Grafite: The Tale of One of the Bundesliga’s Greatest Ever One-Season Wonders – 90min

Posted: May 24, 2020 at 3:45 pm

If a single part of Grafite can be sure of immortality, it's his right heel.

Across a 17-year career, the Brazilian with the footwork of an assassin found numerous ways to hurt opponents, methods as spectacular as his trademark chipped finishes across the goalkeeper or as simple as a deft layoff to Edin Deko.

The subtlest and most devastating weapon in his arsenal will live longest in the memory, however, in the Puskas-nominated goal which saw Grafite's graceful waltz send four Bayern Munich players spinning while the back of his heel sent the ball pirouetting in the other direction.

To get us started with a heavy-handed metaphor, the brief but unforgettable contact of the ball with Grafite's heel encapsulates the fleeting fascination he had for European audiences in a career which seemingly flickered out as quickly as it exploded into life.

The result? He has become a player whose story can be all too easily condensed into the glories of a single season, or even worse, a single YouTube video.

Yet Edinaldo Batista Libnio is a player who has lived multiple footballing lives, and whose diverse, strange and trophy-laden CV is so much more than one two-minute video.

Al-Ittihad v Sao Paulo - FIFA Club World Championship Toyota Cup Semi Final

The man who grew up selling bin liners door-to-door in his hometown of So Paulo found glamour hard to come by in the early stages of his career, getting his professional start with fourth division Ferroviria.

After a breakthrough year with Santa Cruz, where the young Grafite couldn't stop the Recife club's relegation to Serie B, he struggled to grasp hold of the progression that was meant to follow, with frustrating stints with Gremio and FC Seoul following.

Even before his arrival in Germany, Grafite had to prove himself, and just like with Wolfsburg an unprecedented period of success followed.

Grafite, delantero del Sao Paulo de Bras

A successful return to Brazil with Gois led to Grafite's hometown club So Paulo recruiting the marksman, who returned the favour by helping them deliver the 2005 Copa Libertadores - Liverpool fans might remember his 15 minute cameo as the Tricolor shocked them in the 2005 Club World Cup final to cap off a glorious period in their history.

That year was a momentous one for Grafite, who had to contend with the contrasting emotions of a surprise Brazil call-up, which saw him score on debut against Guatemala, and then be at the centre of global headlines after Argentine defender Leandro Desbato was arrested under suspicion of racially abusing him in a match.

Perhaps both this affirmation of his talents and the vortex of controversy in which he found himself contributed to his 2006 move to Le Mans, where he came close to overhauling the legendary Pauleta in the Ligue 1 scoring charts in his first full season in Europe.

Le Mans's Brazilian forward Grafite jubi

He didn't stay for long in France, checking into Germany just in time for the most storied chapter in his career to begin.

Of all the coaches he could have been lumped with, Grafite must thank his lucky stars every day that his 2007 arrival in Lower Saxony saw him meet Felix Magath for the first time.

He might not have been so thankful at first, with the famed disciplinarian - known for the 'Mount Magath' hill which he loved to install at each of his sides' training grounds - causing his new signing to pass out during a particularly taxing pre-season run in the Swiss Alps.

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Once Grafite recovered a bit of puff, however, it were Bundesliga defenders who were hitting the floor.

Magath's charges had a promising first season together, but nobody could have anticipated the sequel, with Wolfsburg winning their first ever German top-flight title and doing it rather stylishly.

Grafite was front and centre as the Bundesliga's top goalscorer with an obscene 28 goals, forming a record-breaking 'Sturmduo' - what a brilliant word for a strike partnership - with Edin Dzeko. He contributed a total of 54 goals combined with Dzeko, outdoing the previous 53-goal record of a certain Gerd Mller and a certain UliHoene.

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With another hyper-talented Bosnian, Zvjezdan Misimovi, breaking another Bundesliga record with his 22 assists, Germany's next dynasty was ready for lift-off.

Until it wasn't.

Magath took advantage of an early exit clause in his contract to leave for Schalke, and with him the control he exercised over the club was gone.

While Grafite added to the increasing list of his extraordinary achievements by scoring a Champions League hat trick on debut, a rudderless Wolfsburg slipped to eighth.

FBL-C1-ASIA-HILAL-AHLY

Growing old, dogged by knee injuries and having struggled to reproduce his form of the previous season, a 32-year-old Grafite dutifully departed for Al Ahly.

Typically of a career where surprises were commonplace, the beginning of Grafite's decline also saw him achieve the career landmark of representing his country in a World Cup, albeit in a five minute cameo against Portugal.

Even in retirement mode, however, Grafite was determined to add to the narrative of his career.

Brazil's striker Grafite gets a hug from

Despite losing out to none other than Asamoah Gyan in the goalscoring stakes, Grafite was voted the UAE Pro League's International Player of the Season after blasting in 24 goals in 20 games.

After a short spell in Qatar, Grafite was set for a poignant final act in Brazil, where he righted the wrongs of his first spell at Santa Cruz.

Flown in by helicopter to a baying mob of fans, Grafite, now the highest-salaried player in the club's history, took them back to the Brazilian top-flight.

FBL-SUDAMERICANA-RECIFE-SANTACRUZ

With the ageing Brazilian also instrumental in securing Copa do Nordeste and Campeonato Pernambucano glory in 2016, closure was finally possible in a career where he had needed to prove himself so many times.

After one last shot at the big time with Athletico Paranaense, Recife's prodigal son would end up retiring at Santa Cruz.

It was a quiet, humble ending for a player who had so emphatically announced his footballing gifts to the world in 2009, but with Grafite, who was important to so many more clubs than just Wolfsburg, it was a way of giving back.

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Grafite: The Tale of One of the Bundesliga's Greatest Ever One-Season Wonders - 90min

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