Italian clubs have imported plenty of talented Brazilian footballers down the years, but until recently goalkeepers were not among them. Italians have always been proud of the reputation enjoyed by their own No1s, while goalkeepers were always considered to be Brazil's main weakness.
That myth has been dispelled this season. While Dida continues to impress for AC Milan, his compatriot Júlio César is quickly establishing himself as one of the best goalkeepers in Serie A during his first season at FC Internazionale Milano.
When Inter signed Júlio César from AC Chievo Verona last summer, few observers would have bet one euro on the former CR Flamengo goalkeeper shaking off the competition of Italian international Francesco Toldo. Júlio César, however, won the faith of Inter coach Roberto Mancini with a series of great performances in pre-season and he is now repaying that trust, having kept two clean sheets in his first two UEFA Champions League appearances.
'Continuing to learn'
"I have learnt many things since arriving in Italy and I’m continuing to learn because here football is different to Brazil," the 26-year-old told uefa.com. "The tactical aspect of the game is considered much more important."
Great Inter goalkeepers
A few years ago it would have been hard to imagine a Milan derby with two Brazilian goalkeepers on the pitch. Inter, especially, have always had great Italian keepers in their teams, going back to Giorgio ‘Kamikaze’ Ghezzi in the 1950s and continuing with Giuliano Sarti in the successful Inter side of the 1960s and more recently with Walter Zenga, Gianluca Pagliuca and Angelo Peruzzi.
Proud of success
Júlio César, however, is proud of the impact Brazilian goalkeepers are beginning to have in Serie A. "Dida is very good," he said. "We play together in the national team and we have a good relationship. When I was a kid I started to play as a forward but I think our success can inspire more Brazilian goalkeepers in the future."
He admitted he had to face the scepticism of the Italian critics during his early days at Inter. "People did not know me when I arrived and the major doubts were about my lack of experience of European football," he explained. "But I was never worried because I played over 300 games with [CR] Flamengo and ten with the Brazilian national team. I think also that Inter fans are now learning to know me."
Júlio César, married to the model and actress Susana Werner, the former girlfriend of his Brazil team-mate Ronaldo, is yet to concede at the San Siro stadium in Serie A and also kept a clean sheet when Inter defeated arch-rivals Juventus in the Italian Super Cup.
Inter have eight Argentinian players in their squad, but despite the rivalry between Argentina and Brazil Júlio César is more than happy at Inter. "I have known Adriano and Zé Maria since my time at Flamengo and they helped me settle down in the beginning. However we are a very united group regardless of the nationality of the players."
The Nerazzurri have not won the Scudetto since 1989 but have started the new season with great enthusiasm. A 2-0 league defeat against Juventus two weeks ago brought them back down to earth, but Júlio César does not believe his side should be judged by one result alone. "Juventus deserve credit because they played very well against us," Júlio César said. "However the truth is that we can play much better than we did against Juventus and we will prove it during the season."
Recently Toldo expressed his disappointment at losing his regular status as Inter's No1 but Júlio César has no hard feelings towards his rival for the jersey. "Toldo is a great goalkeeper," he said. "We speak a lot and we respect each other. We have a very good working relationship."
Confident of silverware
Júlio César is confident he can help his team to win important silverware this season. "I came here only last summer so I cannot say why Inter have not won previously, but I think we have everything to win trophies this season," he said. Should Inter manage to win either the Scudetto or the UEFA Champions League with Júlio César in goal, the reputation of Brazilian goalkeepers in Europe will rise still further.
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