Former SS Lazio star Mauricio: Who is Johor Darul Ta’zim’s new signing from Brazil?

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Mauricio: The Origins

Like all kids growing up in Brazil, football occurred naturally for young Mauricio. And he was good at it too as he was signed up by one of the biggest clubs in the city of Sao Paulo — the mighty Palmeiras. At the age of 14, Mauricio joined the famed Palmeiras youth hostel that has produced plenty of modern-day greats including Cafu, Rivaldo and Roberto Carlos.

The defender cut his teeth at the academy and graduated to the club’s B team in 2007 at the age of 18. And it wasn’t long before he was sent out on a loan move to Clube de Regatas Brasil in the second division. After a fairly successful spell in the lower tier, Mauricio was progressed to the senior team.

He was part of a back three implemented by former Real Madrid coach Vanderlei Luxemburgo at Verdão making five appearances in his first full season and 32 the following. He had started establishing himself in the Brasileiro when all hell broke loose.

The Fallout

Photo credit: Cesar Grecco

It was November 2009 and Palmeiras weren’t having the best starts to the season. With things not looking up at the halfway point of a league fixture against Gremio, Mauricio got into an argument and traded blows with his teammate striker Obina. Both the players were sent off and soon suspended by the club. Mauricio would never salvage a career at his boyhood club.

“My exit was one of the worst moments of my life and career. The saddest thing is that I never expected to be treated that way. Despite the big mistake I made, I did not expect to be treated that way by the club after 10 years of service. I was sent home alone and not on the same flight as the team,” Mauricio later told ESPN Brazil.

After the incident, Mauricio never played for the Sao Paulo club again. Instead, he was sent on a series of loans to Grêmio, Associação Portuguesa de Desportos, Esporte Clube Vitória and Joinville Esporte Clube before being released in 2012. At the turn of 2013, he signed for Sport Club do Recife.

The Big Ticket

Then came the youngster’s big break, thanks to Leonardo Jardim and Sporting CP of the Portuguese Primeira Liga. He was offered a five-year contract by the club and formed a brilliant defensive partnership with current Manchester United star Marcus Rojo. In his first season in Europe, he finished second in the league and at one point  was even linked with a move to Manchester United!

However, with Jardim gone and Marco Silva in the dugout the following season, Mauricio went down the pecking order and had to move onto Serie A with SS Lazio. Meanwhile, Sporting dropped down to third on the table but with a team featuring the likes of Nani, Adrien Silva, Islam Slimani and Cedric Soares, they went on to lift the domestic cup defeating SC Braga on penalties.

He made 15 appearances in Serie A on loan and then another 24 the next season. However, a change in management affected his prospects there too. “I arrived in Italy and the first year was really positive – the second year was not nice. There were also changes on the technical level and (Simone) Inzaghi arrived, but I had no space and when I entered I did not play in my position,” Mauricio recalled.