If you’re ever strolling down Istiklal Avenue in the Beyoğlu district of Istanbul do pop into the Galatasaray museum. Across from a photograph of Graeme Souness provocatively celebrating victory over Fenerbahçe in the 1996 Turkish Cup final by planting a huge red and yellow flag in the centre-circle, there are several glass cabinets.
One of them contains a pair of Lotto football boots. They’re tatty, all black and were pulled on and laced up by striker Mário Jardel for the European Super Cup at the Stade Louis II in Monaco on August 25 in the year 2000.
That night Galatasaray, the UEFA Cup winners, were playing Real Madrid, the Champions League holders. Few gave them a chance.
Coach Fatih Terim had left for Fiorentina and had been replaced by Mircea Lucescu. Top scorer Hakan Şükür had joined Inter Milan. Jardel was brought in to take his place. Signed from Porto for $16m, he was one of Europe’s most prolific strikers. His record in Portugal was 166 goals in 169 games. A Golden Shoe winner in 1999, he is still one of only 10 players in history to actually have a pair of them.
By opening his account for Galatasaray on this stage and against this Real Madrid team comprising a young Iker Casillas, Roberto Carlos, Claude Makélélé, a soon-to-be elected Ballon d’Or winner in Luís Figo and Raúl, Jardel would make himself an instant hero among the fans of his new club. To them he wouldn’t just be Jardel anymore, but Süper Mário Jardel the Super Cup winner.
Lining up against Real Madrid’s centre-backs in Monaco, you could forgive Jardel for feeling confident he’d score. One was Iván Helguera. The other was his future Bolton Wanderers teammate Iván Campo. By bringing down Hakan Ünsal in the box just before half-time, he presented Jardel with his first opportunity from the spot. The Brazilian made no mistake and gave Galatasaray the lead.
Raúl would equalise with a penalty kick of his own in the second half to take the game to extra-time, but ultimately he and teammate Sávio would be made to rue a couple of chances they’d missed earlier in the game.
Because in the 103rd minute substitute Fatih Aykel received a cross-field pass from Ünsal. Driving down the right, he held off Pedro Munitis before playing a ball into Jardel’s feet on the edge of the six-yard box. The Galatasaray No.9 didn’t hesitate. He swung one of those beaten-up looking Lotto boots at it and swept a shot beyond Casillas. The match and the Super Cup was won. Jardel had scored the Golden Goal.
Later that season Galatasaray and Real Madrid would meet again in the Champions League quarter-finals. The first leg at the Ali Sami Yen was as memorable as the Super Cup game eight months earlier if not more so. Two-nil down at half-time, Galatasaray came back to record a famous 3-2 victory. And who else but Jardel would score the winner with a towering header in the 75th minute.
Many of the protagonists of arguably the greatest era in Galatasaray’s history are now on the club’s staff. Hasan Şaş and Ümit Davala are Terim’s assistants. Claudio Taffarel is the goalkeeper coach. They’ll be there at the Bernabéu tonight, the setting of the second leg 12 years ago, where Real finally got their revenge, winning 3-0 to knock them out of the competition 5-3 on aggregate. Jardel presumably won’t be in attendance.
He left Galatasaray after one 34-goal season in Turkey to return to Portugal where he played with a young Cristiano Ronaldo at Sporting Lisbon.
“You ask why I left, but I can’t answer that question myself,” he told Turkish newspaper Zaman. “Those were very confused times and I deeply regret my decision. I know everybody was happy: the fans, the club chairman, the players and myself. But I got other offers at that time and I had some issues with agents and managers. Nothing was clear any more.”
Jardel’s two campaigns at Sporting were his last as a goalscoring titan. He would win the second of his Golden Boots there after finding the net 55 times in the 2001-02 season. Since moving to Europe from Grêmio in Brazil as a Copa Libertadores winner seven years earlier, he’d contrived to score an incredible 266 goals in 274 games, a remarkable rate that even Cristiano would be proud of today.
A move to Bolton at the age of 30 was the beginning of the end for him. Unlike other big name veterans brought in by manager Sam Allardyce such as Fernando Hierro and Youri Djorkaeff, it didn’t work out as hoped even if one of Jardel’s goals in the Carling Cup came against Liverpool in a 3-2 win at Anfield, which was part of their run to the final in Cardiff where they would eventually lose to Middlesbrough.
On leaving the Reebok, he drifted from club to club and country to country, turning up in Italy, Argentina, Spain, back in Brazil, Cyprus, Australia and even Bulgaria. Injuries, bad luck, reported addiction, poor advice by those around him and the wrong career choices meant that sadly he lost his way.
Perhaps if he had been picked for Brazil rather than overlooked for the 1998 and 2002 World Cups, he would be remembered by more people. Jardel is instead a forgotten colossus of the European game of the mid-90s and early 2000s
It’s a shame. And so when Galatasaray play Real at the Bernabéu tonight and you see Burak Yılmaz and Didier Drogba leading their line, do spare a thought for Jardel. For there was a time – and Casillas can certainly attest to this even though he won’t be playing – when Jardel wasn’t just Süper, he was also Mário the Magnificent.