Brazilian Mário Jardel de Almeida Ribeiro, or ‘Mário Lardel’ as he was known during his time at Bolton, was a legend for Grêmio, being a major player in the squad that won the 1995 Copa Libertadores. Renowned for his exceptional positioning ability, he was one of Europe’s most prolific strikers during his time at FC Porto, Galatasaray, and Sporting CP, scoring 266 goals in 274 games for those clubs. Jardel made his debut for the Brazil national football team in 1996, making a total of 10 appearances and being selected for the 2001 Copa America.
While the 2001–02 season was arguably the pinnacle of Jardel’s career, the next season proved to be the beginning of the end.
A reported move to Real Madrid fell through, and Jardel suffered from depression as a result of this and a failing marriage, which led to him turning to drink and drugs to cope.
Jardel subsequently told an interviewer:
“I only consumed one drug, cocaine, but not while I was playing. I only took it during vacations.
“It all started with bad friendships. Then came my divorce, depression and drugs. This happens a lot in football, but I can’t talk about it.”
Left out of the Brazilian national team for the 2002 FIFA World Cup, despite his prolific goal-scoring abilities, he was unfit at the start of the season and spent the most of it on the injury list. During the Christmas break, he returned to his native Fortaleza, where he injured his knee in a swimming pool fall. He went on to score only nine goals that season.
Wanderers manager Sam Allardyce had the knack of signing fading galacticos and coaxing one or two seasons more of quality football out of them. World Cup winner Youri Djorkaeff and Jay-Jay Okocha were a massive success at Bolton, coming in on frees, and money floating around the Reebok paid the stellar name’s wages. This tactic also paid off with ‘Le Sulk’ Nicolas Anelka, Ivan Campo and Fernando Hierro.
This from “Mario Jardel – from European Golden Shoe to Bolton Mediocrity”, by Chris Manning from
“Jardel’s Bolton Wanderers career was to prove a disappointment. He was half the player that he had been in the early 2000s – though in some respects he was twice the player. Injury troubles and fitness concerns led to the gaining of an unfortunate nickname ‘Lardel’ being a pun on his apparent weight problems. Off the pitch he was known as a quiet and unassuming character, on the pitch he was similarly quiet. His time at the club is best remembered for two moments. A brilliant headed goal against Liverpool at Anfield helped Wanderers on the way to the Carling Cup Final that year, which compared with an incredible miss against Gillingham in an earlier round showed the frustration that the fans felt. Clearly he was a top striker, but his troubles had caught up with him.”
Fat, unfit and unhappy, Bolton loaned Jardel out to Italian side Ancona, who sent him back. He was eventually picked up by Newell’s Old Boys in Argentina on a free from the Wanderers. Subsequent clubs included Goiás Esporte Clube, Beira Mar, Anorthosis Famagusta, St. Mirren, Newcastle United Jets, Criciúma, Ferroviário, América de Fortaleza, Esporte Clube Flamengo and Bulgarian club Cherno More Varna. It was reported in November 2010 that Jardel had left Cherno More due to concerns pertaining to the cold weather conditions in Bulgaria.
Jardel seems to blame everyone but himself, however, saying:
“”When I went to some smaller teams, how could I score if there were no players that could put the ball at my feet? It all got worse and the problems snowballed.”
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