Brazil’s Forgotten Man: Nilmar

Harry Burford

The name ‘Neymar’ is on everybody’s lips right about now. Behind only the likes of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo in his ongoing quest to become the world’s greatest living footballer, the global stage remains one of great adventure and possibility for PSG’s newly acquired superstar.

The highly revered South American is expected to tear it up among the 2018 World Cup, this summer, with Brazil, whilst his big-spending Parisian employers seek to claim that elusive Champions League trophy as their own with the former Santos and Barcelona man firing among their ranks.

The near future therefore looks to be a place of never-ending excitement for the highly rated goal-scorer, but before there was Neymar and all that comes with the quick-footed attacker, before there was the Camp Nou’s notorious ‘MSN‘ partnership, or Qatari-rich financiers looking to broker record-breaking deals within the heart of the French capital – there was another fresh-faced Brazilian with dreams of setting the European stage alight.

He was called ‘Nilmar’ – and whilst the similarly titled frontman may have admittedly drifted off the scene of late for one particular reason or another – his was a repertoire that was expected to wow his respective onlookers wherever he plied his trade, an alluring striking skill-set that could have once possibly rivalled the ongoing technical feats of PSG’s £198 million man…

In similar fashion to the former Barcelona favourite, Nilmar also struck upon a great deal of prominence and distinction throughout his early days among the Brazilian top-flight. Alongside the lesser known likes of Daniel Carvalho, Cidimar and Paraguay’s Diego Gavilan – the up and coming young striker won many a newfound fan whilst scoring several well-taken goals in front of the proud Internacional faithful.

Here, Nilmar would thrive as one of the standout names in South American football. The Estadio Beira-Rio was his home, and with the passionate Internacional supporters backing him at every available turn – the technically gifted striker repaid the faith of his fans with a string of truly electrifying performances in front of goal.

His skill was almost unrivalled at the time, possessing alarmingly quick feet in tight situations and proving adept at baffling oncoming defenders with a range of delightful flicks and tricks inside the final third. Nilmar represented everything you could possibly ask for in a rapidly emerging South American superstar, it’s just a pity that his fortunes didn’t continue their upward trend by the time he first sought to introduce himself upon European shores…

After largely impressing among the Brazilian top-flight, Internacional’s latest breakthrough act successfully caught the attention of several high flying European clubs – with Olympique Lyonnais plucking up the courage to sign the enthralling frontman in the summer of 2004.

Life among Ligue 1 would ultimately prove somewhat testing for the young striker, however, as the plucky South American only amounted a meagre two goals in 32 league appearances for the French club. Nilmar was forced to play second-fiddle at the Stade de Lyon once the likes of Giovane Elber, Sylvain Wiltord and Milan Baros returned to the first-team fold, leaving the young Brazilian to carefully re-think his options and eventually return to his native homeland.

Subsequent spells at both Corinthians and Internacional yielded far greater fortunes for Nilmar, signalling a strong return to form for the free-scoring frontman. Via his rejuvenated performances in front of goal, the striker successfully amounted several hard-fought trophies in this time, including the Campeonato Gaucho, the Copa Sudamericana as well as an illustrious Campeonato Brasileiro Seria A in 2004/05.

Nilmar had forced Europe’s elite to re-think their early disinterest in his ability, with none other than La Liga’s Villarreal seeking to try their luck on the Brazilian. Fortunately, life among the European game would prove far more accommodating this time around, for it was his exciting stay among the Spanish top-flight that really cast Nilmar out as a truly promising star in the making.

Villarreal supporters bore witness to an all-round more complete striker than the young frontman who was barely afforded much opportunity to showcase his ability in France. Nilmar had ripened well with age. He seemed noticeably more mature in the way he went about his business, with his free-scoring form in front of goal clearly benefiting as a result of his new surroundings.

The still relatively fresh-faced Brazilian may not have filled his trophy cabinet whilst operating for Villarreal, but his 26 goals in 84 league appearances certainly went some way in restoring his once shimmering reputation. He scored a variety of successful goals in Spain, including all manner of decisive chips and dinks amid onrushing opponents, but it was his prowess for running at defenders and creating havoc inside the final third that really got people talking.

Yet once again, Nilmar would subsequently disappear from the European scene altogether after eventually falling out of favour among the Spanish game. The seemingly unsettled striker opted to make a well-paid move to Qatar, where several subsequent switches, well-taken finishes and an explosive training ground bust-up later, he would find himself back among the Brazilian game playing for Santos.

Nilmar is currently contracted to the legendary Brazilian club, but it remains to be seen where is immediate future ultimately lies after reportedly being diagnosed with a serious bout of depression. Whilst he has admittedly experienced something of a varied career during his time traversing the club scene in search of dependable first-team football, the once show-stopping Brazilian arguably deserves greater accolade in light of his impressive goal-scoring record.

Nilmar should have been every bit as good as Neymar if all the early reports were to be believed. He should have set the international scene alight with Brazil despite only amounting 24 appearances in eight years of dedicated service for his nation.

Had it not been for a few odd career choices and questionable decisions surrounding his ultimate playing destination, perhaps we would still be talking about Nilmar as one of the most explosive South American strikers to grace the European game with his presence.

As the situation currently stands, however, the former goalscoring legend on Fifa 12 merely represents a 33-year-old journeyman of a striker with relatively little prospects looking forward. Whilst Neymar seemingly continues to thrive among the French top-flight with PSG, Nilmar is forced to go about his business as the undisputed forgotten man of Brazilian football; a sad and unexpected end for a once widely talented frontman.

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