Cleber Santana tribute: Five facts about Chapecoense star

Cleber Santana

The 35-year-old was one of 71 passengers killed by the plane crash involving his side in Colombia.

Cleber SantanaCleber Santana

Each of the victims of the British Aerospace 146 flight carrying the Chapecoense team and associated staff and journalists to Medellin for the Copa Sudamericana will have their own backstory, which will undoubtedly be told in the coming days and weeks as more details emerge about the horrific incident and tributes continue to pour in.

One of those victims, Cleber Santana, was a talented midfielder enjoying an Indian Summer at Chapecoense; he added valuable experience to a young squad and was looking to add some silverware to his collection as he came towards the end of his impressive playing career which had taken him all around the world.

Here are five facts about the midfielder whose life was tragically cut short on Tuesday.

1) His early career included stints in South America and the Far East

Santana began playing professionally with Sport Club do Recife in 1999 before moving to Vitoria in 2004. A change of location a year later saw the midfielder head to Japan to represent Kashiwa Reysol.

He was one of three Brazilians in the squad, but despite finishing as the club's top scorer with eight goals Santana could not prevent his side being relegated at the end of the season.

2) He was part of a star-studded Santos squad

The relegation of Kashiwa Reysol meant Santana's stay in Japan lasted just a solitary season, and he returned to Brazil to play for Santos, one of the biggest clubs in the country.

He was soon lining up alongside the likes of Ze Roberto and Wellington Paulista and helped the side to a fourth placed finish in 2006. His performances were good enough to earn him a long-awaited move to Europe.

Picture Supplied by Action ImagesCleber Santana

3) He helped Atletico Madrid return to the Champions League

Having been signed in July 2007, Cleber made 38 appearances across all competitions in his debut season with the Spanish giants, helping them finish fourth and return to the Champions League for the first time in 12 years.

Cleber Santana at Atletico MadridCleber Santana (L) at Atletico Madrid

Santana became particularly influential in the midfield after Maniche's loan departure to Chelsea in January. During his spell with Atletico, he became friends with Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea, who tweeted his tribute on Tuesday.

4) He scored against Spain's 'big two' as part of a successful loan spell

Despite making regular first team appearances at the Vicente Calderon, Atletico loaned out Santana to Real Mallorca for the 2008/09 season.

The midfielder impressed for the Balearic Islanders, netting five times in 32 matches. This included the winner in a famous 2-1 success over Barcelona, which was followed up a week later by a solo effort in a victory away at Real Madrid.

5) He saw out his playing career in his native country

Sao Paulo, Flamengo and Avai were among the many Brazilian teams Cleber represented upon his return to his homeland in 2010, with Flamengo paying tribute by showing a wonder goal the midfielder scored in their colours.

His biggest impact came at Chapecoense, however, as he helped them to the Copa Sudamericana final as well as their highest ever league finish. The loss of the popular Santana will be felt across all of his former clubs, who will remember a gifted midfielder capable of the spectacular.

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