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Aug 19, 2014

Bell tolls for Brandao after head-butt

ESPN FC's Steve Nicol contends that Brandao should receive a substantial ban for his head-butt on Thiago Motta.

As endings go, it was abrupt and distinctly lacking in heroism. Yet if Brandao's head-butt on Thiago Motta is to be his last public act in French football, it will be a rare instance of his path running parallel with that of national hero Zinedine Zidane.

With the dust settling on Saturday's unbelievable ruckus at the Parc des Princes, the eventual conclusion is looking more and more certain. Le Parisien claimed on Tuesday morning that Bastia had already decided to sack Brandao, a theory backed up by coach Claude Makelele refusing to allow him to take part in Monday's or Tuesday's training sessions.

The player himself issued a Facebook apology on Monday evening, before taking it down an hour later, suggesting he knew which way the wind was blowing. Monday's L'Equipe had floated the theory that Brandao might still have a future at the club were his ban to be of six months or less (in other words, if he's not ruled out for the season), with his 80,000 euros monthly salary being frozen for the length of his ban.

It seems optimistic, as things stand. The images from the tunnel security camera at the Parc were pretty X-rated, and thoroughly conclusive. Brandao, apparently riled by Motta's verbal abuse throughout the game, waited for the Paris Saint-Germain midfielder to pass him, then launched himself at him with considerable force before, almost comically, sprinting for the safety of the visitors' dressing room. The blood that covered the furious Motta's face was a stark image.

"It's over," were the private words of coach Makelele in the hours following the game, according to L'Equipe. Brandao's flip-out reflects badly on the new coach, who used his extensive connections to convince the Brazilian striker to make the move to Corsica on the eve of the season.

It is plain that Brandao's continued presence at the Furiani could significantly strain relations between Bastia and PSG, despite Makelele's presence in the middle (the erstwhile assistant to Laurent Blanc even held an apoplectic Motta back in the wake of Saturday's attack). This would be a potential headache, with the coach having borrowed young goalkeeper Alphonse Areola from the capital club and hoping to tie up a similar deal for forward Hervin Ongenda before the window shuts.

Brandao's Bastia career appears to be extremely short-lived.

The Ligue de Football Professionnel (LFP)'s disciplinary commission meets on Thursday every week, and it is then that Brandao's case is expected to be initially examined. Though a further, in-depth hearing will be convened for the coming weeks, it is widely assumed that he will be provisionally suspended pending the hearing, as tends to be the case with serious transgressions.

Since Saturday's attack, many in France have compared it with an October 2011 incident involving Venezuelan defender Gabriel Cichero, then on loan at Lens, after a match at Bastia. Cichero kicked home director Alain Seghi during a post-match tunnel fracas, breaking his jaw and nose, and was subsequently punished heavily. The LFP banned Cichero for ten months (five of which were suspended) and the criminal prosecution handed down a six-month suspended prison sentence.

Yet the two contexts were entirely different. Cichero said afterward that his was an act of retaliation -- something that couldn't be verified due to the quality of footage from the tunnel security cameras, but it was clear that it was part of a wider ruck. The premeditated side of Brandao's is what makes it quite so shocking. He waited, watched and acted with a smooth efficiency quite unfamiliar to those used to seeing him on the field.

Since his initial arrival in France 5 1/2 years ago, it is fair to say that Brandao has divided opinion. Joining Marseille from Ukrainian champions Shakhtar Donetsk, he was viewed with curiosity, disdain and amusement in equal measure. As a not especially graceful or technically polished player, Brandao has always attracted barbs and been the butt of jokes which -- if we're being extremely understanding -- may have led to his patience finally snapping in the face of Motta.

He has, however, been extremely effective. Brandao is at least acknowledged for his nuisance value even by his detractors, but he is an awkward customer, and he uses his huge frame intelligently to hold the ball up, win headers and unsettle defenders. While never prolific in Ligue 1, his 33 goals in 137 matches have all been useful. In fact, neither Marseille nor St. Etienne lost a game that he scored in.

It looked as if Brandao's spell in France was over once before, when he was arrested on suspicion of sexual assault in March 2011, and packed off on loan to Cruzeiro and then Gremio. He was eventually cleared some 18 months later, by which time his Marseille contract had expired and he had moved to St. Etienne.

Brandao fires home Marseille's winner in the 2012 Coupe de la Ligue final against Lyon.

In between, he had made an unexpected and triumphant return to the Velodrome. Recalled by Didier Deschamps in early 2012, Brandao drove in the crucial late goal that advanced Marseille to the quarterfinals of the Champions League at Inter's expense, before hitting an extra-time winner in the Coupe de la Ligue final against Lyon. The following year, he struck the only goal of the game in the same final for Les Verts against Rennes, clinching their first silverware in 32 years.

With this in mind, it's clear why Makelele went to such lengths to bring him to Bastia in what was a protracted deal. The coach may have seen the more unsavoury side of him first-hand last season -- Brandao received retrospective bans for bad fouls on Thiago Silva and Yohan Cabaye in Sainte's matches with PSG -- but also knew his value to the team. Brandao is a winner.

He is also a rounded character, running his own clothing label and dabbling in music management -- one of his clients is Henrique Lemes, who won Idolos (Brazil's answer to Pop Idol). He even co-wrote Lemes' hit "Princesa Diamante," referencing its flashy-flashy-click-click-click refrain in his goal celebrations.

It appears that he may have more time to focus his energies on his business interests for now on. At 34, Brandao may have rubbed one too many people up the wrong way.

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