The talent, the gossip, the inside track
Celso de Campos Jr
Early this year, Fluminense managed to sign three fantastic strikers for their return to the Copa Libertadores. Two of them, to the fans delight, were snapped up at the peak of their form from under the noses of their cross-town arch-rivals: Leandro Amaral from Vasco da Gama, and Dodô from Botafogo.
Washington, who was starring for Urawa Red Diamonds in Japan, completed the trio – which was soon dubbed 'The three tenors'.
Coach Renato Gaúcho was nervous about playing all three centre-forwards at once, especially after a bumpy start to the season, but Washington, Dodô and Leandro’s performances steadily improved and Fluminense topped their group in the Taça Guanabara.
Renato began hinting that he might use all three but then, in late February, came a blow to the fans’ hopes of seeing their tenors in concert.
Leandro Amaral's contract with Vasco was due to run to December but he had forced his way out via the courts. On appeal, however, the ruling that allowed him to leave was reversed, preventing him from playing for Fluminense (the club’s lawyers are attempting to have the decision reviewed – again – but for now Leandro Amaral remains sidelined).
So three became two. Nevertheless, Dodô and Washington put on a terrific show at the Maracanã stage last Wednesday, thrashing Argentina’s Arsenal 6-0.
Dodô’s second goal was terrific, similar to Zidane’s 2002 gem against Bayer Leverkusen. No wonder the Brazilian’s nickname is “The striker of the beautiful goals” – OK, it's not exactly catchy, but at least it's precise. (Perhaps Dodô had watched Zidane’s class on how to score a goal like that. Take a look, it’s not that hard – you just have to be lucky, as Zidane tells us. Too bad the commentator wasn’t very excited.)
And then, to paraphrase the Spice Girls, two became one.
Last Saturday, in a game against Friburguense, Dodô suffered an innocuous-looking injury which turned out to be a serious fracture of the frontal bone of his forehead. He underwent surgery yesterday and will stay out of action for at least eight weeks ruling him out of the entire group stage of the Copa Libertadores, the club’s priority this season.
So what now? Despite a supporting cast full of quality – midfielder Thiago Neves and defender Thiago Silva are Europe-bound – Washington will have to go solo in the first part of Fluminense’s South American tour.
Coach Renato Gaúcho hopes he’s up to the challenge – and that the three tenors can be reunited in the competition’s later stages. Bravo!
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