Football Features

From Cafu to Carlos: Footballers past & present who turned out for Palmeiras

By Ben Green

Published: 12:23, 5 June 2021

After a tightly-poised contest at the Maracana, Palmeiras lifted their second Copa Libertadores at the expense of Santos.

With extra time beckoning in Rio de Janeiro, a bullet Breno header in the dying embers sealed continental silverware for Verdao, ending a two-decade wait for South America’s most coveted trophy.

Spearheaded by the experienced Luiz Adriano and marshalled by veteran captain Felipe Melo, manager Abel Ferreira found the perfect balance between well-travelled stars and up-and-coming talent.

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The precocious Gabriel Veron and Gabriel Menino are the latest to prop up Allianz Parque’s talent factory and will no doubt generate plenty of interest from Europe’s covetous elite in the coming months.

Palmeiras’ latest cluster of wonderkids and household Brazilian names will go down in Copa Libertadores history, but there have been plenty of stars, past and present, who have donned the club’s famous green and white jersey over the years.

Yerry Mina

Current club: Everton

Palmeiras appearances: 35

Signed from Bogota-based Santa Fe in 2016, Mina’s time in Sao Paulo proved exceptionally fruitful, with the towering centre-back guiding Palmeiras to a then-record ninth Serie A title in 2016, prompting Barcelona to come calling. The Catalan giants made Mina — now at Everton — the first-ever Colombian to represent them in 2018 and included a whopping €100m release clause in his contract. It seemed a well-calculated move at the time, as enigmatic Newcastle cult hero, Faustino Asprilla, likened his compatriot to former Barca defender Lilian Thuram. Way to build them up!

Gabriel Jesus

Current club: Man City

Palmeiras appearances: 35

Jesus was a teammate of Mina in that title-winning side and remains a dyed-in-the-wool fan, wholesomely claiming the reason he hasn’t been an avid poster of Palmeiras’ recent success is that he doesn’t want to turn up to Pep Guardiola’s training sessions with bags under his eyes.

“A lot of people were asking me why I didn’t put anything on social media about the games, but I watch them all. The problem is that I can’t post about it because some are very late here and I have training in the morning,” he amusingly stated. However, he did wager with ex-Santos star Neymar that the loser of the Copa Libertadores final buys the other a meal. Safe to say Jesus will be eating well the next time they meet up.

Lucas Barrios

Current club: Gimnasia y Esgrima La Plata

Palmeiras appearances: 26

Robert Lewandowski’s predecessor at Borussia Dortmund, Barrios, was Jurgen Klopp’s reliable goal-getter for the Ruhr Valley giants and helped guide BVB to successive Bundesliga titles in 2010/11 and a domestic double in 2011/12, the former of which sparked chaotic celebrations and prompted the Liverpool boss to enjoy perhaps one too many brews, subsequently waking up the next morning in a ‘truck full of chickens’.

Barrios was another teammate of Mina, helping Palmeiras to Copa do Brasil success in 2015 and the 2016 Campeonato Brasileiro.

Roberto Carlos

Current club: Retired

Palmeiras appearances: 162

After helping Palmeiras win two consecutive Campeonato Brasileiros in 1993 and 1994, the fully-fledged Brazil international was within touching distance of joining Aston Villa, with Birmingham also in the running, but he subsequently joined Inter Milan, a move he would later regret, owing to Roy Hodgson’s stubborn tactics. It all worked out quite well for him at Real Madrid, though.

Cafu

Current club: Retired

Palmeiras appearances: 35

Carlos was not the only buccaneering full-back to trade Sao Paulo for Italian football in the 90s. A brief stint with Palmeiras yielded one of the most comprehensive title wins in Brazilian history, with Verdao securing the 1996 Campeonato Paulista with +83 goal difference and having earned 92.2% of the total points available (83 from 90), scoring 102 goals in that run. No wonder Roma came knocking for Cafu.

Rivaldo

Current club: Retired

Palmeiras appearances: 97

And now it’s starting to make sense. Rivaldo was a precocious teammate of Cafu in that 1996 title win. Imagine that, Cafu bombing down the wing with high-voltage zeal, and Rivaldo elegantly picking passes without a second thought. It is no wonder each of Brazil’s World Cup wins have included a player from Palmeiras in the squad, given their illustrious alumnus. Rivaldo netted 60 goals in just 97 games from midfield before Deportivo picked up the phone in 1997.

Kazuyoshi Miura

Current club: Yokohama FC

Palmeiras appearances: 25

You would have to go back to the mid-80s for Miura’s stint in the Palmeiras first team, and no, that is not a typo, he is still going! The former Japan international, who retired from the Samurai Blue in 2000, moved to Sao Paulo at a young age and represented the likes of Santos and Palmeiras before enjoying a nomadic existence in Europe, turning out for the likes of Genoa and Dinamo Zagreb.

At 54, he is still going strong, and “King Kazu”, who is the oldest scorer in Japanese professional football, has recently signed on for another year, extending his contract with Yokohama FC. Miura won the Asian Cup with Japan in 1992 and also turned out in the 1995 Umbro Cup in England (if you hadn’t already guessed).

Pablo Armero

Current club: Free agent

Palmeiras appearances: 48

The full-of-life Colombian was once named in the Serie A Team of the Year during his time for Udinese, but he is perhaps more recognised for his boisterous dance moves, which actually originated during his time for Palmeiras in an on-field dance-off with Neymar and Co during a game against Santos, the land of samba.

“My Palmeiras team were playing Santos,” Armero said. “They took the lead, with Neymar, Robinho and Ganso celebrating the goals by doing a little dance. But then we equalised. I put a cross in and my team-mate Robert scored, and we started to dance too.

“The opposition fans were shouting at us, but when they saw the way I was dancing they started to laugh.”

His dance move became known as Armeration in Sao Paulo, and the hand-on-head routine remains a highlight of the 2014 World Cup.

Keirrison

Current club: Free agent

Palmeiras appearances: 36

Wow, remember him? Keirrison exploded onto the scene in Brazil and was heralded as the latest wonderkid to emerge from the nation’s goldmine of talent, prompting Barca to snap him up in 2009. Unfortunately, he failed to live up to the hype and has gone the way of ‘ultimate’ one-time wonderkid Freddy Adu. At 32, Keirrison has been without a club since 2018.

Juninho Paulista

Current club: Retired

Palmeiras appearances: 36

The Premier League’s first-ever Brazilian, Juninho’s crowning moment was helping Middlesbrough to League Cup success in 2004, and just a year later he would make a romantic return to his home city of Sao Paulo, joining boyhood club Palmeiras betwixt a short spell in Glasgow, where he criticised Martin O’Neill for signing him at Celtic:

“He used to play with a 4-4-2 and he asked me to play out wide with defensive responsibilities, but that was never my style,” he said.

No it was not. The playmaker grandmaster was renowned for his Samba silk and improvised skill, not getting his knees muddy at Parkhead on a Tuesday night.

Lucio 

Current club: Retired

Palmeiras appearances: 47

By the time Lucio joined Palmeiras in 2014, he was a World Cup winner, Brazil centurion and a Champions League medalist. He fittingly agreed to earn only a third of the salary he had at Sao Paulo, whom he represented just before, and went on to rack up just shy of 50 appearances for the club.

You might be surprised to hear that Lucio only officially retired in January 2020.

Ze Roberto

Current club: Palmeiras (technical advisor)

Palmeiras appearances: 128

Ze Roberto was also part of those 2015 Copa do Brasil and 2016 Campeonato Brasileiro triumphs, mentoring a young Jesus who was over 20 years his junior at the time. The former Bayern Munich and Real Madrid midfielder hung up his boots in Sao Paulo, and has since become Palmeiras’ technical advisor, an inspired move. Jesus hailed him as his “biggest reference” during their time together at the Allianz Parque, and well, it’s no wonder Roberto went on to play well into his 40s when he keeps his body in such ‘Adonis’ nick…

Michel Bastos

Current club: Retired

Palmeiras appearances: 24

The 10-capped Brazilian represented a host of European clubs, including Lille, Lyon, Schalke and Roma before seeing out his career in his homeland, turning out for Sao Paulo, Palmeiras between 2017 and 2018, and finally America (MG), before bowing out in 2019.

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