Is there to be a fairytale ending for the break-out star contender of the Campeonato Brasileiro – who isn’t as young as you’d imagine?
Break-out stars of a season or tournament are often thought of as being young starlets who’ve progressed up to another level in their game. In hindsight, their rise to the top is traceable and less surprising; almost predictable.
What’s more surprising is when a journeyman player of no previous note, hype or expectation becomes a star – even more so when that player is a 30-year old, whose previous includes sojourns to Saudi Arabian and Chinese football, before its extreme wealth.
Camilo’s explosion this campaign with Botafogo definitely came as a surprise. But for a quietly impressive stint in Série A with Chapecoense – the team he’s represented most in his journeyman career with 66 appearances – a couple of seasons back, there was no foreseeing the huge influence he’d have on putting his team in the driving seat for Copa Libertadores qualification.
Botafogo’s number 10 shirt hasn’t had this much attention since Clarence Seedorf’s surprise arrival at the club. The Dutch maestro ended his two-year stay by winning a Bola de Prata award for his attacking midfield displays in 2013; and there’s no reason to suggest that Camilo won’t replicate that feat after the season he’s enjoyed.
His impact has been astounding; particularly when considering he missed the first 10 weeks of the season. Without Camilo, Botafogo won just two games and found themselves already battling in the relegation zone.
With him, they’ve charged up the Série A table and find themselves in the top five with four games of the Campeonato Brasileiro left to play. Forget relegation – Copa Libertadores qualification is now in their own hands.
Despite agreeing to join Botafogo in May, the playmaker was unable to make his debut until the end of June due to a complicated contract situation which had to first be resolved with Saudi Arabian side Al Shabab, before then waiting for the opening of the international transfer window.
Camilo got straight to work on his debut, netting and assisting in a thrilling 3-2 victory over Internacional. Starting as he meant to go on, he scored and/or assisted seven times in his first seven games. In fact, as journalist Jack Lang has pointed out: O Glorioso won 10 of their 13 league games with Camilo pulling the strings.
He hasn’t looked back. His numbers this campaign – 6 goals, 6 assists and an average of 2.5 key passes per game – whilst impressive, only tell half of the story. Fans have marvelled at the excellence of his strikes leading Camilo to be dubbed “Camito” – a play on the word “myth” and thus becoming a cult internet hero for those of whom his feats helped climb famous fantasy league game Cartola FC. His untypical hero appearance – all curly mopped hair placed on a short, stubby body looking like he’s just awoken from a long slumber – only adding to his cult-like allure.
The quality of his goals, passes and dead-ball prowess have led to journalists hailing him as the best player in the championship, with comparisons to former Corinthians favourite Marcelinho Carioca and even Flamengo legend Zico being made. Think sweetly struck volleys from the edge of the penalty box, precise curlers, free-kicks and the coup de grace so far: a phenomenal, high-velocity bicycle kick thundered into the net.
It’s come as no surprise to current team-mate Bruno Silva, who previously played with the playmaker for two seasons at Chapecoense, stating:
I know Camilo – I’ve played with him since 2012. He’s a guy that I knew would make a difference, he’s got quality. In Chapecoense I played with him for two years, and whenever we were in a difficult situation he managed to solve it.
As well as his current side and Chapecoense, Camilo has played for 13 other clubs, but there is a sense that, at 30-years old and representing the team his father supports, he has finally found a club to call home. After all, technically, he is:
It’s an opportunity I had always hoped for. I’m from Rio and I always dreamed of representing one of the big teams from here. I’ve never had a moment like this in my career.
Will they all be living happily ever after in the land of the Copa Libertadores next season?