THE BEAST - Former Arsenal man Julio Baptista hanging onto trophy dream

Julio Baptista

Former Arsenal loanee Julio Baptista, the player dubbed 'The Beast', made a return to Champions League football last night.

Julio Baptista a Champions League winner come the end of the season? It may be a long shot but the Brazilian is simply happy to be back playing again.

He started up front for Malaga last night as they lost 1-0 away to Porto at the Estadio de Dragao.

The night was notable for him because it was his first Champions League appearance since 2010, when he came off the bench for Roma against Basel.

Prior to that his last start in the competition since 2008 was when he started for Roma against Arsenal in a 1-0 second round first leg win  at the Emirates.

He lasted 78 minutes before being substituted for Chelsea loanee and fellow Samba star Lucas Piazon, and while it wasn't the most effective performance from Baptista, he's simply glad to be back.

“Many times I have dreamt of returning. I did not know how it would be. I was like a child, nervous," he told Marca earlier this month.

When he made his comeback against Real Zaragoza on February 3, it was his first appearance since November 2011.

What was first hoped would be a relatively short term Achilles injury required major surgery, as there was a partial tendon tear, and complications delayed his return even further.

Last night was his fourth appearance since suffering the injury, and only his second start. He didn't manage to muster a shot on goal in the defeat, and will hope to get another chance to write a fairytale return in the home game in the second leg.

Fans of the Premier League will remember Baptista for his season long loan at Arsenal in 2006/07. He arrived with a lot of hype and never really delivered on a consistent basis, scoring only three league goals for the Gunners.

He did though score four goals in one memorable match in the League Cup in a 6-3 win over Liverpool. He certainly left with no ill will on either side to Arsenal, the loan was an experiment which didn't quite hit it off, and considering his injury issues Arsenal did well not to pursue it.

Even so fans will surely wish him well on his comeback, and you never know, Baptista at 1-0 down heading into the home leg has a better chance of progressing to the Champions League quarter finals than Arsenal do at 3-1 down heading to the Allianz Arena.

What do you remember about Julio Baptista's time at Arsenal?


image: © Ronnie Macdonald

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