Cologne - He has brought a smile to the faces of millions of Bundesliga fans down the years and now Brazilian defender Dante is hoping to let the good times roll at new club VfL Wolfsburg.
bundesliga.com has the inside skinny on the unmistakable Bundesliga favourite, who collected no less than nine trophies during a three-year spell with former club FC Bayern München...
Dante Bonfim Costa Santos was born in Salvador, Bahia on the north-east Brazilian coast, on 18 October 1983. After playing for the youth team of the Galicia Esporte Clube, he then joined the more established Juventude in the far south of the country as a 19-year-old in 2002.
That was just the start of his travels: in 2004, Dante made the move across the Atlantic to northern France, signing for LOSC Lille, where he played just a handful of games in two seasons. In 2006 he switched to the Belgian Pro League, first playing for RS Charleroi and then Standard Liege. It was not until 2009 that he arrived in the Bundesliga, recruited by...
Downs and ups
...Borussia Mönchengladbach. Dante's three seasons with the club were a rollercoaster affair, culminating in a remarkable upsurge in the Foals' fortunes in 2011/12 season. Gladbach were knocked out of the DFB Cup by FC Bayern in a penalty shoot-out, with Dante missing from the spot - but a fourth-place finish in the table secured them a berth in the UEFA Champions League qualification.
Debut season delight
His time at Borussia Park had made him one of the most highly-regarded central defenders in Germany and due reward came in the shape of a transfer to Bayern in the summer of 2012. A regular starter from the off, Dante enjoyed a remarkable first season in the Bavarian capital, helping Bayern to an historic treble, crowned with victory over Borussia Dortmund in the first-ever all-German UEFA Champions League final.
Better late than never
As his exploits with FC Bayern gained more attention, Dante belatedly came under consideration for a place in the Brazil national team. He had never represented his country at any level, but was finally chosen to play for the Selecao in a friendly against England at Wembley in February 2013. Then head coach Luiz Felipe Scolari was impressed enough to note that "we have a defender for the future" and he's been a mainstay since.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Dante's role model was Lucimar Ferreira da Silva, Lucio for short. The Brazilian World Cup winning defender trod the boards himself at FC Bayern between 2004 and 2009, and at Bayer Leverkusen between 2001 and 2004. "I admired his personality and character. He always had a first-class attitude on the pitch. He played with aggression and a lot of heart," says Dante of his compatriot.
Dante is known for his instantly recognisable hairstyle. It was at Mönchengladbach that this was popularised among supporters, with fans regularly turning up sporting wigs. In 2011, the centre-back was true to his word and famously let his team-mates shave off his locks after Gladbach avoided relegation courtesy of 2-1 aggregate win over VfL Bochum 1848. "It felt great to have all my hair shaved off,” the Brazilian told FIFA.com. “We were all so happy at avoiding the drop and it was a real party. Perhaps he'll follow suit should Wolfsburg win the title.
Away from the pitch, the 31-year-old is big into his music, in all varieties. "I listen to a lot of music. Plenty of samba and Brazilian stuff, but also some German music, like hip-hop and rock. Music is my life; I get huge pleasure out of it." Dante has regularly been caught on camera playing the Cavaquinho, a small, four-string instrument, in changing rooms up and down the country.
Despite his confident demeanour, he does occasionally miss his home and family. "It was harder when I first moved to Europe. I missed the sun and the beaches, my parents, brother and sister back in Brazil," he admits. "But I've got used to that now. It's part of the job." He is married to Joceline (l.) and has a baby daughter Sophia (m.).
Vital squad member
Having played in four countries, Dante knows the importance of being able to integrate. "It's so important. You have to speak the language in order to communicate. It's important that we don't always stick to our own clique. We're a collective so you have to interact with everybody." A bit of a joker, the centre-back regularly receives praise from team-mates regarding the positive spirit he embodies off the pitch, while even Pep Guardiola admitted he would "love 1,000 Dantes in my team."