Having spent almost half of the year endeavouring to recover from a knee injury, striker Grafite is back in training as Sao Paulo finalise their preparations for the FIFA Club World Championship TOYOTA Cup Japan 2005. The knee injury he sustained in May during the first leg of the round of 16 match of the Copa Libertadores 2005 against arch-rivals Palmeiras, and which he aggravated in the quarter-finals against Mexican side Tigres, is now a thing of the past. From here on in, the focus is firmly on Japan.
His team-mates and the Brazilian club's technical staff played a key role in helping the striker recover on time from torn ligaments. Although Grafite realises he will not be in the starting line-up for the match against the winners of Al Ahly and Al Ittihad, he is prepared to help his team's cause in any way possible.
"I can come on in the final minutes, if the boss decides that's the way to go. I realise I'm still not up to playing 90 minutes, but I'm desperate to score goals," he declared.
After intensive training back home, Sao Paulo will arrive in Japan early in order to prepare for the tournament.
"It doesn't matter who we come up against. The fact that they've got this far means they are quality sides and deserve our respect," said Grafite who has been undergoing a special rehabilitation programme to help recover his match fitness.¨
"Grafite is a player who can make the difference in a game and we want him at his most effective," explained São Paulo coach Paulo Autuori.
The goals he contributed during the Copa Libertadores campaign, the tears he shed when he succumbed to his knee injury and the support from the fans on the terraces underline the importance of the striker to the club's ambitions of bringing back the world crown.
Japanese supporters, who remember São Paulo from their Toyota Cup successes of 1992 and 1993, have always had a soft spot for Brazilian teams and identify with stories of sacrifice and fortitude. In Grafite, they certainly have a warrior to admire.