Brazil’s first-choice goalkeeper Julio Cesar says he has former Queens Park Rangers teammate Ryan Nelsen to thank for helping him secure his place at the World Cup this summer.
QPR were relegated from the Premier League following Cesar’s first season in London, with an ensuing contract dispute with the club seeing the former Inter Milan star dropped from the side for the 2013-14 campaign and even forced to train secretly in the park with his 11-year-old son.
His tournament in jeopardy whilst benched, the keeper was eventually convinced by Nelsen to join MLS side Toronto FC on loan in February, with the ex-defender having left QPR last year to become manager of the Canadian club.
The regular playing time securing a place in coach Luiz Felipe Scolari’s lineup, Cesar moved to thank both Nelsen and the team, having seen his career in a dire situation only a few months prior.
‘It was a complicated moment because I wasn’t playing for my club because of contractual problems,’ he told KickTV. ‘I’d have to go to the park by myself. I even bought some goalkeeper gloves because I didn’t want my team to know about it.
‘Then Toronto was something that happened out of nowhere. Overnight. After talking with a friend who had made that leap, I said “Why not?”
‘I really do have to thank Ryan Nelsen so much for this opportunity that he gave me. He said, “Come here and I’ll help you and you will be ready to play in the World Cup.”
‘I’m so thankful for what they’ve done for me because if I hadn’t been playing it would’ve been hard to play in the World Cup.’
Widely considered one of the world’s top shot-stoppers during his seven seasons at Inter, Cesar won five Serie A titles and the 2009-10 Champions League with the Italian giants between 2005 and 2012, before departing for QPR following the arrival of Samir Handanovic.
With 83 caps for Brazil since making his debut in 2004, the 35-year-old is starting in his second consecutive World Cup for the Selecao, after being third choice in 2006, but an error which ultimately cost the side their 2010 quarter-final against the Netherlands saw him consider quitting the national team, having been made a scapegoat back home for the side’s failure.
Dropped by previous manager Mano Menezes in the years following, after the event seemingly caused his form to nosedive, suggestions that Scolari is too loyal to the veteran leader have persisted in the run-up to the tournament, though even those making such claims can’t deny his battle back has been commendable.
While Cesar has looked somewhat shaky at times during Brazil’s first three games, if he were to pull off some heroics during the host nation’s run to a historic sixth title this summer then it would prove a fantastic retribution story for one of the game’s goalkeeping legends.