JOHANNESBURG - Here’s a little bit of football trivia for you: Besides being Brazilian, what do Giovane Elber, Dunga, Lucio and Julio Caesar have in common? Well, they are all Bundesliga legends of course.
And these are but just four of the many Brazilians who have shaped the league’s football, both on the pitch and in the record books. No nation has shaped the Bundesliga like Brazil. Temperamental goalscorers, robust defenders and magical midfielders - the Bundesliga’s Brazilians!
And no other country apart from Germany has had as many Brazilian top scorers. The first was Marcio Amoroso. He was Borussia Dortmund’s record transfer at 55 million Deutsche Marks in 2001 and certainly delivered. In his very first season he fired Dortmund to the title with 18 goals. After three years in the Bundesliga, Amoroso took his leave.
Giovane Elber, on the other hand, became a Bundesliga legend - Four-time Bundesliga champion, top scorer in 2002/03 and plenty of special Bundesliga moments, like that one against Rostock when he won the ball by the corner flag and shot from there for a truly sensational goal.
“We won everything with the club and that was great,” Elber remembers.
But it isn’t just goalscorers who’ve enriched the Bundesliga. Defenders have also made a name for themselves in Germany - from the robust to fleet-footed technicians.
Lucio was perhaps the best in the world once upon a time. For eight and a half years he put his neck on the line for Bayer Leverkusen and Bayern Munich. He was a leader at the back you couldn’t beat.
“He loved a tackle, was dynamic, strong in the air and whenever he won a challenge he’d immediately try to get forward,” said Jens Nowotny.
Just like one of his predecessors Julio Caesar. His style of play was elegant but above all, robust. Caesar was a two-time Bundesliga champion with Dortmund and also won the Champions League. In the space of a few years he became a club idol.
“Julio Caesar can still walk through Dortmund today and will be mobbed by fans in celebration,” said Dortmund president Reinhard Rauball.
The same can also be said of Leonardo de Deus Santos, who was popularly known as Dede. He experienced lows with Dortmund but also great success.
“When I arrived here I asked who the back-up left-back was. But we didn’t need one because Dede played every game,” former Dortmund manager Jurgen Klopp said.
Dede became a black-and-yellow legend - a symbol for their “Echte Liebe” or True Love. He even became a German citizen after eight years with Dortmund.
“I love this country. My German passport means as much to me as a trophy,” Dede said.
Ice-cold goalscorers and solid defenders, but Brazilians are of course famous for their magical midfielders.
Bringing samba to the Bundesliga, Jorginho was the first big transfer in 1989 when he arrived from Flamengo in Rio. He played in all possible positions during his time with Leverkusen and Bayern.
“I played as a midfielder with Leverkusen where I had plenty of space and the freedom of the pitch. With Bayern I had to play on the right, which is quite different,” Jorginho remembers.
This versatility gave birth to the nicknames “Defensinho” and then “Assistinho”. Jorginho matured in the Bundesliga and was soon made Brazil captain. With Bayern in 1994, he became Brazil’s first league champion in Germany.
The year before that, the next superstar had arrived. Dunga was Brazil’s 1994 World Cup-winning captain and delighted fans in Stuttgart with goals and his aura on the pitch.
“Carlos Dunga completed your team. With him football is easier because you just have to run and the ball will come to you,” former teammate at Stuttgart Elber enthused.
However, Dunga, the midfield strategist, remained without a trophy in the Bundesliga.
Quite the opposite to the cheerful Paulo Sergio. The attacker captivated the Bundesliga with his mesmerising play and was responsible for bringing samba football to Germany.
A world champion with Brazil, a Bundesliga, DFB Cup and Champions League winner with Bayern - the list goes on.
There were more world-class footballers to follow Sergio such as Marcelinho, Emerson, Raffael and most recently Douglas Costa. Brazilian magic in the Bundesliga.
And who could forget Ze Roberto: 336 Bundesliga appearances, a leader, an instigator, and like so many South Americans he found a home in Leverkusen.
“I already knew that from Paulo Rink and Emerson, and Jorginho before my time. They stressed that not just we as players but also our families would feel good there,”Ze Roberto said.
Ze Roberto also then made the move to Bayern where he became another fan favourite. He won four league titles in Munich and fulfilled a childhood dream: “I used to dream of becoming a professional footballer when I was playing barefoot in Brazil. Thankfully that has now come true.”
Brazilians have shaped German footballing culture. Their fleet-footed play has mesmerised fans and made samba football a significant part of Bundesliga history.