first team / During the break

J for… Juninho (com certeza!)

Published on the 15 June 2007 à 08:00 by BV

The summer break will be punctuated by one letter and one word per day. Today’s instalment is brought to you by… the letter J for… Juninho (com certeza!)

For the second year running, OL was knocked out of the Champions League by a team from Italy’s Serie A. After AC Milan in 2006, Gérard Houllier’s men were this season sent packing by the men from Rome. Thus the temptation was strong to name this piece J for Jettatura, the name for the evil eye in the south of Italy. Instead, however, we have opted for the more delicious, and daring, J for … Juninho. The reasons are manifold.

Among the first, it must be said that while the elimination at the hands of AC Milan in 2005-06 owed a lot to capricious rebounds off the San Siro goalposts, the victory by AS Roma was incontestable. A sorry day for OL, who produced an uninspired, flat, flimsy performance… With Juninho, but missing “Juni”. Sure, the Brazilian wasn’t the only one who seemed to go absent during the game, but in light of his performances earlier in the year, it must be said that his free kicks were poor, that his touches of genius were rare and that it seemed OL’s playmaker was simply uninspired. Because when Juni is on top of his game, what a jogadore! Judicious, joyous, jaw-dropping… in short, a jenius! Juninho-esque! No-one will ever forget his free kicks against Troyes, Kiev, Marseille and Lens, his goals against Lille, Sochaux and Paris or his assists against Real Madrid, Lille and Steaua Bucharest.

Juni’s season in numbers is a bit too easy, almost like a sheet of music… samba music, for sure! 13 assists, 12 goals, 11 yellow cards, he wears the artist’s number 8, 6 French titles, 5 Trophées des Champions, 4 direct free kicks, 3 goals against Lens, 2 extra years (until 2010) and 1 red card…

[IMG41773#R]But numbers can never tell you everything, especially when it comes to love stories. The one between him and the OL fans of Gerland is started six years ago, an age in football; it was before OL had even become French champion, another era… there was a brief scare this year as Juninho’s future at the club became uncertain, but all was ironed out quickly and Juninho signed on to finish his career at the club in 2010. Such beautiful love stories usually end happily…