Giovane Elber: The often forgotten Brazilian goal machine

The late 1990s and early 2000s were a golden period for Brazilian strikers; Ronaldo, Romario, Rivaldo, Ronaldinho, Adriano and Kaka were some of the star names which lit up the South American nation’s forward line but one prolific goal machine is often lost in the context of their history; Giovane Elber.

His 10 seasons in Germany define the term, legend. For three years at Stuttgart, followed by seven more at Bayern Munich, Elber reigned supreme over any other forward in the division; goals simply came as second nature for the striker who really was the complete package.

Far from just a poacher, Elber injected that Brazilian flair into both Stuttgart and Bayern, linking the play, dribbling past opponents at will and, most of the time, making the next bulge with frightening regularity.

Many forget that the Brazilian was actually on the books at AC Milan but he never appeared for the club. In fact, he was sent out on loan by the Italian giants – who at the times were perhaps the finest club side in the world – to Swiss side, Grasshoppers, where he forged his reputation as a fierce striker – scoring more than 50 goals in just three years.

He made the move to Stuttgart in 1994, the time when Romario and Bebeto dominated as Brazil’s strikers, and after three seasons, he left a cult icon. 44 goals in 95 games for the club highlighted his effectiveness in Germany and Bayern, much like they do now, saw fit to pluck the talented star from their rivals.

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His arrival in Bavaria was met with joy from the Bayern fans, they knew the player they had signed was tailor-made to lead them to glory. Elber did just that, spearheading four Bundesliga title campaigns and the 2000/2001 Champions League-winning season. Plus, during his seven-year stint with the club, he was their top scorer on six occasions – the one time he lost was too iconic German striker, Carsten Jancker.

Had it not been for the likes of Ronaldo and Rivaldo showcasing some of the best football seen by humans across La Liga and Serie A, Elber would have been the talk of Europe. However, much like Eric Cantona was with regards to Zinedine Zidane in the French side, Elber was on the peripheries and never really received the recognition he deserved, particularly on the international circuit.

After all, had he been of any other nationality, he may have been the talisman for his country. As it was, Elber made just 15 appearances for the five-time World Cup winners, scoring seven times – not a bad ratio for a back-up.

The Brazilian forward departed Germany in 2003 to see out his twilight years with Lyon and Cruzeiro but his elite status remains forever etched in the fabrics of the Bundesliga. The 21st highest goalscorer in the league’s history with 133 in 260 games and the second-highest foreign goal getter of all-time – Claudio Pizarro being the only man ahead of him. However, he is still Bayern’s top scoring foreigner in the Bundesliga with 92.

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Elber’s career is one of the most successful in modern history but the impact of the national stars around him during his time on the pitch means he rarely features in many present day discussions. To put his plight into perspective, imagine being a prolific forward trying to break into the current Argentina team. Mauro Icardi for example, a goalscoring machine with Inter Milan but because of Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain and Paulo Dybala, the 24-year-old is perhaps not as recognised as he should be.

But never forget, Elber was one of the finest strikers to grace Europe in the modern era. Only Robert Lewandowski can compete with the Brazilian in Bayern’s recent history.