Baptista of Fire

Baptista of Fire

24 May 2019 0 By Chris Stonadge

Once one of the most wanted talents across Europe, Julio Baptista retired yesterday aged 37.

For a career that promised so much in the mid-noughties, the Brazilian has somewhat underwhelmed since, never really fulfilling his true potential.

Baptista began his career at his hometown club, Sao Paulo. He looked to be the latest superstar to come out of the Brazilian Serie A, scoring seven times in 75 matches before sealing a £2m move to Sevilla.

It was at Los Rojiblancos where Baptista would hit his peak, scoring 50 goals in just 81 matches in an inconsistent Sevilla side. He drew attention from both Arsenal and The Galacticos from Madrid, and eventually chose the latter in a star-studded move costing them £13.8m, still only at 23.

Baptista however would not flourish for Los Blancos under Juan Ramon Lopez Caro, often being shifted to an unfamiliar left-wing role to make way for the likes of Guti, Zinedine Zidane and Robinho.

He bagged 8 goals in the 2005/06 campaign before heading to Arsenal on loan, where he again failed to really flourish. He left in a swap deal for Gunners’ winger Jose Antonio Reyes.

Baptista again scored only ten goals for Wenger’s men, who were in their first year at the Emirates Stadium. Four of those came in a Carling Cup tie with Liverpool, which the Gunners won 6-3. He also scored twice in a Semi-Final win over Spurs. Chelsea would prove too stiff a test in the final though, with Arsenal losing out 2-1.

It would have been thought that with Baptista’s explosive power and physique, he would be more suited to the Premier League. However, it never worked out how he wished, and he would return to the Bernabeu.

Under Bernd Schuster though, Baptista seemed to enjoy a more free central role within the side. He would go on to win the La Liga title, thus picking up his first major winners medal in the process.

Spells with Roma and Malaga followed with injury plaguing the Brazilian’s potential, (even though he bagged nearly a goal every other game under Manuel Pellegrini) and in 2013 he returned to his native Brazil with Cruzeiro.

After hitting twelve goals in 36 matches, Baptista would move to football’s native retirement home, the MLS, with Orlando City. He failed to impress but still scored six in 29 appearances.

He went on to end his career controversially in Cluj. The Romanian side signed him last summer, with Baptista only playing 43 minutes before terminating his contract. Thus that would make him one of the best paid players per minutes played in football history.

Baptista, a flop, a fan-favourite, or simply misunderstood? We will never know his true potential.