If you have been watching football for several years, you must have at least once encountered the phrase: “There are no more weak teams left” … With 99.99% probability, it can be argued that you have heard such words from commentators, coaches or football players. It is customary to pronounce them when a team that was considered an outsider before the game suddenly scores points against an obvious favorite, or even manages to knock out a giants from some European tournament.
In fact, such words are used far not only in domestic analytics. This conventional wisdom is popular everywhere, but lately it loses its meaning more and more. Just look at the dominance of Real Madrid and Barcelona in La Liga, Bayern in the Bundesliga, Juventus in Serie A and Paris Saint-Germain in Ligue 1. In fact, for the current giants there is a whole there are a lot of weak teams, although before each game a different diplomatic triviality is uttered in their address.
However, 10-15 years ago, and even probably a little earlier, things were a little different. Then the thesis that there are no weak teams, or they are getting smaller, really worked. It was then that colossal money came to football, which changed all the principles by which the game developed earlier.
Of course, Real and Barcelona will always remain Real and Barcelona, but for two decades ago there were no such phenomena as the current Paris Saint-Germain and Manchester City. And Chelsea, if you go back to times not so remote, were nothing more than a banal middle peasant in the English championship, fighting for a place in the European competition. Like the current “Wolverhampton” or “Leicester”, not otherwise.
It was in those days in France that there was a nice team for many – “Lyon”. The Weavers put together an excellent selection of footballers, each of whom yearned for success and trophies. All this led Lyon to seven consecutive victories in Ligue 1 (before that in the history of the Weavers there were only “silver” and “bronze”), as well as the fact that the French with enviable regularity scalped Real Madrid in the League champions.
One of the brightest stars of that team was the Brazilian Juninho Pernambucano – the real king of free throws and set pieces. Even the greatest footballers of our time, Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi, still cannot master his technique of striking. Juninho said goodbye to football more than six years ago, but perhaps no one else in the world performs such delightful free kicks. The Brazilian had complete harmony between technique, strength and precision.
Juninho Pernambucano found himself in Europe in 2000, when Lyon managed to sign the midfielder as a free agent. Before that, very few people had heard about this Brazilian on the Old Continent, because he started playing in the far from stellar Sport Recife, but with Vasco da Gama, although he won many trophies in five years, he lost in the final of the first Club World Championship. and a little earlier he failed to win the Intercontinental Cup with the team.
When Juninho moved to Lyon, he was already 25 years old. The age is by no means youthful, but this, perhaps, helped the Brazilian to get used to the new realities as soon as possible. Over time, such iconic figures in midfield as Michael Essien, Mamadou Diarra and Florent Malouda appeared in the camp of the “weavers”, and therefore the current fans of Lyon can only sigh nostalgically, remembering the stardom of the people who made the history of their favorite team.
But no one in Lyon, except Juninho, was so dangerous in the execution of free kicks. In fact, the Brazilian shot from any position as if it were a penalty, and not a free kick from 35-40 meters. As soon as Pernambucano hammered in a couple of his signature Thunderbolts, Lyon fans began to wait more and more for the next miracle.
Many goalkeepers in France and on the European continent after matches with Lyon and the enchanting free kicks from Juninho must have been spinning from side to side for several hours, unable to sleep peacefully. The skill and even a certain mystery with which Pernambucano sent balls into the opponents’ goal net from virtually any, even the most uncomfortable position, amazed and remains a topic for retelling from fathers to sons to this day.
Surely he remembers perfectly well the insidious blow in Juninho’s performance and ex-Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdez, who was trapped in February 2009 by the Brazilian with a phenomenal shot from a non-lethal position. Obviously, the Blaugranas keeper understood that Pernambucano could not only hang, but also break through, and therefore was ready for such. After hitting the ball flew like a “falling leaf”, which gave birth to the idea of the possibility of playing on the interception in Valdez’s head. But at some point, Victor realized that this idea was a failure, and began to move back … However, the ball did everything much faster, and therefore, when Valdez was tangled in the net of his own goal, and the referee pointed to the center of the field, the fans of Lyon “Hunched in real ecstasy.
Yes, after Juninho something similar was successfully repeated by Cristiano Ronaldo and Hakan Chalhanoglu, but Pernambucano’s technique was still unique. Just like Roberto Carlos and David Beckham once had their own unique aura of free-kicks.
The most amazing thing in Juninho Pernambucano’s career is that he remained in the memory of many fans, but at the same time played in a team like Lyon. The Weavers have never been able to keep their stars, although they had the potential to win the Champions League. But Juninho remained loyal to Lyon until the end. He left the club when he gave him everything he could – 9 years after arriving in France. Perhaps this fact also contributes to the strengthening of the mythical image of the Brazilian.
Juninho finished his playing career in January 2014 as part of the team from which he moved to Europe – “Vasco da Gama”. Now Pernambucano is already 45 years old, and in the summer of 2019 he returned to France, to Lyon, to become the sports director of this club, which has certainly become a native for the Brazilian.
Despite his new function in football, Juninho Pernambucano is unlikely to succeed get rid of the iconic halo that exists around him in France. The unspoken title of the king of free kicks will live with Juninho for a very long time, and the video cuts with phenomenal goals from the Brazilian will be played on various platforms countless more times. And every time they will be admired. Again and again.