Brazilian attacking starlet Nilmar was always likely to settle in quickly at Lyon following his £4.1million summer move from Internacional of Porto Alegre.
He may speak little French, the weather in Lyon is far cooler than in his homeland and no Lyonnais restaurants serve the traditional Brazilian pork and beans dish of feijoada. But the presence of four compatriots in the dressing-room has undoubtedly helped to ease any culture shock.
“The other Brazilians in the team are my four dads,” says Nilmar, 20, who marked his senior debut for Brazil with a last-minute goal in a 6-0 friendly win in Haiti last August.
“Our team captain, Cacapa, has watched over me, Juninho gives the most advice on
the pitch, while I live in the same apartment block as Cris and we socialise a lot. Giovane Elber has taken me under his wing as well. Like me, he came to Europe very young and knows it isn’t easy.”
It’s ironic that Elber is something of a father figure since Nilmar would never have set foot in Lyon if the former Bayern Munich star had not broken his right leg and suffered ankle ligament damage against Metz in August. With Elber set to be sidelined for at least four months, Lyon badly needed another front-runner, and director of recruitment Bernard Lacombe immediately thought of Nilmar.
“I’d seen him play at the World Youth Cup and also in a couple
of Brazilian League games,” said Lacombe. “He has enormous technical qualities, he’s very quick, moves cleverly and likes to take defenders on. He’s very much like a Wayne Rooney.”
Nilmar’s five-year contract stipulates he can be loaned back to Internacional when Elber is fit again. However, the prospect of that clause being invoked disappeared during the youngster’s first appearance for Lyon, when as a substitute he scored two expertly-taken goals in a 2-1 win at Rennes.
Nilmar is often compared to former Brazilian international Bebeto. Besides their adolescent looks, they share many playing characteristics – the ability to float from central to wide areas, the delicate touch, the elegance, the instant appreciation of options, the sharp finishing.
Nilmar, born in Bandeirantes in the southern state of Parana, joined Internacional at 17 and has truly blossomed over the past two years.
He was a member of the Brazil Under-23 side who were runners-up to Mexico at the 2003 Gold Cup and later that year helped his country claim the World Youth Cup in the United Arab Emirates.
Kaka, Diego, Robinho, Adriano, Luis Fabiano and now Nilmar. Young and gifted Brazilian footballers never seem to stop sprouting.
Club Lyon (Fra)
Born July 14, 1984, in Bandeirantes
Previous clubs Bandeirantes, Internacional
International debut August 2004, v Haiti
International caps 1 (1 goal)
Honours World Youth Cup 2003
This profile originally apppeared in the January 2005 issue of World Soccer