CSKA MOSCOW FANS were quick to fall for the charms of their team’s new Brazilian front man, Vagner Souza de Silva, aka Vagner Love, a £6million summer signing from Sao Paulo club Palmeiras.
The 20-year-old is already a cult hero at the old army club having scored seven goals in his first 11 games for the Muscovites, including two in the 3-2 aggregate victory over Rangers in the third qualifying round of the Champions League.
Usually, South Americans need some time to adjust to the different style of play in Europe. Not Vagner Love. His mobility, flair, awareness and powerful shooting have posed a constant menace; off the field, the culture shock of trading the bustle of Sao Paulo for the more austere surroundings of Moscow has been softened by having his entire family brought over to be around him: mother Jaira, father Neto, sister Irma and brother-in-law Marcelo.
“I’ve started well for CSKA and that’s been so good for my confidence; on the field I feel like a matador,” says Vagner Love, who won his first cap for Brazil in a Copa America tie against Costa Rica last July.
“Playing for CSKA is my big chance. I have my first taste of European football and have the opportunity to test myself against the best in the Champions League.
“I know only a few words of Russian. I communicate with most of my team-mates with gestures, but it’s working out.”
Vagner also claims that football rather than partying is his priority now. In Brazil he had a well-founded reputation for being something of a Don Juan and owes his nickname to his womanising ways. He was thrown out of the Palmeiras youth team squad after being caught with a girl in his room on the eve of an important game two years ago, only to be reinstated after team-mates pleaded for him to be given a second chance.
Kiss-and-tell tales of his antics that night had the press gleefully dubbing the youngster “Vagner Love” or the “Marksman of Love”, and the romantic liaisons continued with regularity. But in no way did they impede his footballing progress. Vagner was soon a fixture in the Palmeiras first team and finished the 2003 season as the Second Division’s top scorer with 19 goals.
That tally helped the club regain their place in the top flight and earned Vagner a place in Brazil’s Under-20 side. His move to CSKA came after some outstanding performances for Palmeiras at the start of this year.
Highly-talented and an irrepressible character, Vagner Love used to celebrate his goals at Palmeiras by blowing kisses to women in the crowd. That is turning out to be a commonplace sight in Russia too.
Club CSKA Moscow (Rus)
Born June 11, 1984, in Rio de Janeiro
Previous club Palmeiras
International debut July 2004, v Costa Rica
International caps 1 (0 gls)
This profile originally apppeared in the December 2004 issue of World Soccer