by Tom Stewart
Born: 18/9/73, Fortaleza, Brazil
Clubs: Vasco da Gama; Gremio; Porto; Galatasaray; Sporting CP; Bolton; Ancona; Newell’s Old Boys; Alaves; Goias; Beira-Mar; Famagusta; Newcastle Jets; Criciuma; Ferroviario; America; Cherno More; Rio Negro
International: Brazil (10 caps, 1 goal)
It is my pleasure to present to you a man who for a brief period was possibly the best striker on the planet. A two time European Golden Boot winner, two time Champions League top scorer, five time Portuguese top scorer and three time Portuguese player of the year- Mário Jardel de Almeida Ribeiro. Jardel had ghost like ability in the box, always seeming to be in acres of space. He was quick, strong, great in the air and deadly with either foot.
Jardel was born in 1973 and aged 18 he made his début for Vasco da Gama, where he scored 26 goals in 50 games, but he really made his name when he moved to Gremio in 1995. Here he scored 31 goals in 42 games, winning the prestigious Copa Libertadores in the process.
With a whole host of European clubs wanting a piece of him, he came close to signing for Rangers, however British immigration laws concerning non-EU players made this impossible, and he moved to Portuguese powerhouse Porto.
Here his career really took off, as he became an absolute goal monster. His incredible positional sense coupled with great strength and finishing ability helped him score a quite frankly ridiculous 130 goals in 125 league games.
This prompted a big move to Galatasaray in 2000. The Turkish side had just won the UEFA Cup, and Jardel scored twice in a 2-1 win over Real Madrid to win the Super Cup. He scored 5 goals on his league début, but injuries and growing personal problems were starting to halt his progress and he lasted just one season in Turkey. He did however still manage 22 goals in 24 games.
The next year he returned to Portugal, this time with Sporting. The Lisbon side gave Galatasaray three players plus cash in the deal, and it was worth it. They won the League and Cup double and Jardel scored 42 goals in 30 games. He was voted Portuguese Player of the Year and is one of only two foreign players to win this (the other being Lisandro Lopez). The following season he was again hampered by injuries and played just 19 games, scoring 11 goals.
It wasn’t long before his career was spiralling out of control. Jardel really struggled with keeping fit, putting on a lot of weight, drinking heavily, reportedly experimenting with cocaine and often partying until the early hours.
Many attribute his decline to the fact that he wasn’t called up to the Brazil squad for the 2002 World Cup. In fact he made very little impression of the national team, playing just 10 games despite his prowess in European football. Some say he was never the same after his rejection in 2002.
He left Sporting and moved to Bolton Wanderers, which at the time was seen as a bit of a haven for slightly over the hill but incredibly flair players. He lasted just 7 games, however and was loaned out to Italian side Ancona. Here they referred to him as “Lardel” (a pun on ‘lardo’ meaning fat). An Italian journalist said: “We stretch a veil of silence in respect of what he has been”.
He left Bolton on a free in 2004, and became a journeyman, playing for whatever club would take him. His travels took him to Argentina, numerous spells in the Brazilian lower leagues, back to Portugal with Beira-Mar, Cyprus, Australia, and Bulgaria. Never lasting long at any club before eventually retiring last year.