Jardel, from goals and awards to drugs and depression

Mário Jardel was one of the best scorers of his generation with numbers that in any era would have been impressive. The Brazilian won numerous titles throughout his career, both collectively and individually, where he received much recognition as a scorer, including being a two-time European Golden Shoe. However, different circumstances worked against him to reach the level that he aspired to due to his ability, both at the club and national team level.

FC Porto flag
FC Porto was the club where Jardel spent some of his best years


Mário Jardel de Almeida Ribeiro was born on September 18, 1973, in Fortaleza, a city in the Ceara region, Brazil. He would begin playing football at Ferroviario Atletico Clube in his native region although he would debut professionally at Vasco da Gama in 1992 in the Carioca Championship. A year later he would debut in the Brasileirao Serie A although he would not have many minutes. He would be called up with the under-20 Brazil national team for the 1993 FIFA World Youth Championship, which he would win although with little participation.

In 1995, he left on loan to Gremio, in search of the continuity he could not have in Vasco. His time in the Porto Alegre team would be his consecration in the first tier since he would have the trust of Luiz Felipe Scolari, Gremio coach at that time. Jardel would win the 1995 Copa Libertadores being the top scorer of the tournament above other great players such as Rivaldo, "Beto" Acosta, Victor Aristizabal or Marcelo Salas. "Super Mario" would score 12 goals in that edition of the tournament, five more than the second top scorer. In 1996, he would also win the Recopa Sudamericana.


In his year and a half at Gremio, Jardel would score 56 goals in 93 games in all competitions and this, logically, caught the attention of European clubs and that was when FC Porto appeared. Far from having adaptation problems, the Brazilian had a spectacular performance from the beginning, just see that in his first season he scored 37 goals in 46 games. In 1996, he also made his debut with the Brazil national team, in a friendly against Russia, where he came on to replace Ronaldo.

On December 7, 1997, Os Dragoes beat Juventude Sport Clube 9-1 with 7 goals from Jardel in 42 minutes. In the 1998-99 season, the Brazilian scored 36 goals in 32 Primeira Liga games and this earned him the European Golden Shoe for the first time. And far from diminishing his performance, for the following season, he scored 38 goals in 32 Primeira Liga matches and 56 goals in 50 matches in all competitions.

That season his performance in the UEFA Champions League stands out, where he would be the top scorer with 10 goals, tied with Raul from Real Madrid and Rivaldo from Barcelona, with the Porto player being the one who needed the fewest minutes to reach that number. In that edition of the Champions League, Jardel scored against Real Madrid, Barcelona and Bayern Munich, to name a few. His impressive numbers in Portugal and his performances in Europe were making his name sound for big clubs on the old continent.

However, times and luck never seemed to favor the Brazilian on his way to a top European club. In the summer of 2000, Inter Milan opted for Hakan Sükür, who had tired of scoring goals for Galatasaray, to complement their attack that already had Vieri and Ronaldo (recovering from his first serious knee injury). The Italian team had also been very interested in Jardel but ended up signing the Turk. This is how Galatasaray, in need of a striker, paid the Brazilian's release clause.

The Turkish club had just won the UEFA Cup and had players like Hagi, Emre Belozoglu, Taffarel and Popescu in addition to Mircea Lucescu on the bench. Jardel made his debut in the Turkish league scoring 5 goals, demonstrating once again that he did not seem to need an adaptation period. He also scored two goals in the 2000 UEFA Super Cup, against Real Madrid, one of the goals being the winning goal in extra time to give the Turkish team the title. After 34 goals in 43 games in his first season in Turkey, the Brazilian hoped to have offers from bigger clubs.

However, his teammates were the ones who managed to sign for more important teams: Emre and Okan Buruk were going to Inter Milan, but Jardel was unable to make a transfer according to his expectations, something that began to affect the Brazilian emotionally. Scolari, who was already the head coach of the Selecao, called him up to the 2001 Copa America, with a squad that did not have Brazil's main stars. The result of the tournament was a quarterfinal elimination against Honduras, which finished in third place.

Jardel looked for a way out of Galatasaray and in the absence of offers from a higher level, he opted to return to Portugal, in this case to Sporting CP, which had to pay around 5 million and three players to the Turks to keep the rights to the Brazilian striker. At the Lisbon club he met some important names such as Ricardo Quaresma and Cristiano Ronaldo.

In the 2001-02 season, he scored 42 goals in 30 Primeira Liga games and 55 goals in 42 games in all competitions, something that allowed him to reach a record of having scored more than 30 goals in his first 6 seasons in Europe. After having won the European Golden Shoe, his fifth scoring title in Portugal in 5 seasons in the Portuguese league, he won the Primeira Liga and the Taca de Portugal.

In short, a dream season for Jardel who knew that the 2002 FIFA World Cup was just around the corner and there were a lot of rumors about his possible signing for FC Barcelona, which had already been interested in him in previous seasons. When Scolari made public his call for the tournament, Jardel was not on the list and names like Edilson or Luizao appeared, strikers who played in Brazil with scoring numbers much lower than those of the Sproting CP player. It was rumored that Scolari preferred not to call him up due to his known strong character and his participation in the humiliation of the 2001 Copa América.

The fall

The Brazilian striker was greatly affected by being left out of the World Cup in addition to going through a divorce process, a mixture that led him to fall into depression and subsequently aggravated a drug addiction problem that Jardel himself would later recognize that it had started when he was in Porto but in 2002 it reached a new level. In December 2002, he went to Brazil where he declared that he did not want to return to Sporting CP, starting some legal disputes.

His mental state and addiction problems also led to a decline in his physical condition. In the summer of 2003, the Portuguese club and Bolton Wanderes reached an agreement for the signing of Jardel but he never really managed to show even a small part of his true ability. Thus would begin a journey around the world for a player who would never return to what he was. Italy (Ancona), Argentina (Newell's), return to Portugal (Beira-Mar), Cyprus (Anorthosis Famagusta), Australia (Newcastle Jets), Bulgaria (Cherno More) and many clubs in Brazil were Jardel's destinations before retiring in 2011.

He went from being one of the world's best goal scorers with a scoring average of more than one goal per match during six seasons in the Portuguese and Turkish leagues. to becoming an insignificant player in small clubs almost overnight. Unfortunately, we will never get an answer to how big Jardel could have become if his dream of playing for a top club in Europe had been realized.
Nathan Annan is from South Africa and loves to write, and above all about his favorite sport, football. Nathan's interest in football was sparked late but after watching a few matches in his hometown of Johannesburg during the 2010 South Africa World Cup, he was hooked.