The talent, the gossip, the inside track
Celso de Campos Jr
With the National Championship getting hotter and hotter in its last rounds, Brazilian football fans will only have had their attention diverted from the country’s ultimate prize by the wildest, craziest, most mind-bending news.
Like a freaky rumour about Christian Vieri coming out of retirement to join second-division Botafogo.
Before you open your mouth in amazement, be aware that the cocky little São Paulo state club – not to be confused with Rio de Janeiro’s Botafogo – is also dealing with fellow Italian midfielder-turned-actor Francesco Coco.
Indeed. And the worst thing is that it might be true.
Botafogo president Luiz Pereira has confirmed the negotiations, saying that only details separate the Italian duo from the sunny and friendly city of Ribeirão Preto, 350km north of São Paulo.
The official announcement could be made at any time, according to the boss.
“Botafogo is making a superhuman effort to bring in Vieri and Coco, and it’s going fine. We sent them DVDs of the club and the city, they liked it, and we expect to close the deal in the next days,” said the club president.
The kingpin explains the unusual deal. “We were looking for someone to cheer our fans up, but he had to be very famous. Then we thought of Vieri...”
Word is that the retired veteran had been already offered to Santos, Flamengo and Vitória, who turned him down for what seems obvious reasons.
Bulky 36-year-old Vieri not only confirmed the gossip, but he also endorsed the move.
“I don’t want to play in Italy or Europe any more," said the man who scored 200 goals in 400 Old World appearances.
"I want new, motivating stuff. Playing in Brazil would be great. I know many great athletes played for Botafogo, so it’s a good thing.”
Not so many, but Vieri is probably thinking about Socrates, the 1982 World Cup ace turned cult hero.
'The Doctor' hails from Ribeirão Preto and, besides starting his career in Botafogo, still lives in the city.
But the ever-outspoken icon didn’t like the idea of Vieri rolling into town.
“I don’t get it. It’s not logic, I don’t see anything positive for the team. But if he does well, I’ll get out of retirement too and start playing.”
A historical note: In the last 30 years, only one Italian has played in top-flight Brazilian football.
That was midfielder Marco Osio, who was sent from Parma to Palmeiras courtesy of Parmalat, who sponsored both teams at the time.
In 1996, he played 21 games for the side from Palestra Italia – third-stringer of a fabulous club that had Rivaldo, Cafu, Djalminha and Luisão.
Overweight Osio was also retirement-bound, and remains a joke between Palmeiras supporters.
His nickname among the fans still lives today and it’s self-explanatory: “The drinker.”
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Oh that'd be fantastic for my home team! I would love for Vieri to come to Brazil.
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