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Born: Monday 29 July 1929, São Paulo, Brazil
Died: Saturday 11 January 2003, São Paulo, Brazil
Position: Winger


Although often overlooked at international level due to playing in the same position as the legendary Garrincha, winger Júlio Botelho, Julinho for short, is nevertheless remembered as one of the most gifted players his country has ever produced. His long career in domestic club football was divided by a very successful spell in Italy, where he became one of the first Brazilians to make a significant impact on European club football.


The son of a grocer, Julinho was born in the Penha district of São Paulo on 29 July 1929 and with the exception of the few years he spent playing football abroad, would live his entire life in the area. Tall, quick and incredibly skilful with the ball at his feet, he also possessed a fearsome shot with his right foot which made him more of a goal threat than many other wingers. It was no surprise when São Paulo's leading clubs began to take notice of him as a teenager but the first team to show an interest, Corinthians, wanted him to play on the left instead of the right - a position which did not suit his game at all.


Julinho's first professional contract was eventually signed with Clube Atlético Juventus although within six months he had moved on to Portuguesa, and it was there that he made his breakthrough into the senior game in 1950. Over the next couple of years his reputation grew and he was one of the players to benefit from the national team's failure to win the World Cup on home soil in 1950 and the subsequent shake-up of the squad. Although Brazil's next match was not for nearly two years after the World Cup, it was then that Julinho made his international debut in a 2-0 win over Mexico in the Pan-American Championship, a tournament which Brazil won.


The same year also brought the first major domestic honour of Julinho's career. Although he would never win the São Paulo state championship during his time with the club, Portuguesa did claim the Rio-São Paulo tournament in 1952 with a play-off victory over Vasco da Gama, after the sides had finished level on points. Firmly established as a regular in the national team, Julinho made what would prove to be his only appearance in the South American Championship in 1953. He scored four goals in an 8-1 thrashing of Bolivia and another in a 3-2 win over Chile, but the tournament ended in disappointment as Brazil lost a play-off against Paraguay for the title.


He had already attracted the attention of a number of European clubs, with Internazionale already having made attempts to sign him, but it was the 1954 World Cup in Switzerland that really brought Julinho to global attention. He appeared in all three of Brazil's matches and scored impressive goals in a group game against Mexico and also in the quarter-final against favourites Hungary, although that was not enough to prevent a 4-2 defeat. One year later, after helping Portuguesa to another Rio-São Paulo title, he got the opportunity to move to Italy and join Fiorentina.


Although his move to Europe pushed him to the fringes at international level, with Brazil reluctant to pick players playing overseas, Julinho made an immediate impact as Fiorentina stormed to their first ever Serie A title for the loss of only one game. That success was followed by a run to the European Cup final a year later where Fiorentina were beaten by Real Madrid, as well as consecutive second place finishes in Serie A in 1957 and 1958. Julinho's performances led to the Italian national team showing an interest in him, but despite being overlooked by Brazil, he always remained loyal to his home country.


By the summer of 1958, Brazil were planning their campaign for the World Cup in Sweden and coach Vicente Feola indicated that in Julinho's case, he was prepared to pick an overseas-based player. Julinho however declined the offer, on the basis that it would be unfair to take the place of someone playing in Brazil. His decision meant that he missed out on Brazil's first World Cup win. Although Fiorentina were very keen to keep him, Julinho missed his home country very much and returned to Brazil in 1958 to play for Palmeiras. He was never forgotten by the fans in Florence and in the 1990s was named as the club's greatest ever player.


In his first full season with Palmeiras Julinho earned himself a place back in the national team for a friendly against England in Rio de Janeiro. He was somewhat shocked when the fans objected to his selection ahead of their hero Garrincha and booed him loudly when he was announced at number 7, but his performance soon silenced them. He scored an early goal and later made another as Brazil won 2-0, and by full time the boos had been replaced by warm applause. Finally he was seen by the Brazilian fans as the equal of Garrincha.


Later in 1959 Julinho helped Palmeiras to claim the São Paulo State Championship after a three match play-off against Santos, in which he scored a vital goal in the deciding third match. A year later, he scored in Palmeiras' crushing 8-2 victory over Fortaleza in the final of the Brazilian Cup. It seemed that he would get a second opportunity to play in the World Cup in 1962, but was devastated to miss out on Brazil's defence of the title when he suffered a knee injury just days before departing for the tournament.


Now well into his 30s, that would prove to be Julinho's last chance to appear in a major tournament but the trophies continued to come at club level, as Palmeiras finished in the top two of the state league for four years in a row. They claimed that title in both 1963 and 1966, as well as the Rio-São Paulo tournament in 1965. Sadly for Julinho, by the time of the 1966 state title he was starting to become plagued with injuries and the following year was forced into retirement at the age of 37, having played 269 games for Palmeiras.


After the end of his playing career, Julinho coached at Portuguesa, Palmeiras and Corinthians but without any great success. Eventually the draw of working in his home neighbourhood proved too strong and he devoted most of his later life to founding and running a club there. He made regular visits back to Italy to watch Fiorentina, always receiving a hero's welcome and when he died in January 2003, aged 73, tribute banners were seen at Fiorentina games and some fans even made the journey to São Paulo for his funeral.


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Nílton Santos