Former footballer Joao Rodrigo Silva Santos has been decapitated in Rio de Janeiro, reports The Guardian.
The man's head was then also sent to the player's wife, who is a policewoman.
Police in the Brazilian city suspect drug traffickers, following a huge effort by their police to crack down on gangs and drugs in the build up to hosting the World Cup next summer.
Santos' wife has been working as part of this unit.
Santos was kidnapped at night after he left the food shop he had been running after his retirement from a long career, where he played for Bangu, Olimpia, Nacional (all in Brazil) as well as a brief spell with Swedish club Osters.
His wife went downstairs after hearing a noise in the middle of the night to find a backpack she knew as his carrying his severed head inside.
The murderers had carved out his eyes and tongue before delivering his head to his wife's doorstep.
Friend of the murdered ex-player Bruno Santos said: "He was a good family man. He lived for football and played until recently. He had no enemies."
Brazil is set to host the World Cup next summer, with the famous Maracana stadium in Rio de Janiero the venue for the final.
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