If ever a man proved himself worthy of a second chance it was Lopes in the Libertadores. In last year’s Brazilian championship he was one of a team of Palmeiras unknowns who surpassed all expectations. Unfortunately Lopes also passed the bounds of permitted conduct and tested positive for cocaine. After serving his suspension he forced his way back into a Palmeiras side re-enforced for the Libertadores Cup.
The Libertadores campaign ended with semi-final defeat on penalties to Boca Juniors, but at least for Lopes there was the satisfaction of finishing the tournament as top scorer. Forming an excellent midfield duo with the subtle and slighter Alex, most of Lopes’ nine goals came from thundering shots that few in world football can equal. He also showed the variety in his game with a hat-trick against Cruzeiro in the quarter-finals. One was flicked, one curled in and the other blasted.
Such a wealth of resources, plus his physical strength, might make Lopes a natural target for European clubs. But they also have reasons to be cautious. One of Palmeiras coach Celso Roth’s frequent complaints is that the 22-year-old is inconsistent. And a wayward personality might make him the kind of Brazilian best stamped ‘not for export’ – good news for Palmeiras fans, bad news for South American goalkeepers.