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Elber, Lucio, Ze Roberto and the Brazilians who starred in Germany

6:57 AM EDT 3/26/18
Giovane Elber FC Bayern 2003
With the two great nations set to reunite on Tuesday, Brasil Global Tour takes a look back at some of the great Bundesliga imports

Only one world title now separates them.

On Tuesday two giants of international football collide as five-time world champions meet four-time champs Germany in Berlin.

And that’s not all that pairs these two footballing powerhouses. Over the past two decades, as Europe became the epicentre of world football, numerous Brazilians have left their homeland to ply their trade in German football.

Brazil remains the biggest exporter of footballers in the world and countless Selecao stars have become major attractions in the Bundesliga. 

A whole host of Brazil’s top defensive players have been flown in to sure up German backlines but so too have attacking players arrived to add some flair and guile to one of world football’s leading club competitions.

The first Brazilian to venture to Germany was Zeze, who joined FC Cologne in the 1964/65 season and helped the club to a second-place finish in the Bundesliga. But his time in Germany would be short-lived, as he returned to Brazil shortly after his arrival after discovering he had what FIFA Weekly magazine list as the only known snow allergy in the history of Germany football.

Countless Brazilians would follow in Zeze’s footsteps, many making an infinitely greater on-field impression on the league. And it was former Flamengo striker Tita who became the first regular Brazilian goalscorer in Germany football, helping Bayer Leverkusen to a UEFA Cup title during his lone season in Europe.

Another former Flamengo idol, Jorginho, was perhaps the first big Brazilian success story in German football, however. The 1994 World Cup-winning right-back spent six years in the Bundesliga, leading Leverkusen to a Bundesliga title before moving on to Bayern Munich.

The first Brazilian superstar of the Bundesliga, though, would be striker Giovane Elber. He remains, perhaps, the most successful Brazilian in German league history. He hit goal after goal for Stuttgart between 1994-1997 before becoming a bonafide Germany football legend with Bayern Munich, hitting 133 goals and claiming four league titles and the UEFA Champions League. 

Paulo Sergio is another four-time German champion who played alongside Elber and, like Jorginho, joined Bayern from Leverkusen – a path that would become particularly well-trodden by Brazilian footballer.

Lucio, too, would make that journey, switching to Bayern after Leverkusen claimed three runners-up finishes in the same season when they narrowly missed out on the Bundesliga, German Cup and the Champions League.

Ze Roberto was also a member of that side and he, too, made the move to Bayern. Both raised multiple Bundesliga crowns in Munich, eventually playing over 300 matches in German football. Defender Juan, too, starred for Leverkusen but bucked the trend by instead leaving for Roma after five years in Germany.

Ailton, meanwhile, also made quite an impression in the country. The striker would play for seven different clubs in Germany, with his most successful and sustained period arriving at Werder Bremen between 1998-2004 when he struck 88 Bundesliga goals and led his side to an unlikely league title as far and away the Bundesliga’s top scorer.

And another Brazilian would follow in his a few years later, as Grafite enjoyed a remarkable season at Wolfsburg in 2009 – hitting 28 goals in 25 games to take them to the league title as the competition’s top scorer. His spell is particularly well-remembered for a stunning solo run and back-heel finish in a famous 4-1 victory over Bayern at the Allianz Arena.

Marcelinho Paraiba, too, wrote his own chapter of Bundesliga history, hitting 76 goals in just over 200 Bundesliga matches, becoming an idol during his five years with Hertha.

But perhaps the best-known Brazilian face in Germany today is Rafinha of Bayern Munich. He also represented Schalke before continuing the Brazilian tradition at Bayern in 2011.

Still dreaming of a place in Tite’s Brazil squad at this year’s World Cup, the 32-year-old has claimed five Bundesliga titles since his arrival.

And a number of the current Brazil squad have made waves in Germany, too, including Roberto Firmino and Dante, while Luiz Gustavo, Dante and Diego have also spent time in the Bundesliga.

Brazil meet Germany on Tuesday at the Olympiastadion in Berlin on Tuesday as the Brasil Global Tour reunites these two great footballing nations for the first time since the World Cup 2014 semi-final.

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