Lucimar Ferreira da Silva was one of the chief protagonists behind Inter’s historic treble triumph of 2009-10, and it couldn’t have been more fitting that he helped his side complete the final leg against a Bayern side that considered him surplus to requirements just a year before.
After five years with the Bavarian giants, which saw him collect eight winner’s medals including three domestic doubles, incoming Bayern coach Louis van Gaal decided the big Brazilian was not the kind of stock he required at the Allianz Arena and allowed the Selecao skipper to depart on a free transfer.
Jose Mourinho pounced to take the then 31-year-old to the blue and black half of the San Siro, and as much as the Beneamata’s star-studded attack won plaudits during their incredible season, it was Lucio who became the rock upon which they built many of their most telling triumphs.
His transfer had been such a coup that he was almost the forgotten man as the Nerazzurri lined up for the new season. But by only the second game of the Serie A season he had already made his mark in shutting out a rampant Milan early on, leading Inter to run away with the season’s first derby by a comfortable 4-0 margin.
That was just the first of 21 clean sheets that Inter would chalk up in Lucio’s 48 appearances in all competitions. One of their more notable shut-outs came in the return derby fixture when his side were reduced to 10 men just before the half-hour point.
Wesley Sneijder’s harsh red card, for sarcastically applauding a Lucio caution, simply seemed to spur them on. Led by Lucio, they managed to hold onto – and, thanks to Goran Pandev, extend – their early advantage. The No. 6 was also to see red in stoppage time when raising his left arm to a goalbound shot. It proved to be worth it when Julio Cesar saved Ronaldinho’s penalty and Inter held on with something to spare.
Having initially been given the night off against Sampdoria in February, Lucio was pressed into action after Walter Samuel had been sent-off on the half-hour mark. Little did he know this was to be the start of one of his most monumental weeks in Inter colours. Only moments after replacing Sulley Muntari he saw Ivan Cordoba join the Argentine for an early bath, leaving the faltering champions with a massive mountain to climb, two men short with 52 minutes left to play.
But Lucio took charge, becoming the colossus of a resolute Nerazzurri side which managed to stay strong enough to forge some of the game’s best goalscoring opportunities despite their reduced numbers. The 0-0 draw was to prove the springboard for his best performance for the club so far.
Moment of the Season
Nullifying Didier Drogba as Inter broke their knockout curse on the way to Champions League glory.
Just four days after the controversial San Siro clash, Chelsea came to town for a Champions League clash which was to prove the catalyst behind Inter’s European success. Having failed to score in five successive European knockout games, Diego Milito’s third-minute opener gave the Beneamata just the boost they needed, but it was the command with which Lucio saw off the huge threat of Didier Drogba which was most vital in his side’s 2-1 home win. A Samuel and Sneijder-inspired 1-0 triumph at Stamford Bridge wrapped up the tie and pumped Inter full of belief ahead of a vital run-in.
Probably the most memorable result of the season for Inter was actually a defeat, as a 10-man defence shrugged off the early red card issued to Thiago Motta to hold onto their aggregate lead in the Champions League semi-final away to Barcelona. Subjected to wave after wave of pressure, the Inter defence, marshalled superbly by Lucio, wasn’t breached until an 84th minute strike by Gerard Pique halved their overall lead. They ultimately proved resolute enough to hold on despite an absolute battering. It was a heroic display, not least from the hulk in the No. 6 shirt.
Curiously, Lucio took part in only one of the three trophy-winning contests as Inter tied up the treble late in the day. Having only played in two Coppa Italia ties he was rested for the final victory over Roma, before sitting out the 1-0 league-clinching win in Siena six days before the Champions League final.
But it was the big game in Madrid that mattered most to the Brazilian as he came up against the same Bayern side who had rejected him just 12 months before. Again Inter had to absorb most of the pressure, but again Lucio was at the heart of a triumphant effort, as Milito’s double gave them their first European Cup success in 45 years.
Clearly now having the taste for silverware, Lucio headed off to South Africa for the World Cup with Brazil with his side touted as one of the favourites to land the trophy on its first visit to Africa.
After a narrow victory over North Korea and a bad-tempered triumph over Cote d’Ivoire came an equally-fractious stalemate against Portugal. A second successive clean sheet was recorded when the Selecao passed Chile in the last 16 as they started to show signs of being a squad to match Brazilian World Cup winners of the past, despite their oft-criticised style of football.
The world was to come crashing down on Dunga’s side though in the quarter-finals as a second half fightback from the Netherlands stunned Brazil, leaving them left to rue chances missed when they had held a 1-0 first half lead.
For Lucio it was the ultimate disappointment. Having helped his club side to three trophies, he desperately wanted to lift a fourth for himself as Brazil captain, but he is now highly unlikely to record such a feat given that he’ll be 36 come the final in the Maracana in 2014.
But that shouldn’t take away from what was a monumental season personally for one of the key additions in Jose Mourinho’s hugely successful Nerazzurri masterplan.