Two players arrived at United in 2003, Kleberson and Cristiano Ronaldo. Sadly their careers at Old Trafford would end in very different fashion. The Portuguese sensation ended up being the best player in the world, while the Brazilian midfielder dived into oblivion.
Jose Kleberson earned a dream move to Old Trafford after an impressive 100 appearances in four seasons for Atletico Paranaense. Further, his World Cup performances led to Scolari declaring Kleberson the driving force behind Brazil’s cup-winning side.
The move to Old Trafford
Kleberson had initially decided against leaving Brazil without his girlfriend – who was unable to marry until she turned 16. He was brought in by United as a replacement of Juan Sebastian Veron. This and the £6.5 million paid by United showed the faith they had on his talent.
He got injured in only his 2nd appearance for the club! He found it very hard to cope up with the rigours of playing in the Premier League. Consequently, Kleberson made just 20 appearances in two seasons, scoring twice.
He fell considerably short of the standard expected from an influential World Cup winner. He was shipped off to Turkish side Besiktas for £2.5 million in August 2005. Two seasons in Turkey yielded just 45 appearances and 3 goals. Later in 2007, Kleberson unilaterally terminated the contract after claiming the club failed to pay his wages on time.
Back in Brazil
As a free agent, his heart was set on returning to Brazil. Flamengo signed him in September 2007, but he made his debut only in February 2008. This was because of contract issues with the way he quit Besiktas. The wait was worthwhile though, as he earned an international recall after a string of phenomenal performances. His good form was interrupted by a dislocated shoulder in a friendly match!
Yet he recovered swiftly and made crucial contributions to help Flamengo win the league. His exploits earned him a ticket to South Africa with Brazil for the 2010 World Cup. Unfortunately, Kleberson did not make a single appearance at the competition.
He was loaned out to Atletico Paranaense, his boyhood club, the following season. Kleberson did not regain any of his lost form and the club also got relegated. Bahia signed him from Flamengo on a two-year contract in July 2012.
He failed to establish himself and was again loaned out to Philadelphia Union in the MLS. He gained the attention of several small clubs in the USA and subsequently signed for Indy Eleven in USA’s second tier-league.
Kleberson was released by Indy in December 2015. Fort Lauderdale Strikers signed him next in January 2016.
His career followed a classic downward spiral. From being the ‘driving force’ behind Brazil’s World Cup victory to playing for unknown teams in the USA. I don’t think even the most faithful at the Stretford End have any memory of him.