André Alves da Cruz













« South America is synonymous with attacking frivolity and creativity, yet it is a defender who we feel is the best South American player having played in Belgium. And what an elegant player he really was .»

– Football Magazine, May 2020

Goal scorer with the magical Seleçao and winner of a trophy with Standard, an unlikely combination on a player’s CV. Unlike José Germano and Dante Bonfim, André Cruz was part of the Brazilian national team before and after his time at Sclessin, his passage in Belgium being an inevitable interruption of his career with the Auriverde.

Logically, his knowledge of the Belgian stadiums should have been limited to the, at that time, derelict Bosuil. It is indeed in Antwerp where he played a friendly against Belgium (1-2 victory for Brazil) on October 12, 1988. The future Red had just come out of the Olympics in South Korea in the company of Taffarel, Jorginho, Mazinho, Romario and Bebeto (5 key players of Brazil who would become world champion in 1994) where he won a silver medal and played all games. An Olympic selection that would also serve as the basis for the 1990 World Cup in Italy … without André Cruz despite a phenomenal goal in a friendly match against … the Squadra Azzurra in the autumn of 1989. « I was part of all national youth selections up to and including the A-team » Andre said in 1992, when he had become an indisputable player in Arie Haan’s team. « I participated in the World Cup qualifiers, but was eventually not included in the 22. The coach Sebastiao Lazaroni did not give me the slightest explanation … »

Indirectly, this non-selection leads to his transfer to Standard, which is confronted in the summer of 1990 with the departure of Ljubomir Radanovic to Nice. The club from Liège is at one point interested in Dutchman Van Herpen (Brest, Feyenoord) before giving a trial to André Cruz during a friendly match in the Netherlands. Sir Georg Kessler has seen enough after the first half and urges his management to finalize the transfer quickly.

From the national team and the great Flamengo – after his debut at Ponte Preta – to the anonymity (from a Brazilian perspective) of the Belgian first division, this was a more than risky venture for the further career of Andre Cruz. « It was a hasty decision, he admits honestly from his native Brazil. I didn’t want to stay in Brazil and I didn’t want to wait any longer. Today would be different if I had to make the same decision. »

After a smooth start in the cup against Mol, it soon became apparent what the Brazilian’s strong point was: an incredible free kick. The first goalkeeper to pay the price was none other than Michel Preud’homme on the fourth match day (ed. 1-win 3 in Mechelen). « I was always good at taking free kicks. In addition, I also worked on it day and day during training sessions: that makes the real difference. I have always worked hard during the sessions to be the best … I arrived one hour earlier and always left later …»

Despite undeniable qualities (technique, jumping power, reaction speed), André Cruz is not spared from criticism, and this during a season where the Rouches perform quite irregularly as a team.  Despite Standard being the leader in the Belgian league in mid-November, the Reds even miss European qualification by the end of the season. Sir Georg Kessler tries Cruz out in different positions (central defender, defensive midfielder, left back, the bench and … in the stands!), but he’s under pressure from the public and the media. « You must remember that I left Flamengo with 40 degrees in Rio de Janeiro. Once in Belgium I experienced temperatures of 10 degrees and less! That alone is not evident. The adjustment for Brazilians like me was very difficult. I did not know Belgian football and I did not speak the language. I played in different positions, perhaps because Kessler saw that I was able to do this and wanted to test myself … Yes, this period was very difficult because I was also confronted with many dishonest people (sic). Others made mistakes on the pitch and I took the blame … I didn’t play bad. Only the results did not follow. I was young, I had already played for the Brazilian national team and Standard had spent money to make me come and play for them. I did not understand much due to the language barrier … but I did not complain … I remained calm. I knew the only way to change this was to play well. »

Fortunately, Standard already had other Brazilian players (Rubenilson, Dinga) and with the arrival of Gérald Blaton in Seraing, a strong Brazilian colony developed at Pairay. « Having someone around from your own country is very helpful, especially those you train with on a daily basis. It helped me a lot at the time. »

That first, not so wonderful, season could just as well have been his last. PSG, which was just taken over by Canal+ and chose Artur Jorge as its coach, wants to associate a Brazilian in the defense with Ricardo Gomes. After a problem with the plane to travel to Paris, the interview with the PSG representatives did not take place and André Cruz responded positively to the invitation to the first friendly match in Visé … just like the rest of the team (almost 40 players were under contract!). Just like Georg Kessler a year earlier, Arie Haan immediately falls in love with the ball virtuoso, and any departure from the Brazilian is unimaginable. « Was it Arie Haan who blocked everything? I don’t remember. But Haan was very important to me at Standard. He spoke to me and gave me all his confidence. He defended me in difficult times, I am very grateful to him. »

Symbolic of this second chance: a free kick (yes) to prevent a defeat at Germinal Ekeren, just in the Veltwijckpark that was synonymous with the disillusion two seasons earlier (elimination in the semi-finals of the cup in 1990, a defeat that blocked the road to UEFA in 1991). And the following week Stéphane Demol arrived at Sclessin. « It is a fact that Stéphane’s arrival has also helped me a lot. He had experience with playing in Italy and Portugal, and he spoke Portuguese. We understood each other very well. We made the perfect pair. »

After that first meager season, Cruz would spend three more seasons at Sclessin, characterized by countless free kicks (including a brilliant derby free kick at Rocourt), and goals (7 of 9 goals in 1993-1994). Standard discovered also his brother Adriano during a league game in March 1993 at Sclessin against Cercle Brugge: two brothers in the same team on the field in an official match, an experience that unfortunately remained unique for André. « It was great to play with him as he had many qualities: a good collective player, who dared to set his foot and be present vocally. Unfortunately, several injuries have hindered his career. » 

Paradoxically, it is precisely this season 1992-1993, personally disturbed by various injuries, that will lead to the successful and infamous cup final against SC Charleroi in Anderlecht. In the return match of the semi-final at Sclessin, the Brazilian had the pleasure to open the score against Waregem. « Our only trophy… But we had a great team and we could have won the championship. Some injuries of important players weighed heavily … This victory was one of the highlights that I experienced at Standard. » The worst would come a few months later with the historic 0-7 against Arsenal. « It was an atypical game. Everything that could go wrong went wrong for us, while everything went well for the Gunners. »

After 4 years in Belgium, André Cruz needed a new challenge and he did not want to give up the Seleçao. « It was too late for the 1994 World Cup, but in the following months I returned to the squad. I experienced three great seasons in Naples and was then transferred to AC Milan … and was included in the squad of 22 for the 1998 World Cup … which I almost missed. In January 1998 I had a hernia and I thought it was all over. »

Thanks to a last-minute dropout, Mario Zagallo called him back to the squad, even though he never played in France for a single minute. Something André Cruz had not planned either: a return to Sclessin in 1999, when he was rarely used by Alberto Zaccheroni at the Rossoneri. Lucien D’Onofrio has no doubts and repatriate Cruz back to the Liège. « I did well physically and mentally, but it was only for a few months …»

Just enough time to remind the Belgian goalkeepers of his kicking technique with a wonderful free kick in the top game at Sclessin against FC Bruges. In addition, there were two other cup goals, including one in his first game at Ingelmunster. Unfortunately he missed the icing on the cake with a lost final against Lierse in the Cup. « Yes, we can talk about a big disappointment that day. We could have, no, we should have won this cup. We have played well, but you cannot achieve your objective if you swallow such goals. It is as simple as that. »

André Cruz then left for the Italian Calcio (Torino) and afterwards took the direction of Sporting Portugal in the winter of 2000. « There I bumped into Mbo Mpenza, who had just been transferred. Ah, the big Mbo … but we hardly talked about Standard because we were not often together off the pitch. »

After a first title in 2000, André Cruz won a second in 2002 with a certain Laszlo Bölöni as coach. « It was a really good time. It was not always easy, but Laszlo managed to get it right and we were rewarded. Today we are still good friends. »

At Sporting Portugal he witnessed the first steps of a certain Cristiano Ronaldo. « When Cristiano joined the A team, I was still there. We trained together several times, he was actually a child. I called Ariedo Braida, the director of AC Milan and Filippo Fusco, the director of Naples, to tell them to write down this name. A few months later, Filippo calls me to say he sees a phenomenon in action. I didn’t immediately understand him and then he told me he was watching a friendly match between Sporting and Manchester Utd. I connected the dots and I replied « Aahhh, you’re watching Cristiano Ronaldo? I told you! I was also talking about Quaresma and Hugo Viana ..

That insight into the game and its players led to his new career. « I still work in football and invest in Brazil. Sometimes some clubs come to me for sporting advice: I discuss coaches, players, the work on the pitch, results. I am also an intermediary: I see matches and players for friends in Europe and Asia. If I can go to Belgium, I go there because I still have many friends there. When I played in Belgium, I never thought I would miss it. However, I always tell people that Belgium is a beautiful country, very pleasant to live in. It is also suitable for bringing in young people with talent, but with a profile that suits the Belgian style: not the most technical, but very strong physically, quickly, professionally … And with a strong desire to win. I hope to visit Belgium later this year, maybe in August.

(c) Philippe Gerday – Mai 2020

Birth: 20th September 1968, in Piracicaba
1st affiliation at Standard:
9th August 1990 – 23rd August 1995
2nd affiliation at Standard:
3rd February 1999 – 2nd July 1999
Trophies with Standard:
1x Belgian F.A. Cup  (1993)
International games / goals:
  33 / 1


Youth Development

1982 – 1986

Ponte Preta (BRA)


1986 – 1989
1989 – 1990
1990 – 1995
1994 – 1995
1995 – 1997
1997 – 1999
02/1999 – 07/1999
07/1999 – 12/1999
2000 – 2002
07/2002 – 12/2002
01/2003 – 06/2003

Ponte Preta (BRA)
Clube de Regatas do Flamengo (BRA)
Royal Standard de Liège
A.S. Calcio Napoli (prêt)
A.S. Calcio Napoli (ITA)
A.C. Calcio Milan (ITA)
R. Standard de Liège
Torino Football Club (ITA)
Sporting Clube de Portugal (POR)
Goias Esporte Clube (BRA)
Esporte Clube Internacional (BRA)



Belgian Championship
Belgian F.A. Cup
Belgian League Cup
European Cups




Belgian Championship
Belgian F.A. Cup
Belgian League Cup
European Cups