Brazil’s Rivaldo set to sign with Olympiakos

Brazilian World Cup winner Rivaldo arrived in Athens yesterday after agreeing to join Olympiakos for a deal reportedly worth 1.5 million euros per annum. He is expected to sign for one year with a renewal option for a second season. An estimated 3,000 jubilant Olympiakos fans greeted the 1999 FIFA World Player of the Year who was released by AC Milan last November. The 32-year-old striker, who tied for second-most goals in the 2002 World Cup with five, then briefly joined Brazilian club Cruzeiro but quit in February and has not played professional soccer since. Prior to the latest development, the Brazilian had reportedly been involved in negotiations with various foreign clubs, including English club Bolton Wanderers, Scottish champions Celtic, German champions Werder Bremen, as well as two Brazilian teams, Flamengo and Palmeiras. At Olympiakos, he will join former Barcelona teammate Giovanni, also a Brazilian, who has been playing for the Greek club the last four seasons. «I’ve come here for my friend Giovanni, the challenge of the Champions League, and to lead Olympiakos to the league title,» Rivaldo said shorty after his arrival. «My decision was also influenced by Greece’s European title victory,» he added. Olympiakos was runner-up in last season’s championship after winning seven straight titles. The team will play in this year’s Champions League without having to go through qualifiers. «A player like Rivaldo is necessary for every team, and especially Olympiakos. I believe he will offer us what he has for the other teams he has played for in the past,» said Olympiakos coach Dusan Bajevic. After undergoing obligatory medical tests today, the player is then expected to sign his new contract before returning to Brazil briefly to prepare for his move to Greece. Rivaldo turned professional as a 16-year-old after signing with Brazilian club Santa Cruiz. He was called up for the national team three years later. At 24, he won a bronze medal with Brazil in the Atlanta Olympics, then enjoyed a superb season with Spanish club La Coruna before signing with Barcelona to win the double in Spain. With Brazil, Rivaldo has won both the World Cup in 2002 and the Copa America.