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It’s hard to fathom that many football fans would have known about Dante Bonfim Costa Santos before this season. Aged 29, the workmanlike centre back made his international debut in a full strength Brazil side that went down 2-1 to England on 6th February after nine years of plying his trade happily under the radar across Western Europe. However after biding his time Dante is earning plaudits and reaping rewards this season as he stars in Bayern Munich’s solid defensive unit.
After seven years of moving across the football world in teams in Brazil, Belgium and France, Dante joined Borussia Mönchengladbach in 2009 from Standard Liege. It was at ‘Gladbach that the 6′ 2″ centre half started to realise his full potential, and he was part of the side that miraculously avoid relegation in 2011. With Die Fohlen, he played in front of a promising young Marc-André Ter Stegen, whilst Marco Reus was also a team mate.
However, Dante probably won’t have even dreamt about starting Champions League games with Arsenal two years on. In his time at the club the centre back adjusted to the Bundesliga comfortably, but Gladbach’s seasons were too often spent teetering above the bottom three, or even in it, and pastures new beckoned for Dante.
It became apparent in the 2012 champions league final against Chelsea that Bayern were low on numbers in the back four. Anatoliy Tymoschuk started at centre back alongside Jerome, in what turned out to be an epic climax to a wonderful tournament. Bayern manager Jupp Heynckes saw the need for reinforcements in his defence, and Dante was one of a few new recruits at the Allianz Arena in the transfer window. Accompanied by more prestigious signings Mario Mandzukic and Javi Martinez, but by no means overshadowed by them. Not by anyone.
When he arrived, Dante might have been expecting to be used as backup to Jerome Boateng, Holger Badstuber and Daniel van Buyten but that certainly hasn’t been the case. Bayern have played 23 games so far in the Bundesliga and Dante has started every single one. His contribution is highlighted by FCB’s supreme defensive record; played 23, conceded eight. One wouldn’t dare take any credit away from the immovable object that is Manuel Neuer but his defenders, in particular Dante, must be doing something right.
Such impressive form earned the man from Salvador a just reward as Luiz Felipe Scolari called him up to Brazil’s squad for the game against England. His discipline has been impressive, too. Only 26 fouls in those 23 games showing that the 29 year old is not only solid but safe. He is also a new fans’ favourite, and supporters of FCB are often seen sporting wigs resembling the radical hairstyle of the Brazilian.
So, at the age of 29 Dante is firmly establishing himself as one of the form defenders in Europe, starring for one of the best clubs in the world and earning a place in a Brazil team starting to re-establish itself amongst the international powers. If Heynckes can lead Bayern to glory then it’ll be in no small part down to the work of the centre back signed for, a seemingly mere, €4.7 million.
The man with the afro is peaking late but it looks as if he could be one of the stars of the Bundesliga for a few years yet.
Written by Richard Burn
Follow Richard on Twitter @richard_burn15
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