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Giovanni with Olympiacos (1999)
|Full name||Giovanni Silva de Oliveirra|
|Date of birth||4 February 1972|
|Place of birth||Abaetetuba, Brazil|
|Height||1.91 m (6 ft 3 in)|
|Playing position||Attacking Midfielder|
|2007||Sport C Recife||0||(0)|
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only|
Giovanni Silva de Oliveira (born 4 February 1972), better known as Giovanni, is a Brazilian football manager and former player. A versatile playmaker, his natural and favorite position was as an attacking midfielder, but he could also play as a forward, being an exceptional goalscorer. He was predominantly known for his world-class technique, his exceptional dribbling skills, and his outstanding flair and creativity on the ball, which saw him employ a variety of crafty moves, as well as his passing accuracy and goalscoring ability. At club level, he most notably played for Spanish side FC Barcelona, Greek side Olympiacos F.C., and Brazilian club Santos. Internationally, he played for the Brazilian national team, gaining 20 caps and scoring 6 goals; he was part of the Brazilian team that reached the 1998 FIFA World Cup Final.
In his prime, Giovanni was one of Barcelona's most valuable players, but after the arrival of Louis van Gaal at the club, he got into conflict with the Dutch manager, along with fellow Brazilians Rivaldo (whom van Gaal wanted to use as a left winger, despite his protests) and Sonny Anderson. He famously called van Gaal "a Hitler for Brazilians, and an egomaniac". At Olympiacos Giovanni had the happiest and most successful days of his career, and is still remembered as a club legend by supporters.
Born in Abaetetuba, Giovanni started his career in 1991 at Tuna Luso. In 1993, he scored 24 goals, before joining Remo, Paysandu and Sãocarlense before moving to top Brazilian club Santos in 1995. Former Santos star Pelé himself funded Giovanni's transfer, and proclaimed him as his heir; Giovanni was later given the club's number 10 jersey, which Pelé had also worn.
In his first season, Giovanni scored in just over half of the games he played, while in his second he notched 25 goals in 19 games. The peak of his career was when he led Santos toa second place finish in the Brazilian Championship. In the semi-finals against Fluminense, Santos lost 4–1 in the first leg away, and Giovanni dyed his hair red to show faith in the team.
He displayed a splendid game in the second leg and Santos managed to win 5–2, with Giovanni scoring twice and assisting the club's final goal, which was scored by Marcelo Passos. Unfortunately, he could not help Santos overcome Botafogo in the final game. Nonetheless, he is still known to many Santos supporters as "Messias" (Messiah) and his fans named themselves "Giovanni's Witnesses" – a reference to the religion "Jehovah's Witnesses".
After a successful spell with Santos FC, Giovanni moved to the Spanish club FC Barcelona in 1996. He was a first team regular for two seasons and scored 18 goals overall. Barcelona fans still remember him for his ability to score game-winning goals against rivals Real Madrid. In his first year with Barcelona he won the 1996–97 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup under manager Bobby Robson. When Louis van Gaal took the lead in his third year at the club, however, he eventually fell out of favour with the Dutch manager, along with compatriot Sonny Anderson, despite scoring crucial goals in games such as the 1997 UEFA Super Cup second leg game against Borussia Dortmund. Due to his poor relationship with van Gaal, Giovanni left for Greek club Olympiacos in the summer of 1999, for a record transfer fee of £10,800,000. Later on in his career, he caused some controversy, by referring to van Gaal as a Hitler for Brazilians, and an egomaniac.
In Greece, Giovanni soon established himself as one of the best players of the Greek league.
A flamboyant striker, he was known for his inventive dribbling, passing range, and ability to lob the goalkeeper, as well as for having a penchant to beat opposing defenders by passing the ball through their legs (a move known as the nutmeg). His technique on the ball and the variety of fascinating moves he deployed during matches saw him become a highly popular player and a heroic figure to the Olympiacos fans, and he is regarded as one of the club's best ever players. His talent and skills earned him the nickname "magos" (μάγος) "wizard" in Greece.
He was the leading goalscorer in Greece in the 2003–04 season with 21 goals.
In 2005 Giovanni returned to Santos, playing alongside Robinho. He appeared in 29 games for the club, but due to his less dominant performances, he was told to leave at the end of the season by manager Vanderlei Luxemburgo.
After his short return to Brazil, Giovanni played for several clubs abroad, such as Saudi Arabian side Al-Hilal, Greek Club Ethnikos, before returning to Brazil to play for Sport Club do Recife and Mogi Mirim Esporte Clube. Finally, the striker decided to return to Santos once again, where he still remained a popular figure with the fans, in spite of his negative 2005 season with the club.
After passing the team's medical exams, Giovanni returned to Santos in January 2010. Although he played very few matches for the club, he finally managed to win his first title with Santos, the Campeonato Paulista. In the 2009–10 season, he announced his retirement from professional football.
Giovanni earned 20 caps with the Brazilian national team, scoring 6 goals for the "seleção". He was a member of the team that won the 1997 Copa América, and also represented his Country during the 1998 World Cup in France, where Brazil went on to reach the final, only to suffer a 3–0 defeat to the host nation.