There has been a lot of change at Arena MRV since the end of last season. Hulk’s goals, however, are a constant.


(Cover image from IMAGO)


You can follow every Brasileirão game live with FotMob — featuring deep stats coverage including xG, shot maps, and player ratings. Download the free app here.