Indy Eleven became the first team in the modern era of the North American Soccer League to add a FIFA World Cup champion to its roster with Monday's signing of Brazilian midfielder Kleberson.
The 2002 World Cup winner and former Manchester United player joins Indy Eleven on a two-year contract.
“Signing of a player of Kleberson's caliber signifies Indy Eleven is serious about bringing our fans wins and trophies,” said Indy Eleven owner Ersal Ozdemir. “We welcome Kleberson to Indiana and look forward to his contributions to building the club both on and off the field.”
While Kleberson, who will don Indy Eleven’s No. 8 jersey, will be available for selection in league play pending completion of the visa process, he can participate in exhibition play and is expected to make his unofficial debut on Tuesday night when the squad will travel to West Lafayette to host Major League Soccer’s Chicago Fire.
The 34-year-old Kleberson brings vast and valuable experience to the Indy Eleven lineup, having plied his trade on some of the world’s grandest stages during a professional career that began with Atletico Paranaense in his native Brazil at the age of 19.
“This move to Indy Eleven is not just a great professional opportunity, but a great move for Kleberson the person as well,” said Kleberson. “It’s a new club, and I have big expectations of myself to put my name into the team’s history."
Kleberson gained worldwide notoriety during the 2002 FIFA World Cup Finals in South Korea and Japan, when his standout performance for the Brazilian national team helped propel the Canarinho to their fifth and most recent world championship. After coming off the bench in Brazil’s last group stage and Round of 16 matches, the then-23-year-old Kleberson would be inserted into the starting XI for Brazil’s final three matches and assisted on Ronaldo’s second goal in a 2-0 victory over Germany in the final.
"Indy Eleven is proud and excited to have Kleberson continuing his career in Indiana and look forward to him being embraced by the community," said team presidend and general manager Peter Wilt. "While scouting Kleberson we heard nothing but glowing reports about his skill set, his mindset and his work ethic, which makes him a perfect fit for Indy Eleven."
Kleberson also made one appearance during Brazil’s run to the quarterfinal round of the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa, marking one of the last of his 32 appearances at the senior international level. Kleberson helped Brazil capture two more prestigious titles while suiting up in the 2004 CONMEBOL Copa America and 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup tournaments.
The midfielder parlayed his 2002 World Cup performance into a transfer to legendary English Premier League club Manchester United, making 20 appearances for Sir Alex Ferguson’s side from 2003-05. Kleberson signed with the Philadelphia Union last season as one of the team’s three allotted Designated Player slots.