Bayern Munich Are Dancing to a Samba Beat on Brazilian Independence Day

Stuart Telford@@StuartTelfordFeatured ColumnistSeptember 7, 2016

Douglas Costa, Thiago and Rafinha form a dressing room contingent with a Brazilian flavour at Bayern.
Douglas Costa, Thiago and Rafinha form a dressing room contingent with a Brazilian flavour at Bayern.Associated Press

September 7 is a special day for Bayern Munich—or perhaps more precisely, for the Brazilians involved with the Bundesliga champions.

Right-back Rafinha has turned 31 on this day, and while he is receiving a "parabens"—Portuguese for "congratulations"—or two from his team-mates, his fellow countrymen will also be celebrating their nation's independence from Portugal, which they won on this day in 1822.

There can be few better opportunities, then, to look back on the Brazilians to have graced the Bayern team over the years.

From Jorginho, Giovane Elber and Ze Roberto through to Dante and Douglas Costa, Brazil has provided Bayern with some standout performers.

Costa won the double of Bundesliga and DFB-Pokal in his maiden Bayern season, chipping in with seven goals and 12 assists in all competitions, while Elber remains the second top-scoring non-German in Bundesliga history with 133 goals, with only Claudio Pizarro—another former Bayern player—ahead of him.

It did not get off to such a promising start for the Samba stars at the German club, though. Having been pipped to the Bundesliga title in 1990-91, Bayern turned to a pair of Brazilians the following summer, with the likes of Jurgen Kohler and Stefan Reuter departing.

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In came Bernardo and Mazinho from Sao Paulo and Bragantino, respectively—the latter, whose full name is Waldemar Aureliano de Oliveira Filho, is not to be confused with current Bayern star Thiago Alcantara's father, Iomar do Nascimento, who shares the footballing pseudonym.

Bernardo—himself the father of the recent RB Leipzig signing of the same name—only played four times in a turbulent season as Bayern finished a disappointing 10th, and he returned to Brazil in 1992.

Mazinho survived the subsequent end-of-season cull, and he was joined the next year by compatriot Jorginho, the flying right-back from Bundesliga rivals Bayer Leverkusen.

Mazinho and Jorginho both stayed until 1995, helping Bayern to the Bundesliga title in the 1993-94 season before the latter won the 1994 FIFA World Cup alongside the other Mazinho in the United States.

The lesser-known Mazinho still won 10 Brazil caps, but he and Jorginho struggled to parlay their international form into their Bayern careers, with the 1994 triumph representing the Bavarian giants' only league title in a five-season spell—a barren run barely fathomable in recent years.

It was not until Elber and Paulo Sergio combined at the turn of the century that Bayern really clicked into gear once again.

Today, Bayern have two Brazilians in their first team in Rafinha and Costaplus a third if you count Thiago, who actually represents Spain at international leveland it was this familiarity that helped Elber and Sergio flourish.

Elber (left) and Paulo Sergio (right) formed a potent Bayern attack in the early 2000s.
Elber (left) and Paulo Sergio (right) formed a potent Bayern attack in the early 2000s.UWE LEIN/Associated Press/Associated Press/Associated Press

"The more Brazilians you have, the easier it is for them to adjust to German life," former Bayern assistant coach Michael Henke told UEFA.com in 2002. Sergio concurred, saying, "If a Brazilian moves to a German club, he is likely to find a fellow countryman there. This makes things easier."

Elber and Sergio made it look easy, forming a telepathic understanding in the final third of the pitch to fire Bayern to consecutive league titles in 2000 and 2001. The second of those also saw the continental double, with the Bavarians edging Valencia on penalties in the UEFA Champions League final in Milan.

Kept quiet that night at the San Siro, Elber nonetheless plundered six goals in that season's competition, second only to Real Madrid's Raul in the tournament's scoring charts, and he concluded his career at the club in 2003 having tallied an impressive 92 strikes in 169 games for the Reds.

It was not all plain sailing for the attacking pair, though. "There is one thing I will never get used to in Germany," joked Sergio, "the weather."

Brazilian model proved, Bayern have since cycled through seven more players from the South American nation since Elber's heyday. Ze Roberto and Lucio—like Jorginho before them—joined from Leverkusen, in 2002 and 2004, respectively.

Key components of the Leverkusen team that came so close to the continental treble in 2001-02, only to fall at the final hurdle in each of the Bundesliga, DFB-Pokal and Champions League, the pair rarely had to settle for second best in their times at Bayern.

Between 2003 and 2008, versatile midfielder Ze Roberto—despite a brief sojourn at Santos in between—won four Bundesliga titles with the Bavarians.

Centre-back Lucio lined up behind him for the latter three of those triumphs, and when he finally ended his personal Champions League jinx, with Inter Milan at the Bavarians' expense in 2010, he was famously pictured kissing a Bayern scarf after the final whistle, such was his affinity with the club.

Bayern & Germany @iMiaSanMia

Lúcio: "I went back to Munich recently to see my friends in the club. I spent five great years there." http://t.co/WThOs4SONt

Bayern were hoping young tyro Breno would prove to be more Lucio than Bernardo on signing the defender from Sao Paulo in 2008 on the recommendation of Elber, who was by this time working as a scout for the club.

A bronze medallist with Brazil at the Summer Olympics in Beijing in 2008, Breno's career tailed off significantly thereon, though. He struggled to displace Holger Badstuber, injured his cruciate ligament when on loan at Nurnberg, and he was arrested in 2011 on suspicion of burning his own house down.

Breno returned to Brazil last year having served out his final two years in Germany coaching the Bayern youth academy teams on day-release from prison.

Birthday boy Rafinha, meanwhile, arrived at the close of the 2010-11 season from Schalke 04, six months after Bayern had sealed the signing of midfield battler Luiz Gustavo from Hoffenheim. They were joined by Borussia Monchengladbach's defensive stalwart Dante the following year.

The defensive trio quickly banished the memories of Breno, and to a lesser degree the debacle of 1991, helping Bayern to become the first German team to complete the treble that so eluded Leverkusen, with their 2-1 win over Borussia Dortmund in the 2013 Champions League final in London a particular highlight.

Gustavo, Rafinha and Dante were key cogs in the Bayern side that completed the continental treble under Jupp Heynckes in 2013.
Gustavo, Rafinha and Dante were key cogs in the Bayern side that completed the continental treble under Jupp Heynckes in 2013.Boris Streubel/Getty Images

Gustavo and Dante also made their Brazil debuts while on the books at Bayern, going on to win the FIFA Confederations Cup together in 2013. Although both have since departed, they are remembered fondly on the terraces of the Allianz Arena.

Costa is Bayern's latest Brazilian acquisition, and he has wasted little time in lighting up the Allianz after arriving from Shakhtar Donetsk last year. The flying winger scored on his Bundesliga debut against Hamburger SV, and fans quickly stopped wondering how soon Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery would return from injury such was his form.

"I already improved a lot at Bayern," the 25-year-old said earlier this year, per the Herald. "My dream would be to turn into one of the three best players in the world here."

On a day when it would be appropriate to wish "parabens" to Rafinha and the rest of his nation, it would also be fitting to say "congratulations" to Bayern for sticking with the Brazilian project.

In deepest Bavaria, it seems, the Samba beat is going strong.


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