As far as Rangers fans understood in 1996, Mario Jardel to Rangers was a done deal. He even done photoshoots in Rangers gear and was at Ibrox as Rangers took on Raith Rovers. Rangers were targeting the Brazilian striker after he scored an impressive 11 goals in 13 games as he helped Gremio win the Copa Libertadores in the 94/95 season.
So, how is it possible that the move never went through? Well, in the end it turned out that he didn’t have the Portuguese passport he thought he had. With strict British rules on Non-EU players at the time, he wasn’t given a work permit. There were also rumours that the deal was scrapped because of a horrible trial period.
The exciting 22-year-old was all set to line up with the likes of Brian Laudrup and Paul Gascoigne in the Champions League, then it all fell apart. What happened next with him though? Did Rangers have a lucky escape, or was he one that got away?
After his failed move to Rangers, Mario Jardel signed for FC Porto for a reported €4.00m. After this transfer he instantly became one of the most clinical strikers in Europe. In the 96/97 season he scored a total of 37 goals in 46 appearances. The season after, 97/98, he would then win the first of his two European Golden Boots, scoring 39 goals in 40 appearances. He would continue his incredible goal scoring run the next season, scoring 38 goals in 39 appearances in 98/99.
We’re not even at the end of his FC Porto spell yet and it’s blindingly obvious, Mario Jardel was one that got away. Obviously, his form continued in the 99/00 season, when he managed a ridiculous 56 goals in 50 total appearances. In this season he only lost out on European Golden Boot due to co-efficient points as he scored 6 more goals than the actual winner Kevin Phillips.
Overall, in his spell at FC Porto, he scored a total of 170 goals in 175 appearances, truly incredible and he was considered one of the best strikers in Europe at the time.
In July 2000, the Turkish side paid €17.05m to get Jardel from FC Porto. During his one season at the club, he scored 34 goals in 43 games, again, an incredible goal scoring season. In this season, he helped Galatasary win the UEFA Super Cup by scoring both goals in a 2-1 win against Real Madrid.
They also reached the quarter-final of the Champions League, with Jardel scoring 6 goals along the way, including a cracker against Rangers.
Due to supposed personal reasons, that was his only season in Turkey as he looked for a switch back to Portugal.
Galatasary took a huge loss by selling him to Sporting for €6.20m, but, according to reports from the time, he was desperate to leave. The 01/02 season was the best, for goals to games at least, of his career and the second time he won the European Golden Boot. He scored 55 goals in 42 appearances and no, I didn’t get those two numbers the wrong way around! This included 42 Primera Liga goals in only 30 appearances, imagine how much a Brazilian striker with that kind of record would go for now?!
The beginning of the next season was the start of the decline for the Brazilian ace. In the 02/03 season he only played 20 games and scored 12 goals, which is still a very good record. He wasn’t called up for the 2002 World Cup despite his season before hand.
In fact, despite his form from the 96/97-01/02 seasons, he was barely called up for Brazil. Over his whole career, he only managed 10 caps, scoring 1 goal. Obviously Brazil had incredible teams in those times but his goal scoring record just about matched Ronaldo’s (albeit in a weaker league).
It was injuries that kept him out for most of the 02/03 season and he never really record.
I don’t want to focus too much on the latter spell of his career. Mostly because it was a very disappointing end to what was, up until 02/03, an incredible career.
An ill-fated free transfer to Bolton didn’t work out as he didn’t score in 7 EPL appearances and was criticised for being ‘overweight’ and ended up being loaned out to Ancona in the same season. Following that he had spells at;
- Newell’s Old Boys
- Anorthosis Famagusta
- Newcastle Jets
- Flamengo (PI)
- Cherno More
- Rio Negro
He played zero games at Rio Negro before retiring in 2011 at 37-years-old. In the last seven years of his career, through all of these clubs, he made 104 appearances and scored 39 goals. Considering the levels he reached in the first half of his career, it definitely ended with a whimper.
Considering his spells in Portugal and Turkey, Mario Jardel was definitely one that got away. Rangers apparently tried to get him again in 1997 and in 2001, but unfortunately, the Brazilian star never got to play in royal blue.
In his career, he scored 390 goals in 541 total appearances. His goal scoring numbers are massively watered down due to the end of his career with Jardel not being able to sustain his previous form into his thirties.
Just imagine if Rangers could have signed him in 1996, imagine the chances he would’ve got from players like Laudrup and Gascoigne. It’s an incredibly interesting ‘what if’ thought and the chance to have him at Ibrox was ruined by paperwork, or a poor trial due to carrying an injury, depending on what story you believe.
Is this one that sticks in your memory? Are there any other ‘what ifs’ bigger than this one?