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Brazilian clubs form a not so orderly queue for Fenerbahce star Alex

James Young
Alex de Souza 300x225 Brazilian clubs form a not so orderly queue for Fenerbahce star Alex

Alex looks set for a return to Brazil

The news that former Fenerbahçe star Alex has flung off his wedding band and announced himself to be “out there” has thrown more than a few Brazilian clubs into a frenzy of loafer polishing, cologne dousing, and nostril hair plucking, in the hope of wooing the experienced midfielder back to their particular corner of the motherland.

First up are a trio of Sr. De Souza’s former loves. Coritiba was where Alex began his professional career back in 1995, staying two years before jumping ship to Palmeiras. And the Paraná club may have landed the first, if slightly underhand blow – club directors were seen blowing kisses and fluttering their eyelashes at Alex as early as July. “To have Alex back is a dream for Coritiba, from the fans right through to the president,” said one who should know, club president Vilson Ribeiro de Andrade.

Rushing into the church and shouting “hell yeah!” just after the “any legal impediments” part of the wedding service are likely to be Palmeiras. Alex spent a tremendously productive few years at the São Paulo club in the late nineties, crowned by an unforgettable triumph over Colombia’s Deportivo Cali in the 1999 Libertadores final. Current Palmeiras director of football Cesar Sampaio was part of that team, and has remained friends with Alex ever since. “He’s an excellent player, and has strong links with Palmeiras,” Sampaio said this week. To keep the blushing bride theme alive, current Palmeiras coach Gilson Kleina was even best man at Alex’s wedding.

Determined not to be a third wheel are Cruzeiro, where Alex also enjoyed plenty of success, carrying the club to the tríplice coroa in 2003 (a domestic triple crown of Campeonato Mineiro, Copa do Brasil, and Campeonato Brasileiro).  Midfielder Leandro Guerreiro has thrown his hat into the ring as club Cyrano. “He’d fit like a glove,” he cooed, “he’s sensational.”

Bad news for the old flames is that Alex`s shiny pate, not to mention his thrilling ability to score from distance and to crack open opposition defences, even at 35, has also attracted the attention of some new suitors. Amongst them are Santos, in the market for a new playmaker (and flush with cash) after the departure of Paulo Henrique Ganso to São Paulo, and perhaps even Flamengo (where Alex played briefly in 2000), similarly lacking a creative reference point in midfield, and desperate for a big name now that the Adriano salvage project appears to have hit choppy waters.

Alex himself will take some time to lick his wounds after his abrupt departure from Turkey, scarcely two weeks after a statue was unveiled in his honour at the Şükrü Saracoğlu. His exit was apparently the result of a long standing clash of egos with manager Aykut Kocaman. Kocaman, reportedly concerned that the star might soon pass him on the list of all time Fenerbahçe goalscorers, dropped him, and last week forced him to train separately from the rest of the first team squad. According to Alex, Kocaman told him “I’m the manager and the leader of the team, but you’re the big star. I can’t have you in the dressing room contradicting me.”

Like all good piriguettes (loosely, and politely, translated as “party girl”), Alex is going to keep his admirers guessing a while. “In my head I’ve already made my decision…and I’ll tell you what it is when the time’s right.” Certain would-be beaus, particularly relegation threatened Coritiba and Palmeiras, would be advised to pull their socks up sharpish. “I`m not interested in playing in Serie B at this stage of my career,” the player has said.

There is no doubt that the signing of Alex would represent something of a coup for any Brazilian side. After three league titles and three cup wins at Fenerbahçe, the esteem in which the player is held can be measured by that life-sized statue, and his international reputation is arguably only not higher as a result of missing out on a place in the 2002 Brazil World Cup squad, and playing in one of Europe’s less fashionable leagues. That being said, the feeding frenzy for the player’s services might surprise a few, given his advanced years.

It shouldn’t. With more time and space on the ball and bumper salaries on offer, the Campeonato Brasileiro is enjoying a golden age for golden oldies. While Diego Forlan has stuttered at Internacional, Clarence Seedorf (36) has quickly established himself as the heart and soul of Botafogo, while Ronaldinho has been instrumental in Atlético Mineiro’s first half surge (though with Galo’s title bid wobbling, the real test of Sr. Gaúcho’s mettle may come now). The excellent Zé Roberto, once of Bayern Munich and a mere 39 years young, has been an integral part of third placed Grêmio’s beefy campaign, alongside fellow greybeards Gilberto Silva and Elano, Juninho Pernambucano has kept Vasco in the thick of the battle for a Libertadores spot, and Deco is now back from injury and ready to lead Fluminense across the championship finishing line. Among such rich, if slightly wizened talent, Alex should fit right in.

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