The Incredible Alex

The last Brazilian to wear the No33 shirt for Chelsea before Emerson Palmieri had quite the penchant for a spectacular goal.

Mention the name Alex to Blues fans and it is likely one thing will immediately spring to mind – thunderous free-kicks.

It might be doing the Brazilian centre-half a disservice, as during his four-and-a-half years at Stamford Bridge he proved to be a more than capable defender, one who played a big part during a successful era in west London, including winning the Double in 2009/10. But those free-kicks were something else...

In fact, if there was a contest between Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink and Alex as to which Chelsea player had the hardest shot of all time, the Brazilian would get our vote – just.

He arrived at Stamford Bridge in 2007 from Dutch side PSV Eindhoven, for whom he’d once netted a vital Champions League goal against Arsenal, and he immediately became a big hit among the Blues faithful.

His credentials were clear: made in Brazil, the home of the 'Samba Boys'; developed in the Netherlands, the land of 'Total Football'. To the football purist, it was the perfect upbringing in the game.

Which brings us on nicely to the old cliché about Alex’s homeland and how they only produce good attacking players. The apt word, there, is old. Our No33 was part of a group of quality defenders plying their trade in Europe who quickly proved otherwise.

In the Premier League, where size and strength were arguably considered the most important part of a centre-back’s make-up, Alex had few peers. He could tackle with the hardest of them, out jump the tallest strikers and, well, just look mean and moody.

His off-field persona was nothing like the beast who took no prisoners on the pitch; softly spoken and with a grin never far from his face.

But put the ball down on the turf anywhere within a 35-yard radius from goal and it was as if a snarling beast had been awoken.

Two efforts in particular stood out. The first was against Liverpool in the Champions League quarter-finals in 2009, when he thumped one in past Pepe Reina to provide the defining moment in a 4-4 draw which helped send the Blues through on aggregate. 

‘I know, as a defender I shouldn't be happy because we let in four goals, but it was a great night,’ he said. ‘And after this, everyone in Brazil would talk about this goal. They'd say to me, “Oh, Pepe Reina didn't even see the ball!”’

The second eye-catching free-kick was also at the Bridge, this time in a Premier League game against Arsenal, and hit with such force that he pulled a thigh muscle in the process! 

‘I actually think the Liverpool one was faster. The Arsenal goal had a bit of curve, but this was just power, straight on.’

It probably comes as something of a surprise to Chelsea fans that his 134 games only yielded 10 goals before he headed to Paris Saint-Germain in January 2012 to link up with his old Chelsea boss, Carlo Ancelotti.

Still, when two of them were as good as his efforts against Liverpool and Arsenal, that’s plenty to ensure cult hero status for this Brazilian favourite at the Bridge.