Giovane Elber has paid tribute to Ze Roberto after the former Bayern Munich and Real Madrid star announced his intention to retire from football at the age of 43.
Ze Roberto will draw the curtain on a memorable career this weekend as Palmeiras close out their Serie A campaign away to Atletico Paranaense.
The midfielder helped the Sao Paulo side to a Brazilian championship in 2016, while Palmeiras are in line to seal second with victory in their last game with Copa Libertadores qualification in the bag.
That title was the latest addition to Ze Roberto’s trophy case, which also includes a Liga crown with Madrid and several Bundesliga triumphs as well as back-to-back Copas America with Brazil in 1997 and 1999.
And according to Elber, his success and longevity is testament to a man who has always given his all to the game.
“He was an extremely fit football player and an outstanding person. I knew that already from the Brazilian national team,” the now-retired striker, who played alongside Ze Roberto at Bayern, explained to Goal.
“So when he came from Leverkusen to join Bayern in 2002 I knew it would fit. He assisted Ulf Kirsten for many goals at Leverkusen, so I thought I could gain from him.
“He is a really kind and humble guy. It was super to play alongside him.”
As well as being team-mates Elber and Ze Roberto were close friends away from football, but the forward is especially grateful to his companion for his potent skill at setting him up in the area.
“We had much contact, off the pitch. I’ve been to his home and I invited him to mine. We went out for dinner together with our families,” Elber added.
“He had two little children and my children were young as well. I remember especially a game against Borussia Mönchengladbach. I hadn’t scored for six or seven games and, then Ze Roberto ran towards the box and I only cried: ‘Ze, here I am.’
“He played the pass and I was with my back to the goal. I scored with the heel. It was a superb assist and typical for Ze Roberto. He had the chance to shoot himself some seconds before but he played the ball to me. he was a unselfish player, who always looked in all directions to find a teammate which is in eben better position.
“You have to love players like Ze Roberto, especially as a striker. … in his career: You only have to say: Hats off! He lived football – a life for football.”