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Last Updated: Sunday, 19 August 2007, 18:29 GMT 19:29 UK
Tim Vickery column
Tim Vickery
By Tim Vickery
South American football reporter

If Sven-Goran Eriksson's eight-day transformation from laughing stock to leader seems remarkable, it pales in comparison with the story of the man whose goal won the Manchester derby.

The last time I saw Geovanni was on 12 May in a Brazilian Championship match at the Maracana, his Cruzeiro side visiting Fluminense.

Geovanni takes the applause of the Man City fans after scoring the winner against derby rivals United
Geovanni takes the applause of the Man City fans after scoring the winner against derby rivals United

Just 12,132 were drawn to watch it - and they saw very little of the stocky little striker.

He started the game on the bench and came on for just the last few minutes as his side let a two-goal lead slip.

To put this into perspective, domestic Brazilian football has basically become an export industry.

There are very few top class players to be found between the ages of 23 and 30 - they have all been sold to Europe or Asia.

So if a 27-year-old, ex-international, former Barcelona player cannot walk in to a fairly moderate Brazilian club side then something looks very strange.

Geovanni's inability to tear up any trees on his second spell with Cruzeiro appeared to indicate that this was a career that had gone hopelessly off the rails, an abject failure to fulfil the potential that seemed so apparent when he burst onto the scene with the same club seven years ago.

Strong on the ball, with a lovely change of pace and a fierce shot in both feet, Geovanni looked to have global stardom in his grasp

Strong on the ball, with a lovely change of pace and a fierce shot in both feet, Geovanni looked to have global stardom in his grasp.

But the warning lights were flashing as far back as 2001.

First, he got himself sent off in Cruzeiro's biggest game of the year in the Copa Libertadores, South America's Champions League.

Then his club coach, Luiz Felipe Scolari, stepped up to take charge of the national team.

Scolari took Geovanni with him and threw him straight into the side for the Copa America opener against Mexico.

Scolari then hauled him off and hurled him into the international wilderness after just 45 minutes.

Geovanni failed to make his mark in Spain with Barcelona
Geovanni failed to make his mark in Spain with Barcelona

Suddenly a question mark had been raised - could Geovanni cope with the big occasion?

The doubts were confirmed by his experience at Barcelona, where he made very little impact.

He fared a little better at Benfica, drifting back to Brazil and what looked like a dead end of stultifying mediocrity on the Cruzeiro substitutes bench.

But perhaps the moral of the Sven story is that everyone deserves a second chance.

Geovanni, perhaps to his own surprise, has been offered another crack at the big time.

And as one of Sven's video stars, he's pressed the fast forward to make his Manchester City spell no replay of his previous disappointments.


Got a question about South American football for Tim Vickery? Email him at

In relation to the current violence that has been sweeping through Argentinian football - and especially with the violence within River Plates' own fans - how is it that groups like these hold so much power in 21st century and do you think there is a will, a way and strength within Argentinian society to rid itself of the ugly scenes that happen on a frequent basis?
Sanjiv Karnik, Buenos Aires

A huge and depressing question. The really worrying thing about the Argentina situation, and the key difference from England in the 70s and 80s, is the extent to which the hooligans are embedded inside the structure of the game.

So the question of the will to confront the problem is paramount. It seems to me that there is more will than ever before to do something about it. But will it be enough?

I was concerned last year when, in an emergency measure, away fans were banned from the last two rounds of matches. But inside the game this ban seemed to provoke much more reaction than the hooliganism.

Does Argentine football have the strength to deal with it? Another excellent question. The economic resources for the transformation into all-seater stadiums, so effective in the English game, are not really generated by Argentine football.

The only solution I see comes from the fans. It's up to them to distance themselves from the excesses, come up with new forms of organisation, and do something with the campaigning spirit of the fanzine movement in England in the 1980s.

In terms of a contemporary list of top club sides in the world, which South American clubs do you believe belong in the top 10?
Simon Humber

There are two clubs from the continent who are worthy of consideration. Brazil's Sao Paulo have been a model of consistency. They are well on top of the current Brazilian Championship, were World Club champions and winners of the Libertadores in 2005, and produce strong runs in the competition year after year.

The other is Boca Juniors of Argentina. Their Libertadores win back in July was their fourth in the last seven years. The passion of their supporters is their trademark, while Sao Paulo stand out for the excellence of their organisation.

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