Back in the early eighties Italy was the centre of the world of football and would remain such for the best part of a decade. The richest clubs in the world played in the Serie A and, in turn, these attracted the best players. Juventus had Platini and Boniek, Napoli played to the tune set by Maradona whilst Milan had the trio of Van Basten, Gullit and Rijkaard. Even a small club like Udinese could attract a player like Zico.
If the Serie A was the cream of world football, then Avellino was the curd. Promoted to the Serie A for the first time in 1978, they had defied expectation by staying there year after year despite being billed as relegation favourites at the start of each season.
The architect of their elevation was owner Antonio Sibilia, a stereotypical Southern Italian with a pencil thin moustache, ferocious distaste for anything other than a conservative look in men – he hated long hair, ear-rings and tattoos – and alleged links to the camorra. The city of Avellino itself was a typical Southern Italian city, with its fair share of social problems but also a football mad population that ferociously supported their local side.
It was in this environment that Juary arrived in 1983, finding heightened expectations given the highly restricted number of foreign players that a club could register at the time. “It was every player’s dream to play in the most beautiful league in the world,” he recalls.
Not that he knew a lot of where he was getting himself into. “I didn’t know anything,” he says, laughing at the memory “but it turned out to be a wonderful experience.”
Juary had started his career at Santos, whom he joined after refusing an offer from Fluminense. “I never liked it because it was too far away from home. Anyway, at the time I was already a Flamengo fan.”
At Santos he got to fulfil his dream of playing with his hero Pelé, albeit for just one game. He also won two caps for the Brazilian national team before a squabble of money – “it was a foolish decision” he admits today – saw him move to the Mexican side of Universidad de Guadalajara. He struggled a bit early on – the altitude got to him – but eventually settled in and continued his fine form. There were no plans to move yet again but move he did eight months into his two year deal.
Indeed, the story of his transfer to Avellino is a peculiar one. Asked to accompany the club’s technical director to Europe supposedly on a scouting trip, Juary found out that he was actually going to sign for a new club in mid-air.
The man who had insisted for his signature was Luis Vinicio, a fellow Brazilian who was a legend at nearby Napoli and who had just been appointed manager at Avellino. Vinicio was confident that Juary would be a vital player for Avellino but, upon seeing his new signing for the first time, club owner Sibilia didn’t share that confidence. Soon, however, he too was won over to the extent that Juary became his favourite player. To this day, Juary remains grateful to both. “Together with Sibilia and Pier Paolo Marino he (Vinicio) was the most important person in my career in Italy. He was like a father to me.”
The reason for the change in heart was Juary’s performances and goals. His first came on his debut in the Coppa Italia against Catania – “it was very important for me” – and many more followed. In a league that attracted the world’s best players, this relative unknown was making his mark.
Juary was also making an impression for his unique celebration. Indeed, seven years before Roger Milla enchanted the world by dancing with the corner flag, Juary was dancing around the corner flag to celebrate his goals. It is something for which he remains remembered, and asked about till today. “It was a spontaneous thing,” he smiles. “It doesn’t irritate me if people remember me for that as well.”
He’s right. Many at Avellino remember him mainly for his goals and overall creativity that helped the side retain its place at the top for the two seasons he was there. His performances were impressive enough to attract the attention of bigger clubs and at the end of the season Inter came calling.
In truth, Inter weren’t really interested in him. The player they really wanted was Cesena’s Austrian striker Walter Schachner but Cesena were adamant that before selling Schachner they needed to have a good enough replacement in place. Avellino were never going to sell Juary to a rival in the battle to stay up so Inter bought him thinking that they would use him as a make-weight in the deal for Schachner.
That last part of the deal, however, never came to be so Juary ended up staying at Inter. It was a disastrous move, with Juary scoring just twice and failing to really settle.
Today, he is positive about the whole thing. “It didn’t turn out as we expected but it was still a wonderful experience.” Yet at the time it looked that it had broken his career. After just one season he was sold off to Ascoli (27 games and 5 goals) and then on again to Cremonese (19 games and 2 goals); both of which were deemed to be failed moves.
So much that Juary was preparing to return back to Brazil when he got an unexpected call.
“It came in the most important moment in my career in Italy as I was thinking of going back to Brazil,” he admits. “Then this offer from Porto came in and it was the most wonderful decision that I ever took. I wouldn’t say that it was revenge (rivincita). I never thought that way because it isn’t my character and it isn’t something that comes from God.”
He might not want to talk about revenge or proving people wrong, but it certainly re-ignited his career. Suddenly he was at a side that was playing to win; a huge step up from the struggling teams that Juary had spent most of his time in Europe playing for.
And win they did. In Portugal, Juary won both the league and the domestic cup, with their success being fuelled by the brilliant Algerian, Rebah Madjer. “He was a great player who was part of a great team. That was the great strength at Porto, the unity among all the players.”
Juary’s biggest success, however, came in Europe. Porto made it to the final of the European Cup where they faced Bayern Munich (see below). Despite missing captain Klaus Augenthaler (suspended), Roland Wohlfarth and Hans Dorfner (both injured), the Germans were still considered favourites and they justified that billing by dominating the first half; going in a goal up.
Juary had started the game on the bench but came on at the start of the second half. “Get back out and play like Porto,” Juary recalls Artur Jorge, the Porto manager, telling them. “You are the champions of Portugal and you have to play as you know you’re a capable of playing.”
And they did. Porto slowly clawed their way back thanks largely to the efforts of Rebah Madjer. The Algerian terrorised the German defence, scored the equaliser and then, with nine minutes remaining he sent a looping ball into the box that evaded everyone bar Juary who rifled into the top of the Bayern goal.
Juary recalls that goal with modesty. “It was a goal like many that I scored during my career. Perhaps this one was more special because of the result but for me it is as important as any other goal that I scored.” For sure on that occasion he didn’t celebrate by running to the corner flag; the emotion of the occasion leading him to run towards the fans instead.
It was to be the pinnacle of his career, even if he went on to win the European Super Cup and the Intercontinental Cup. After Porto, Juary moved back to Brazil where he wound down his career and started coaching.
Once again, Avellino came calling, this time for him to coach one of their youth teams. Juary accepted and spent a year there before eventually moving on Potenza, Napoli and Porto, always in youth related coaching roles. At Aversa Normanna he was put in charge of the youth them and also the first team which gave him the right platform to move to USD Sestri Levante, winning with them promotion to the Serie D having dominated proceedings: promotion was confirmed with five gaemes to go.
Then, in March this year, he opted to resign with the club on its way of achieving the target of safety from relegation. Talking to him, the impression is that he’s not in too much of rush to go back to coaching, “whatever is God’s will” he replies when that query is put forward to him.
“First I went to live in Brazil but then I received an invitation to go back to Avellino to coach in the youth teams, which was very satisfying for me.”
“It (the experience at Sestri Levante) was something that I wanted to do because even in Brazil I had already begun coaching senior teams. It was something that gave me a lot of joy.”
Now he waits for another job opportunity, filling his free time working as a pundit. You’d expect better for a European Cup winning goalscorer. But, then again, you get the feeling that whatever he does as a manager nothing will eclipse those images of him dancing round the corner flag.
By Paul Grech
This article originally appeared in In Bed with Maradona