Giovane Élber: Goalscorer, joker, legend

Read article contents
Increase size

Goalscorer, celebration artist, joker - Giovane Élber played for FC Bayern for six years from 1997 to 2003 and won all the important trophies to be won in club football during this time. On Thursday, the 2001 Champions League winner celebrates his 48th birthday. fcbayern.com send their best wishes to him and look back on his career in Munich.

Giovane Élber: One of the 18 members of the FC Bayern Hall of Fame, part of the team of the century chosen by the record champions' fans in 2005 and a member of the victorious Champions League team of 2001. The former pro and FC Bayern go together like the Sugar Loaf Mountain and Rio de Janeiro, the Streif and Kitzbühel or the Marienplatz and Munich. In the latter, the long-time goalscorer and crowd favourite was able to celebrate numerous title wins with Bayern supporters. A connection that still exists today.

One of his favourite places in Munich: Giovane Élber celebrated 13 titles on the balcony of the city hall, and of those the Champions League victory in 2001 was perhaps the most important.

As DFB Cup winner to Munich

Born in Londrina, Brazil, Élber left his home country in 1990 at the age of  just18 and joined the star ensemble at AC Milan. After only one year he moved to Grasshopper Club Zurich in Switzerland. In 1994, he moved to the Bundesliga, joining VfB Stuttgart, where he formed the final point of the 'Magic Triangle' together with Fredi Bobic and Krassimir Balakov. With 44 goals in 96 competitive matches for VfB, Élber was brought to Munich in the summer of 1997 as a fresh-faced DFB Cup winner and scorer of a brace in the final against Cottbus, succeeding outgoing strikers Marcel Witezcek and Jürgen Klinsmann.

Seven newcomers in for FC Bayern: Élber came to Munich in summer 1997. Also new to coach Giovanni Trapattoni's team in that year were Michael Tarnat, Dennis Grassow, David Jarolim, Emanuel Bentil, Alexander Bugera and Thorsten Fink.

Fastest goalscorer in Bundesliga history

In his first year with the Bavarians, Élber immediately repeated his DFB Cup victory, and scored 21 goals in 44 competitive matches. In February 1998 he scored after just 11 seconds to give Bayern the lead against Hamburger SV. It was the fastest goal in Bundesliga history – until his record was broken by Karim Bellarabi's strike after nine seconds in 2014. "He has had a good season, but he can give a lot more," was the concluding verdict by then-outgoing coach Giovanni Trapattoni.

Acrobatic beauty: Giovane Élber with an artistic scissor kick at the 2002 training camp.

Élber shoots himself to world-class standing

Élber immediately took the initiative in the following season under new coach Ottmar Hitzfeld and his more aggressive approach. With eight goals in the first nine Bundesliga games, he played a decisive role in Bayern's brilliant start to the season as they only suffered their first defeat – without Élber – on Matchday 10. By the winter break, the Brazilian had bagged a total of 18 goals, almost as many as in the entire previous season. "World class" (Hitzfeld), "irreplaceable" (Uli Hoeneß) and "on a par with Ronaldo, Mijatovic and Šuker" (Jupp Heynckes) were just some of the many tributes directed towards the goal-scoring ace.

Brazilian spring roll: Giovane Élber shone not only with goals but also with his unusual celebrations. Just like after his goal to put Bayern put 2-0 up against VfL Wolfsburg in the 1998/99 season.

Scorer of Goal of the Month and Season

With a remarkable effort from the corner flag in the game against Hansa Rostock, Élber scored the Goal of the Month in February 1999, and this strike was later voted Goal of the Season. His footballing colleagues also voted him the Bundesliga Player of the Season. Everything was going perfectly for the joker, who was very popular with the team and always came up with something new for his goal celebrations. But just one month later, his high-flying streak was abruptly halted. In the Bundesliga match against Hamburger SV, he tore a ligament in his left knee.

Élber netted a brace in February 1999 away at Hansa Rostock, including the Goal of the Season. The Brazilian also had a special goal celebration to cap off the goal scored by the Baltic Sea.

Just a spectator in season finale

Hoeneß called the premature end to the season for the top goal contributor (13 goals, seven assists) a "catastrophe", as the striker was only able to watch on in the decisive weeks of the season. "I have to think about next season now," said Élber shortly after his injury, and worked intensively on his return to the pitch. In the meantime, his teammates won their 14th league title, but they were unlucky in the two cup finals that season, losing 6-5 on penalties to Werder Bremen in the DFB Cup final and losing 2-1 to Manchester United in the Champions League final.

The general and his goalscorer: Coach Ottmar Hitzfeld and Giovane Élber after the cup win in 2000 against Werder Bremen (3-0). Two weeks later, they won the championship on the last day of the season – also against Bremen.

Élber fights his way back again

Just five months after his injury, Élber celebrated his comeback at the start of the new season – at HSV of all places – and secured a 2-2 draw with his goal in the 90th minute after coming on as a sub. It was the start of a solid campaign for the goalscorer (19 goals), which ended with the third double in the club's history. The 2000/01 season was to become even more successful than this, even if it began with a setback for the striker. He missed the first eight competitive matches due to a broken metatarsal, but this break did not affect his prolificness: after his return he scored 11 goals before the winter break. Even though Élber was unable to prevent an early exit from the DFB Cup, with FCB losing to third division club 1. FC Magdeburg 5-3 on penalties, the Bavarians' hunger for success in the league and the Champions League was all the more apparent.

One of his most important goals in the Bayern jersey: Twelve days after a knee operation, Élber scored the only goal in the semi-final first leg at Real Madrid on 1 May 2001.

Match-winner after knee surgery and Champions League winner

And it was in this competition that Élber played a decisive role in making history for Bayern in Milan on 23 May 2001. He scored three goals in the knockout ties against Manchester United and Real Madrid, including the crucial 1-0 win in the semi-final first leg in Madrid – just 12 days after an arthroscopy on his left knee. "It was madness that I could play," Élber said afterwards, describing it as "even greater madness that I scored that goal." Élber had scored the goal with his left foot, and as a reward there was a big kiss on the recently operated knee. A few days later, Bayern celebrated a legendary last-minute title win in Hamburg and then UCL glory at the San Siro. Despite injury, Élber's 22 goals in 44 games set a new personal best for a season.

Holding his knee: After the winning goal at the Éstadio Santiago Bernabeu, Élber kissed his recently operated left knee.

Winner of the goalscorer's cannon in 2003

He was even able to improve on this in the following seasons. He scored 24 goals in 2001/02 and won the Intercontinental Cup in Tokyo against Boca Juniors. In the 2002/03 campaign, he found the net 31 times across all competitions, and in addition to winning the double again, he and Bochum's Thomas Christiansen shared the coveted title of Bundesliga's top scorer for the first time. He was also the most prolific player in the DFB Cup. However, with the signing of Roy Makaay in the summer of 2003, Élber's era came to an end in Munich. After six years, 13 trophies, 140 goals and 266 competitive appearances, he moved on to the French champions Olympique Lyonnais.

An award to finish with: At the end of the 2002/03 season, Élber was the Bundesliga's top goalscorer with 19 goals. In total, the Brazilian scored 140 goals for FC Bayern.

Quick reunion with Lyon

"It was a wonderful time. I won it all. Winning the 2001 Champions League was the most beautiful experience," said Élber after his departure. "It was an honour to be part of it." Just two months after leaving Munich, Élber and FCB met again in the Champions League group stage: after a 1-1 draw in the first leg, Lyon won the return leg in the Olympiastadion 2-1. The match-winner for the French side was none other than Giovane Élber, with a goal in the 53rd minute. Even the Bayern fans celebrated his success, honouring his years in an FCB jersey.

FC Bayern and Giovane Élber simply belong together. In recent years, the long-serving former player has been responsible for FC Bayern Legends.

Connection to Munich never broken

Two years in Lyon were followed by a stint with Borussia Mönchengladbach, before Élber returned to Brazil in January 2006 after 16 years in Europe and ended his career at Cruzeiro Belo Horizonte in the November of the same year. Élber initially retired to his farm in Londrina, but his connection to Munich was always maintained. Be it as an international scout in Brazil, as brand ambassador or as a member of FC Bayern Legends team, for which he has been responsible since the summer of 2019. FC Bayern and Giovane Élber simply belong together.

Giovane Élber travelled with FC Bayern Legends to his Brazilian homeland in December 2019. You can see the highlights of the tour here 👇