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Footballer’ s head left on step

SAO PAULO – João Rodrigo Silva Santos didn’t come home Monday night.

When the former professional footballer’s wife opened the door on her way to work the next morning, she found his severed head on their front step.

The head was inside a backpack, police said. Santos’ eyes and tongue had been gouged out, according to Brazilian media reports.

Now police in Rio de Janeiro are investigating the grisly killing, though they haven’t said who they believe is behind it.

Santos, 35, was a forward for a number of mostly second-tier Rio de Janeiro football teams before retiring and opening a health foods store.

His death comes at a time when football fans worldwide are shifting their focus toward Brazil, which will host the World Cup in 2014.

Late last year, the country announced it was pumping $900 million dollars into its security budget to make the competition “one of the most protected sports events in history.”

World football’s ruling body FIFA had expressed concern about Brazil’s increasing crime rate, particularly in Sao Paulo.

One police official told Brazil’s O Globo newspaper that authorities are investigating whether a recent post on the store’s Facebook page could be connected to the crime. The post showed surveillance footage and asked for help catching shoplifters.

Police plan to compare the images to surveillance footage taken at the shop Monday night, chief homicide investigator Rafael Rangel told the newspaper.

The former football player was last seen Monday night, when two suspects entered his vehicle, CNN affiliate TV Record reported. (CNN)

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