The Samba Striker
Brazilian wizard Giovane Elber conquered hearts and the record books as he created an unforgettable legacy both at the club and among the fans.
Giovane Elber, the 'Samba Striker' whose goals propelled Bayern to a string of domestic and international titles, awarded himself the perfect send-off from the club with 21 goals in the 2002-3 season to finish leading scorer in the Bundesliga for the first time.
"It's incredible that I've done it now after almost a decade in the Bundesliga," the then 30 year-old said after seeing a dream come true, "I'm the leading foreign goalscorer in the league's history with 132 goals in 252 games, but that's of no interest to anyone back home in Brazil. But when I go home as leading scorer, they'll call me a hero."
There were honours aplenty in his last full season at the club: the championship, the German Cup and the 'Outfield Player of the Year' accolade from his fellow pros, before the Bayern fans voted him 'Player of the Month' for May and then, for the first time in his career, 'Player of the Season'.
"The double, finishing leading scorer and then 'Player of the Season' from the fans - it's all wonderful and makes me very proud. I'm delighted so many fans chose to vote for me," Elber commented with his trademark broad grin. The poll result came as no surprise to Uli Hoeneß: "He's a fabulous lad, a super chap with a healthy dose of cunning. The folk out there love him," the general manager smiled.
Giovane's record at the club from July 1997 to August 2003 explains why he is one of the best-loved and most successful players ever pull on the red jersey. The Brazilian appeared 260 times in the Bundesliga and scored 133 goals, 92 of them in 169 matches for Bayern where he won four league titles (1999, 2000, 2001, 2003), three German Cups (1998, 2000, 2003), the 2001 Champions League and finally the World Club Cup.
"Giovane's one of my most important players," coach Ottmar Hitzfeld observed. When Elber showed off his superb technique, fantastic pace, ability to make use of the last inch of space and killer instinct in front of goal, a unique and unforgettable Samba rhythm pulsed through the forward line.
Elber earned a certain amount of fame as the master of the witty one-liner with no-one considered out of range. Real Madrid coach Vicente del Bosque felt the force of the Elber tongue in February 2000: "The Real coach, Camacho or whatever his name is, said the Germans can't pass, they can only fight, but he's learned something today. Next time he should shut his gob," the Brazilian quipped after Madrid fell 4-2 at home against Bayern.
Giovane moved on to Olympique Lyon in August 2003 and there was no hiding the sadness at the Säbener Strasse. "Parting definitely hurts, just knowing he won't be there in the morning any more," Ottmar Hitzfeld said. "He's been a marvellous player for Bayern," chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge agreed, while general manager Uli Hoeneß promised a special farewell: "He's earned the kind of send-off no-one who's gone on to play for another club has ever had."
In a classic twist of fate, Elber did return to Munich just a few months after his departure. Lyon arrived at the Olympic stadium for a Champions League tie in November 2003 - and who else but Elber popped up to score the winner for his new club, only to reap the applause from the still-adoring Bayern fans.