São Paulo Goalkeeper Rogério Ceni has announced that he will renew his contract when the club until the conclusion of this calendar year after previously announcing that he would retire this August. This is now multiple times that the 42-year old Ceni has postponed retirement, with the most recent coming at the conclusion of last season when he announced that he would return to the Tricolor for one more run at the Copa Libertadores.
That run was unsuccessful, with São Paulo eliminated on penalties by the defending Brazilian champions Cruzeiro, and Ceni’s contract was set to expire this August before he announced that he would finish the year with the club.
Ceni is of course known for his goalscoring prowess, even from the goalkeeper position. He debuted for São Paulo in 1993, and has played 1,215 matches with the club over an incredible 22 years.
Ceni has been São Paulo’s first choice penalty taker since the late 1990s, scoring his first goal for the club in 1997, and an overall total of 128, all off of penalties and free kicks. Ceni’s most recent goal came this past weekend in a 3-2 win against Santos when he converted a penalty in the closing minutes.
So, how does Ceni do it?
Rogério Ceni strikes with almost deadly accuracy on his penalties, so accurately that even if the opposing goalkeeper is able to guess the right direction, he is rarely able to make a save. But it’s not just penalties that Ceni converts, as he can also strike on free kicks, like this one he scored in this season’s Paulistão against Linense:
Ceni is nearly always certain to place his free kicks in one of the corners of the net, so that if he misses the ball goes out of play and he is able to sprint back to his position in net before the opposing team can rally a counter-attack.
Ceni is 42 and is certainly showing his age. This season has seen the São Paulo keeper make a number of very poor mistakes, including this poor clearance against Palmeiras in the Paulistão that allowed Robinho to score a beautiful goal from distance:
There’s no question that the strike from Robinho was top notch, but it was the poor quality of the clearance by Ceni that allowed the goal. More than poor clearances, Ceni has shown his age in his decline in ability to come out of net and claim balls into the box, sometimes allowing prime opportunities for his opponents.
Despite his miscues, at this point Ceni is a São Paulo institution in net, and nothing other than injury or retirement is going to keep him from claiming his usual starting role.
Ceni supposedly only came back this season because of the Copa Libertadores, which he has said is his favorite competition. Because of this, I wouldn’t be shocked if São Paulo are able to qualify for the Libertadores again next season, either by finishing 4th in the Brasileiro, where they are currently 5th with 10 points after 5 of the 38 rounds, or winning the Copa do Brasil, were they are qualified for the Round of 16, if Ceni once again renews his contract and goes for his favorite title one last time.
There’s no doubt that Ceni wants to go out in a blaze of glory, leading the club he loves to the most prestigious championship in South America, and postponing his retirement once again could give him one last opportunity to do that.