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Inspirational Lucio

‘He’s what you call a world-class defender’

Lucio’s reaction to his 31st-minute equaliser for Bayern against Bochum on Sunday was, as ever, inimitable. The Brazil stopper, a tidal wave of emotion visibly pouring from his frame, raced to the corner flag, clapped his hand repeatedly to the club crest on his shirt, screamed and gesticulated at the crowd to beef up their support, and finally turned for the centre-circle with grim determination etched on his features.

Bayern were already a goal and a man down at that point in the match, following the visitors’ fourth-minute opener and Mark van Bommel’s sending-off on 27 minutes. “Our situation wasn’t great at the time,“ Lucio reasoned afterwards, “so equalising was the best answer.“

Vital goals

The 29-year-old is a man of few words off the field, but a tremendous inspiration on it, especially when the going gets tough, a scenario in which he is hard to restrain in his defensive position behind the halfway line. One of his many giant-striding thrusts forward allowed him to deliver the cross which prompted the handball leading to Franck Ribéry making the score 2-1 from the spot.

Lucio’s goal, his first in the Bundesliga for 17 months, was his 21st overall in 202 appearances. When he does hit the target, it is almost always at a crucial time: his two goals in this season’s UEFA Cup were openers against Aberdeen and Anderlecht. He struck in both legs of last season’s Champions League quarter-final against Real Madrid, and his last Bundesliga strike was an equaliser away to Köln in October 2005.

Will to win

“Lucio is a very spirited player. He loses his patience when we go a goal behind and attempts to pull everyone along with him,“ commented Ottmar Hitzfeld, who has attempted to curb the Brazilian’s natural instinct to get forward at every possible opportunity. “I know defending is my priority,” Lucio himself conceded, “but one or two bursts per match must be possible.“ That was certainly the case against Bochum. “When you’re a man down, the defenders have to help out up front,“ remarked Martin Demichelis.

For all his marching through the centre of the field, Lucio in no way neglected his defensive duties on Sunday. “Lucio was unbelievable, he had one of his best games of the season,“ Demichelis said admiringly. “After Mark was sent off, Lucio looked at me and said: Micho, we’re going to win this,“ the Argentine revealed.

Emotional and world-class

“It all came from the heart,“ Lucio declared, explaining his celebratory gesture with the club crest. That passion and will to win makes the Brazil skipper a precious commodity for Bayern. “Lucio is unbelievably motivated at the moment,“ reflected Oliver Kahn, “he has to play with his heart on his sleeve, the way I do from time to time. He’s what you call a world-class defender.“