Cláudio André Mergen Taffarel, born on May 8, 1966, is a retired Brazilian footballer who played as a goalkeeper. He currently works as the goalkeeping coach for the English Premier League club Liverpool and the Brazil national team. Taffarel had a career spanning 18 years, during which he played for various clubs in Brazil and Europe.
His professional journey started in 1985 with the Brazilian team Internacional. Throughout his career, he also played for clubs like Parma, Reggiana, Atlético Mineiro, and Galatasaray. He retired from professional football in 2003 after a second stint with the Italian team Parma.
Taffarel earned more than 100 caps for the Brazil national team and played a key role in their victory in the 1994 World Cup. He also participated in eight other major international tournaments over a decade, including helping Brazil reach the finals of the 1998 World Cup and winning two Copa América titles in 1989 and 1997. Additionally, he secured a silver medal at the 1988 Summer Olympic Games.
Born in Santa Rosa, Rio Grande do Sul, of Italian Brazilian heritage, Taffarel began his career with Internacional, making just 14 Série A appearances in five years but earning the Golden Ball award for the 1988 season.
In 1990, he moved to Italy to join Parma, a newly promoted Serie A club. His transfer was also driven by commercial interests, as Parmalat, the club’s owner, sought to feature him in their advertising campaign in Brazil. Taffarel became the first non-Italian goalkeeper in Serie A, playing all 34 league matches under manager Nevio Scala in the following season. Parma finished sixth and qualified for the UEFA Cup. He won the Coppa Italia in 1992 and the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1993 during his first stint with the club. However, due to regulations allowing only three non-Italian players in the starting XI and his inconsistent performances, he spent the next two seasons on the bench behind Marco Ballotta and later Luca Bucci.
In 1993, Taffarel, no longer a starter at Parma, moved to fellow Serie A club Reggiana, where he played a crucial role in narrowly avoiding relegation during the next season. However, he was dropped from the first team in 1994 and didn’t have a professional club leading up to and after the 1994 World Cup in the United States. During this time, he played amateur football with his local church team and occasionally even as a center-forward.
In 1995, he returned to Brazil and spent three years with Atlético Mineiro. While still representing the Seleção at the 1998 FIFA World Cup in France, Taffarel signed a two-year contract with Galatasaray on June 24, 1998, at Disneyland Paris. Galatasaray paid a transfer fee of around $1.5 million to Atlético Mineiro. During his three-year stint with Galatasaray, he won six major trophies, including two Süper Lig titles, the 1999–2000 UEFA Cup, and the 2000 UEFA Super Cup. In the UEFA Cup final, where Galatasaray defeated Arsenal 4–1 in a penalty shootout following a 0–0 draw after extra time, Taffarel was named the Man of the Match.
Taffarel concluded his career with his former club Parma, rejoining them in 2001. In his second spell with the club, he mainly served as a backup goalkeeper behind Sébastien Frey. However, he started in both legs of the 2002 Coppa Italia Final, which saw Parma triumph over newly crowned Serie A champions, Juventus. He retired in 2003 at the age of 37, declining an offer from Empoli. Interestingly, his car broke down on the way to sign the contract with Empoli, which he considered a “sign from God.”
Taffarel made his Brazil debut in July 1988, winning the Australia Bicentenary Gold Cup, and went on to have an illustrious international career. He played in five Copa América tournaments, winning twice in 1989 and 1997 and finishing as the runner-up twice in 1991 and 1995. Taffarel also earned a silver medal at the 1988 Olympics, making crucial penalty saves against West Germany in the semi-finals.
In the 1990 FIFA World Cup, he was the goalkeeper as Brazil reached the round of 16 but was eliminated by Argentina in a 1-0 loss. Taffarel was the starter during the 1994 World Cup in the United States, allowing only three goals throughout the tournament and saving two crucial penalties in the final shootout against Italy to secure Brazil’s victory. During the 1998 World Cup in France, Taffarel helped Brazil reach their second consecutive World Cup final, but they were defeated 3-0 by the hosts. In the semi-finals, he saved two penalties in a shootout against the Netherlands. Taffarel also participated in the 1998 CONCACAF Gold Cup, where Brazil finished third.
In total, he earned 101 caps for Brazil, making him their most capped goalkeeper and one of the few players to reach over 100 caps for the national team. After retiring in 2003, Taffarel briefly returned to play in a commemorative match alongside Romário in 2004 to celebrate Brazil’s 1994 World Cup victory. After his playing career, Taffarel and his former teammate Paulo Roberto started a player agency, primarily focused on nurturing young talents. In 1998, during the World Cup, a proposal was made to rename the Trois-Sapins stadium in Ozoir-la-Ferrière, where the Brazil national team was training, in his honor.
In 2004, Taffarel returned to Galatasaray as a goalkeeper coach, working with Gheorghe Hagi. He had another stint with the club in the 2011–12 season under manager Fatih Terim, briefly serving as interim manager. Taffarel left Galatasaray in 2019. Currently, he serves as a goalkeeper coach for Liverpool, joining the club in 2021, and also fulfills the same role for the Brazil national team, a position he took up in 2014.