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Leonardo Araújo is a Brazilian football manager, executive, and former player. He last served as the sporting director of French club Paris Saint-Germain until May 2022. Leonardo was a versatile player, who was employed in several positions throughout his career, including as an attacking midfielder, left winger, and left-back; his best-known and most successful period was at AC Milan, in the role of attacking midfielder (or trequartista) behind the forwards.
Araújo played for teams in Brazil, Spain, Japan, France and Italy, winning titles with Flamengo, São Paulo, Kashima Antlers and Milan. A former Brazil international, Leonardo played in the 1994 World Cup-winning side, as well as the team that finished runners-up in the 1998 edition of the tournament. He also represented his nation in two Copa América tournaments, reaching the final in 1995, and winning the title in 1997, also claiming the FIFA Confederations Cup in the same year.
He also served as a coach for the Italian side AC Milan following his retirement, and successively as coach of crosstown rivals Inter Milan, where he won a Coppa Italia title in 2011. From 2011 to 2013, he was sporting director of his former club Paris Saint-Germain (PSG). He coached Antalyaspor in 2017 before returning to Milan as sporting director in 2018. In 2019, Leonardo returned to PSG as sporting director, until he was sacked in 2022.
|Net Worth||$15 million|
|Occupation||Former footballer, Coach, Sporting Director|
Leonardo Nascimento de Araújo was born on September 5, 1969 (age 52 years) in Niterói, State of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He is the son of Francisco Ney Vianna de Araújo and Aurélia Nascimento de Araújo. Leonardo stands at an appealing height of 1.78m and has a good body weight that suits his personality.
Leonardo Araújo began his career with the Brazilian club Flamengo in 1987; at just 17, he was given the opportunity to play with his hero Zico plus Leandro, Bebeto and Renato Gaúcho, and to take part in winning his first Brazilian championship. In 1990, Leonardo signed with São Paulo, and in 1991, Leonardo, Raí, and other young talents were assembled as part of the so-called ‘esquadrão tricolor’ (“three-coloured squad”) under the command of Brazilian legend Telê Santana, giving Leonardo his second Brazilian championship.
Leonardo Araújo made the switch to European football, signing with the Spanish club Valencia. After two seasons with Valencia, he returned to Brazil for a brief stint with São Paulo in 1993, during which time the team won several titles, including the prestigious Copa Libertadores and Intercontinental Cup. In 1994, after the World Cup, Leonardo signed with the Kashima Antlers of the newly formed Japanese J1 League. Leonardo continued his success in Kashima, again playing with his idol and friend Zico.
In 1996, Leonardo Araújo returned to Europe, this time signing with French club Paris Saint-Germain (PSG), where he again proved to be successful, one of his goals helping them to oust Liverpool out of the semi-finals of the UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup. At this point in his career, Leonardo had mostly stopped playing as a left-back and moved into the midfield, sometimes on the left flank, as a winger and sometimes in the center, as an advanced playmaker, or as a supporting striker, due to his technical skills, vision and tactical intelligence. Already in Japan, this had resulted in some spectacular goals for Leonardo, a trend that continued in Europe.
In the summer of 1997, Leonardo Araújo signed with the Italian team AC Milan for €8.5 million from PSG. With Milan, he became a prominent part of a star-studded lineup on the left-wing. He played four full seasons with the club, winning the 1998–99 Serie A title, in which he played a key role with his prolific performances, scoring 12 goals. In total, he scored 22 goals in 177 games for Milan, before returning to Brazil with São Paulo and Flamengo. He later returned to Milan and finished his career with the team in 2003, winning the 2002–03 Coppa Italia title.
Leonardo Araújo was part of the Brazil under-20 team that placed third in the 1989 FIFA World Youth Championship. He made his full international debut for Brazil in 1990. He was selected as a left-back for the 1994 FIFA World Cup, keeping the young Roberto Carlos out of the team, much to the latter’s chagrin. Leonardo played well in the first games but was then given a four-match suspension for elbowing the American midfielder Tab Ramos in the head, causing a skull fracture that hospitalized him for three and a half months. Leonardo’s suspension prevented him from participating in the remainder of the competition. It was the second-longest ban imposed in World Cup history, after Mauro Tassotti’s eight-game suspension for breaking the nose of Luis Enrique at the same tournament. In 1995, he took part in the Copa América with Brazil, where the team reached the final.
Leonardo was given the number 10 shirt for the national team in 1997. He was an important member of the team that won the Copa América in 1997, and also won the FIFA Confederations Cup later that year. Leonardo played all seven games in his second World Cup, helping Brazil to a second-place finish. In the second opening-round match against Morocco, he netted one shot and began celebrating, but was later called off-side. He was last selected to play for Brazil in the 2002 World Cup qualifying campaign and ended his international career in 2002 with 60 caps and 8 goals for Brazil.
Style of play
Leonardo Araújo was a versatile left-footed midfielder, who was capable of playing in several positions along with the pitch; his favoured role was as a playmaker in midfield, either as a left-winger, in a more central role, as an attacking midfielder, or as a supporting striker, due to his ability to create chances for teammates, although he was also capable of functioning as a central midfielder, in a deep-lying playmaking role, as a forward, and was even deployed as left-back or wing-back throughout his career, in particular in his youth.
Leonardo was mainly regarded for his outstanding technical skills as an elegant and creative player, as well as his vision, and tactical intelligence as a footballer, which made him an excellent assist provider, although he was capable of scoring goals, as well as creating them, due to his accuracy from set-pieces and powerful striking ability from distance, and was known to be a specialist from dead-ball situations. Despite his talent and reputation as one of the best Brazilian footballers of his generation, he was also often injury-prone throughout his career.
Since 2002, Leonardo Araújo has dedicated himself to social works with the Fundação Gol de Letra, along with his friend, former player Raí. Leonardo worked for BBC Television in the United Kingdom during the 2006 World Cup as one of their Match of the Day analysts, alongside another former World Cup winner, Marcel Desailly. He appeared again as a Match of the Day analyst on 1 June 2007 alongside Alan Hansen and Alan Shearer. This was the first England game at the new Wembley Stadium finishing 1–1 with Brazil.
Leonardo Araújo was interviewed for the vacant position of director of football at Premier League side West Ham United in December 2007. In early 2008, Leonardo was appointed technical director of his former club AC Milan. Later that same year, he obtained Italian citizenship after 12 years in Italy as a resident.
After Carlo Ancelotti left Milan to become the manager of Chelsea at the end of May 2009, Leonardo was named head coach of Milan despite still lacking the required coaching badges (he was set to attend a UEFA A coaching course in June 2009). He was, however, exempted from requiring a UEFA Pro license, which is mandatory for Serie A managers, due to being a former World Cup winner as a player. Leonardo wasted no time in declaring that he wanted his team to play attractive attacking football, even invoking the name of his old mentor, Telê Santana.
After a poor start of the season, featuring a shock 0–4 loss to crosstown rivals Inter Milan, that started speculation about his possible dismissal from the head coaching post at Milan, results started improving for the rossoneri under Leonardo, also thanks to the application of a 4–2–1–3 tactic (nicknamed also “4–2–fantasy” by Milan vice-president Adriano Galliani). This tactic, is quite unusual in Italian football and greatly focuses on creative players such as Ronaldinho, Andrea Pirlo and Clarence Seedorf,
Leonardo Araújo led Milan to improved results at both Serie A and UEFA Champions League level, including a remarkable 3–2 win at the Santiago Bernabéu Stadium against Real Madrid and a 3–0 away win against Juventus which enabled Leonardo’s side to finish in second place at the half-way point of the season, six points shy of leaders Inter with a game in hand. However, the path to the Champions League final was halted prematurely as Milan was eliminated in the first knockout round by Manchester United in a 2–7 aggregate loss (2–3, 0–4).
In the final weeks of the season, it was speculated that Leonardo could leave Milan at the end of the season. In April 2010, Leonardo confirmed divergences with club owner and Prime Minister of Italy Silvio Berlusconi, defining their relationship as “difficult”. It was confirmed that Leonardo would leave Milan by mutual agreement after their season-ending game against Juventus. Leonardo waved an emotional goodbye to a packed San Siro, as he managed his side’s last game with a 3–0 win against Juventus.
On 24 December 2010, after days of speculation, it was confirmed Leonardo would take over as head coach of fresh FIFA Club World Cup champions Inter Milan, replacing Rafael Benítez in a somewhat controversial move, due to the Brazilian’s long career with rivals Milan as both player and manager; he agreed on an 18-month contract due to expire on 30 June 2012.
Leonardo Araújo started extremely well, collecting 30 points from 12 games with an average of 2.5 points per game, better than his predecessors Benítez and José Mourinho. On 6 March 2011, Leonardo set a new Italian Serie A record by collecting 33 points in 13 games; the previous record was 32 points in 13 games, achieved by Fabio Capello in 2004–05.
On 15 March 2011, Leonardo led Inter to a memorable 3–2 Champions League away victory over Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena in the round of 16 after losing the first leg at home. On 2 April 2011, Internazionale lost 3–0 against their fierce rivals Milan, and when Inter, two weeks later, lost 2–0 against relegation battlers Parma, the club’s title ambitions had effectively ended. On 6 April, Inter lost 5–2 to Schalke 04 in the quarter-finals of the Champions League. On 29 May 2011, Inter defeated Palermo 3–1 to give Leonardo his first and only trophy as a manager of Inter, the Coppa Italia. He resigned on 18 June.
Executive career: Paris Saint-Germain
In June 2011, speculation arose about the future of Leonardo Araújo at Inter Milan after some media cited talks between him and the new Qatari owners of Paris Saint-Germain, where Leonardo already spent one season as a player in the 1996–97 season. Following that, Inter Milan president Massimo Moratti began searching for a replacement for Leonardo, then hired former Genoa boss Gian Piero Gasperini as the new head coach and released Leonardo from his contract thereafter.
Leonardo Araújo was then introduced as the new director of football of PSG in July 2011, being responsible for the club’s major transfer market decisions. His first signings included several high-profile players from Serie A, such as Jérémy Ménez, Mohamed Sissoko, Salvatore Sirigu, Javier Pastore and Thiago Motta, and was the mastermind behind the appointment of his friend Carlo Ancelotti as head coach of PSG.
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Leonardo was banned for nine months in May 2013, after he was accused of pushing a referee at the end of a game against Valenciennes in which Thiago Silva was sent off. The ban was extended to 13 months in July 2013. On 10 July, he tendered his resignation as sporting director and left the French champions at the end of August. His ban was overturned in June 2014 by the Paris Administrative Tribunal, at which point he announced that he would sue the French Football Federation for “professional” and “moral” damages.
In July 2018, following a change of ownership at Milan and the removal of Marco Fassone and Massimiliano Mirabelli from their respective roles as managing director and director of football, the club’s new owners Elliott Management Corporation announced the appointment of Leonardo as their new sporting director. In his capacity, he also serves as director of football and supervised the captures of Gonzalo Higuaín and Mattia Caldara from Juventus as his first two signings. In December 2018, he obtained his sporting director diploma through the Coverciano Technical Centre.
On 1 July 2019, it was announced that Leonardo Araújo would be the new sporting director of Paris Saint-Germain following his departure from Milan on mutual consent. In the 2019–20 season, Leonardo made several signings for PSG, including Abdou Diallo, Ander Herrera, Idrissa Gueye, Mauro Icardi, Pablo Sarabia, and Keylor Navas. The club went on to complete a domestic treble and finish runner-up in the UEFA Champions League, the first final for Paris.
Leonardo Araújo was sacked by Paris Saint-Germain in May 2022. Despite his successful attempts at convincing Neymar to stay in Paris, Leonardo is generally viewed by observers as having had a net negative impact on PSG’s development during his second spell as sporting director.
Leonardo Araújo is currently married to his second wife Anna Billò, they had their wedding in 2013. His wife is an Italian journalist, and presenter and works for Sky Italia. The couple has two children Tomas Araújo, and Tiago Araújo. However, Leonardo was divorced from his first wife with whom he had three children (one boy, and two girls) before he was married to Sky Italia presenter Anna Billó, with whom he has two sons. As of 2022, Leonardo Araújo and his wife Anna are still married and leaving a cool life.
Leonardo Araújo net worth
How much is Leonardo Araújo worth? Leonardo Araújo net worth is estimated at around $15 million. His main source of income is from his career as a former footballer, coach, and sporting director. Leonardo salary per month with other career earnings is over $4 million annually. His successful career has earned him some luxurious lifestyles and some fancy car trips. He is one of the richest and most influential former footballers in Brazil.