Luiz Felipe Scolari’s Brazilian team opened up the Confederations Cup with a classy performance against Japan, defeating the Blue Samurais 3-0. An incredible strike in the opening minutes from Neymar was complimented just after halftime when Paulinho doubled the lead. In the dying moments of the game Oscar – having been an incredible creative force in the game – lay on a perfectly timed pass to allow Jo to slot in a third and final goal.
That’s right Manchester City fans, the Brazilian striker Jo, who in 2008 was signed for the team for a club record breaking transfer fee of around £19 million. This was at a time before the money from Sheikh Mansour arrived, so his return of six goals in 38 games was even more difficult to swallow (especially as every appearance cost £500,000 and every goal just over £3 million).
João Alves de Assis Silva, which is his full name, had just returned from the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing with a bronze medal around his neck. He had scored in a 3-0 win over Singapore and then another two in the 3-0 third place game against Belgium. At the time of his signing the Citizens believed that achieved a coup and had managed to fend off AC Milan, Real Madrid and Valencia to get the Brazilian’s signature. For Jo the move was a welcome, because despite scoring 44 goals in 78 appearances for CSKA Moscow (helping earn the club a Russian Premier League title, two Russian Cups and two Russian Super Cups) he spoke about the racism he had suffered in the country.
“Once, we had lunch at McDonald’s and coffee was thrown at us by a Russian who does not like blacks. On the streets, locals make the sign of a cross at us. Now we have to eat out discreetly”.
The Brazilians chance of a fresh start stalled at Manchester City, where his only real contribution throughout his stay at the Sky Blues was that he scored both the goals in a first round UEFA Cup 2-1 win over Cypriot First Division team Omonia Nicosia.
Mark Hughes believed that he needed time away and so the striker was given two loans away at Everton in order to regain some form. David Moyes had been keen to sign Jo originally and saw this as an ideal way to get their man, managing to get seven goals in 35 games out of the Brazilian international.
But his time in England would end on a damp squib as he was disciplined and sent back from Everton after taking an unofficial break to Brazil during the Christmas period. On the day he returned back to Eastlands the board at Manchester City had already found another place to hide him – Galatasaray.
For the rest of the 2009/2010 season he would be played irregularly for the Yellow and Reds and featured just 13 times, scoring three goals. Since leaving CSKA Moscow just two years before he had played 88 games for three clubs and had scored just 16 goals.
Finally, he decided to cut his losses and head back over the Atlantic to Brazil where he had begun his career at Corinthians, winning the Brazilian title in 2005 and scoring 17 goals in 81 appearances. CSKA tried to persuade him to try one more stint at the club but Jo had his mind set on going home.
“Returning after six years is an immense pleasure. I have to pack my bags to leave for Brazil”.
Initially it seemed that the Brazilian would never settle down as his time at the People’s Club he managed just five goals in 36 matches, yet still enjoyed the success of winning the club’s third Recopa Sudamericana.
As the World Cup in Brazil loomed, and the dress rehearsal at the Confederations Cup even closer, the striker decided a final roll of the dice was needed in order to earn himself a place in the national team. And what a brilliant decision that proved to be.
After 54 games he had scored 22 goals and was finally showing the form he had demonstrated to fans back in Russia and Porto Alegre, thanks to his partnership with Diego Tardelli. He is currently leading the goal scoring charts in the Copa Libertadores and has got his club into the semi-finals, with matches against Newell’s Old Boys scheduled for July.
An injury to Leandro Damiao just before the Confederations Cup began last week meant that the 26-year-old striker was seen as the perfect replacement. Jo’s final goal against Mexico in the dying seconds on Wednesday will feel like a welcome reward after many years in the wilderness and will surely spur him on to get back into the squad for 2014.