Lucio was a true modern day great of his profession and enjoyed a stellar spell in Germany with Bayer Leverkusen and Bayern Munich - © Getty Images
Lucio was a true modern day great of his profession and enjoyed a stellar spell in Germany with Bayer Leverkusen and Bayern Munich - © Getty Images
60 years of Bundesliga

Lucio: Brazil's modern day great that stole the hearts of Bayer Leverkusen and Bayern Munich


A defensive behemoth from Brazil, Lucio became a FIFA World Cup winner and a true modern great of his profession during his time with Bayer Leverkusen and Bayern Munich.

"He's a hitman, he can break through walls," said Leverkusen general manager Rainer Calmund when Lucio signed for the club in January 2001. "He has... a vehement urge to win games," added Felix Magath when the hulking centre-half was at his disposal in Munich. "I don't know a player like him. Lucio is absolutely exceptional in every respect."

High praise indeed and both are correct but, at the same time, neither feels like truly doing the man justice.

Perhaps the nickname O Cavalo (The Horse) is a better representation of Lucio's galloping majesty on the football pitch; equal parts physical superiority and elegant movement that were both awe-inspiring and mesmerising to behold in full flight.

Quick across the ground, awesome in the air, almost impassable when one-on-one with opponents and somehow full of trickery and menace with the ball at his feet; Lucio had it all.

Watch: Lucio scores rocket free-kick for Leverkusen

He was a true Libero of a centre-half, someone who played the game at one hundred miles per hour every time he stepped out on to the pitch and his commitment to the cause brought reward at every turn of his career.

At Leverkusen, Lucio made an immediate impression, helping Die Werkself secure a fourth-placed finish - and UEFA Champions League qualification - after his winter arrival in 2001.

The next season was so close to being God-like from Lucio and Leverkusen, but ultimately ended in despair as they somehow came up a point short in the Bundesliga title race and lost the finals of both the DFB Cup and Champions League.

The Brazilian even scored in the UCL showpiece, cancelling out future Schalke man Raul's effort before Zinedine Zidane decided the tie with one of the competition's most iconic goals.

Any disappointment was soon put to one side as Lucio played every minute of Brazil's romp to 2002 FIFA World Cup glory a month later, where he would help the Seleção get the better of Germany in the final.

Lucio (l.) equalised for Bayer Leverkusen in the 2001/02 UEFA Champions League final but they ultimately came up short against Real Madrid. - imago images/Horstm¸ller

Lucio returned to Leverkusen after climbing international football's mountain top that summer and featured 122 times for the club until hitting a ceiling at the BayArena.

Bigger things beckoned and Bayern came calling ahead of the 2004/05 campaign, with Lucio firmly focused on reaching the summit in Germany this time around.

"Lucio will be a key player in our new team," said Karl-Heinz Rummenigge at the time, as the player himself laid his ambitions clear by saying he wanted to win "as many titles as possible” in Munich.

The pair were seemingly destined for success, and fate was soon fulfilled as Bayern collected a domestic treble in their first season with Lucio in charge at the back.

FIFA Confederations Cup glory also came with Brazil that season - with Lucio scoring the winner against the USA in the final - as did a German double in 2005/06 and another treble in 2006/07.

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Bayern set a then-record for the Bundesliga's meanest ever defence in 2006/07, conceding just 21 times in the league that term in a side that boasted the likes of Oliver Kahn, Philipp Lahm and Martin Demichelis, as well as their Brazilian brickwall, at the back.

Despite the glory achieved following Lucio's arrival, some Bayern coaches struggled to come to terms with a centre-back who wanted to impact the game so heavily at both ends of the pitch.

But all of Lucio's marauding was always with the club's best interests at heart, as Ottmar Hitzfeld noted when he said of his defender: "I know he has a big heart, and he only wants to help the team when he goes up front. But scoring goals isn't his job. A defensive leader first has to settle the game and keep it tight at the back."

Just like a horse in the wild, it was hard for O Cavalo to rein in his instincts, and attacking ones were clearly second nature to a man who grew up inspired by his nation's galivanting heroes of the '80s and '90s.

"I played up front in youth teams and now I'm at the back. From time to time I still think: 'I'd most like to be a striker'. It always makes me particularly happy when I score a goal'," Lucio once told Bayern's club website. "[But] I'm a defender and I can't always race up front. My main job is to prevent goals."

And prevent them he did, on a weekly basis.

Lucio (l.) moved to Bayern to win trophies and he did so almost immediately. - imago sportfotodienst

Eventually, Lucio departed Germany in 2009, having made more than 200 appearances in all competitions for Bayern and 236 in the Bundesliga across his entire, near decade-long stay in the country.

He may have left with a heavy heart, describing his departure as "a pity", but he did so having left a major mark on the game and with a reputation as one of the best in his position since the great Franz Beckenbauer's brushstrokes turned it into an art form.

Further success would follow at club and country level, including finally getting his hands on the Champions League trophy that evaded him at Leverkusen and Bayern. Lucio eventually hung up his boots aged 41, and with 105 caps for his country, in 2020.

A truly remarkable footballer, there were few of his stature and ability before Lucio, and there's been few since.

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