Kleber's bigamy takes Cruzeiro for a ride

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Since returning to the samba country in a move that saw him loaned to Palmeiras by Dinamo Kyiv early last year, forward Kléber has been one of Brazil’s most offensive menaces, on and off the pitch.

With a rare attitude and a truck load of goals, he became an instant idol at the Sao Paulo side.

Big Green fans suddenly – and perhaps exaggeratedly – placed him alongside a club legend, Edmundo.

BLOG, July 25 2008: Meet Palmeiras' newest animal

This love was truly reciprocated by the player, who announced his unhappiness when Kyiv refused Palmeiras’s offer for him in December.

“I want to stay,” he said, once, twice, thrice. But the Ukrainians showed their hard hearts and sent him anyway to Cruzeiro.

Kléber then started over, with the same guts he showed at Palmeiras.

He quickly became the star of the team that won the Minas Gerais state championship and just fell short of the Copa Libertadores crown, losing to Independiente in a heartbreaking night at a jam-packed Mineirão.

In late June, the worldwide press incessantly reported a Liverpool move for Kléber, in a 15 million Euro deal. Porto made an official offer for him just before the transfer deadline, but Cruzeiro refused.

So Kléber continued in Belo Horizonte, although not as effectively as in the first semester. One thing, however, hasn’t cooled off: his love for his club.

His former club, that is.

Somehow Kléber kept himself closely attached to Palmeiras, even after his departure. Everytime he had a break from his current squad, he was seen in the vicinity of the Palestra Italia stadium.

Immediately after Cruzeiro’s quarter-final Libertadores win against São Paulo, in a touchline interview on national TV , he dedicated the victory to the Palmeiras fans, who were upset because of the team’s elimination from the competition, the day before.

People started wondering how the innamorato would do when he had to face his old fling.

In the first Brazilian Championship encounter between Cruzeiro and Palmeiras, in São Paulo, Kléber was suspended and didn't play.

Then came the second game, in Belo Horizonte last Wednesday. Recovering from an injury that had sidelined him for five matches, the forward was set to return against Palmeiras.

Before the Wednesday, however, came the Saturday.

On that day, Kléber accepted an invitation to be the star of the grand opening of a football tournament staged by the Mancha Alvi-Verde, Palmeiras' largest ultras group.

He posed for pictures donning their green and white shirt and hat, proudly featuring both the Disney villain Phantom Blot and the Palmeiras crest.

On the eve of the Palmeiras vs Cruzeiro clash.

It gets worse. Just about recovering from injury, Kléber thought it was OK to take part in a football game there too.

“Just for fun," he protested. "It wasn’t as if I played in a professional match.”

He was forgiven by the Cruzeiro directors, but not the fans. Before the game, more than 60 ultras from the Mafia Azul [Blue Mob] protested against Kléber in front of Cruzeiro’s offices.

Palmeiras won the match 2-1 and Kléber, who was rarely above average despite hitting the post, was booed when coach Adilson Batista substituted him.

The fans wanted him out of the club. And so did the player, who said on Thursday that he wasn’t happy at Cruzeiro and was planning to leave.

He later he changed his mind – but demanded “respect” to stay in the club.

Caught in the crossfire, Cruzeiro president Zezé Perrela tried to restore the harmony – and protect his 15-million Euro investiment – by joking about the situation.

“Kléber is bigamous," he declared. "He dates both Palmeiras and Cruzeiro fans, and we have to live with that.

"It’s no secret, his love relationship with Palmeiras, so the Cruzeiro nation has no right to feel betrayed.”

Would you?

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