Neto has joined Barça, taking the overall number of Brazilians to have played for the club up to an amazing forty. These have included plenty of the country’s greatest legends of all time, from Romario through to Neymar Jr, but how many of them have been goalkeepers?
The answer is just one, and it’s a name even the most senior of Barça supporters may not be familiar with. Meet Jaguaré Becerra.
Born in Rio de Janeiro in 1905, Jaguaré, nicknamed the ‘Black Spider’ was an eccentric keeper. He would constantly scream at opponents, loved to make one-handed saves just to wind them up and was also fond of bouncing the ball off rivals’ heads when they weren’t looking.
In June 1931, his club Vasco da Gama toured extensively in Europe, including two friendlies at Les Corts, the first time Barça had ever met a team from Brazil. It was quite an occasion, and Barça president Gaspar Rosés was so impressed with goalkeeper Jaguaré and midfielder Fausto dos Santos that invited them to stay in the Catalan capital and play for his team.
It was the first time that a Spanish club had ever signed Brazilians but it was an unusual decision by Rosés. Back in those days foreigners were banned from playing in official competitions, so the two Brazilians would serve very little practical purpose at the club.
However, Rosés was convinced that these two exotic talents would be a huge attraction in exhibition matches, which were far more common then than they are now, and that did indeed prove to be the case. Nevertheless, the experiment only lasted one year, and at the end of the 1931/32 season, both Brazilians turned down offers to seek Spanish nationality and ended up moving on.
Jaguaré spent some time playing in France and then Portugal, but he never truly settled into life in Europe and eventually opted to go home. From there his life gradually went downhill. Scorned by his colleagues for having played as a professional, and after squandering all his savings from his time in Europe, he descended into alcoholism and ended up dying a pauper in Sao Paulo in 1946, allegedly following a run-in with the police although the exact circumstances remain a mystery.
Fausto dos Santos’ life also ended tragically early. He fell victim to tuberculosis in 1939, when he was just 34 years old.