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Player Profile: Vitor Baia  

Vitor BaiaFull name: Vitor Manuel Martins Baia
Position: Goalkeeper
Date of Birth: 15 October 1969
Birthplace: Sao Pedro da Afurada, Portugal

The magnificent career of one of Portugal’s greatest ever goalkeepers has been richly rewarded in terms of winners’ medals. So much so that Vitor Baia holds the world record as the professional football player with most titles won, and is one of only ten players to have won all three major European club titles.

Baia’s fantastic elasticity is allied to a superb reading of the game, enabling constant anticipation of the opposing forwards’ intentions. Safe handling is another of his strong points, which is doubtless aided by perhaps his greatest asset – his unflappable calmness in the most frenetic of atmospheres.

Remarkably, Baia was advised to quit the game at just sixteen years of age after suffering a serious arm injury. Porto fans were grateful he ignored that advice from the moment he made an earlier than expected debut for the Dragons just three years later when European cup winning goalkeeper Josef Mlynarczyk fractured his shoulder during training.

Medals galore

A string of outstanding performances throughout the season quickly cemented his place as Porto’s number one goalkeeper, and the player was a permanent fixture in the team over the next six years during which time he picked up five championship medals and two Portuguese Cups.

His contribution to Porto’s domination of club football in Portugal did not go unnoticed and he was purchased by Barcelona at the start of the 1996-97 season. He won the Cup Winners’ Cup in his first season and missed just one Spanish League match, but a serious knee injury then plagued him for two seasons.

After falling out with Dutch coach Louis Van Gaal, Baia was loaned back to Porto in 1999. He quickly re-established himself as Portugal’s best stopper and it came as no surprise when the switch became permanent.

Golden twilight

Back at home Baia picked up where he had left off, winning two more Portuguese titles, but as he entered the twilight of his career he surely would not have guessed what was to come. Jose Mourinho’s arrival at Porto appeared to signal tough times for Baia as the two strong personalities clashed and Baia was dropped from the squad for a period of time.

Having incurred Mourinho’s wrath, Baia was humble enough to apologise and was to be an ever-present in the greatest two years in the history of FC Porto, during which time the club won the UEFA Cup and Champions League in successive years, as well as cleaning up all silverware going on the domestic front.

International career

Portugal’s regular first-choice goalkeeper for over 10 years, Baia amassed 75 caps for the senior team, playing in the 2002 World Cup and the European Championships in 1996 and 2000, where Portugal reached the quarter-finals and semi-finals respectively.

His international career was cut cruelly short as Luiz Felipe Scolari summarily dropped him upon taking over as Portugal’s head coach in 2003, during which time Baia was arguably playing the finest football of his career – a decision that enraged countless football fans and critics alike in Portugal and which Scolari has always refused to explain.

by Tom Kundert (05/01/2007)

FC Porto2460
FC Porto1600

* League appearances only

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