With a week to go until the players report back to the Säbener Strasse for their first pre-season training session, Bayern have announced their seventh new signing of the summer: after just a year back in his home country of Brazil, Zé Roberto is returning to Munich.
The midfielder, who will be 33 on 6 July, arrives on a free transfer from FC Santos and has been offered a two-year contract until 30 June 2009. The player passed a medical in Munich on Thursday, and inked the deal on Friday. "We're delighted to welcome Zé Roberto back to Bayern. He's technically gifted, he's quick, and he works hard," commented chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge.
Plaudits in home country
Zé Roberto appeared for Bayern between 2002 and 2006, winning the domestic league and Cup double on three occasions (2003, 2005, 2006). However, he was unable to agree a contract extension in Bavaria a year ago, and made the switch to FC Santos. At Pelé's former club, the man capped 86 times by Brazil rapidly developed into the team's most inspired creative influence, leading his side to the Sao Paulo regional championship and the Copa Libertadores semi-finals.
The left-footed player, who failed to make the breakthrough in his home country before moving to Europe in 1997, thus finally earned long overdue public recognition in Brazil. As rumours of his impending departure took on concrete form, Santos fans launched an internet campaign entitled Fica, Zé (Stay, Zé) which attracted more than 17,000 signatories.
End of international career
However, Zé Roberto opted for a move back to Bayern, party because he and his family had felt so much at home in their four years in Munich. "I'm always a little worried for my family in Brazil," he recently told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper. Kidnappings involving famous personalities' family members are far from unheard of in the sprawling South American country.
In early June, the player cleared the final hurdle between himself and a return to Munich by calling time on his international career. Bayern had made the offer of a new contract dependent on the decision. "We don't think it's good when a player who's already a little older flies to and fro across the Atlantic five or six times a year," Uli Hoeneß explained.
The new Zé Roberto
Zé Roberto will now spend the next two years fully focused on his club football. "He has class and character, and he speaks German," Ottmar Hitzfeld admiringly declared. The head coach is thoroughly acquainted with the player from his own first spell at the club, although the General will need to become familiar with a renewed and somewhat different Zé Roberto this time round.
At Santos, Zé added to his already glowing reputation as a dribbler and provider with a series of scintillating displays down the inside-left channel, combining goalscoring prowess with a sense of defensive duty. His tally of ten goals and six assists in 35 appearances suggest that the man due back at Bayern next week is something of a 'new' Zé Roberto.