One of only three players to win the World Cup with different teams, Rivaldo was a success on and off the pitch. His career highlights include winning La Liga four times, being part of Barcelona’s historic treble in 2006-07, becoming Brazil’s third most capped player by appearing at four World Cups (1998-2006) and scoring twice at Euro 2004.
Rivaldo is a Brazilian footballer who played for Barcelona, and the Brazil national team. He was also named European Footballer of the Year in 1999.
Rivaldo’s background shaped his view as a Brazilian and Barcelona hero.
At early 1991, an 18-year-old waited to be interviewed by local media in a bakery in Paulista, a run-down neighborhood of Recife in north-eastern Brazil. He didn’t have the appearance of a football player.
His unremarkable brown T-shirt hung off his shoulders, and his lengthy legs curled outwards at the knee, indicating vitamin D insufficiency and explaining his bow-legged stride.
His cheeks seemed sunken as a consequence of severe starvation in his early adolescence, when he lost most of his teeth.
He’d made headlines lately after looping in a beautiful, neck-straining header on his debut for local team Santa Cruz. As a consequence, a TV reporter approached him, eager to learn more about his professional goals.
Between sips of fresh coconut, the humble young guy replied: “My goal of playing for Santa Cruz is already coming true. I want to accomplish more and become a hero to the club’s supporters.”
Rivaldo, who will be 50 in April, has accomplished much more. He can now reflect on a career that not only far surpassed his own ambitions, but also defied the generally held idea that great success requires large dreams.
He had won the Ballon d’Or, been awarded Fifa’s World Player of the Year, and scored what many believe to be the greatest hat-trick of all time for Barcelona within a decade of the interview.
By 2002, he had won the World Cup as part of Brazil’s dangerous frontline, which included Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, and Rivaldo. He earned a Champions League trophy with AC Milan a year later.
They tell you to dream big. Unless your upbringing prevents you from doing so.
In 1999, Rivaldo told the Argentine football magazine El Grafico, “You have to live in poverty to know what poverty is.” “You labor all day to have nothing, to go hungry, to suffer.”
“Dreaming is tough in Paulista.”
Rivaldo Vitor Borba Ferreira, the middle child of five, grew up on the outskirts of Recife in a neighborhood where visitors never ventured and visionaries were thought insane.
He used to assist his parents out on weekends by weeding lawns and selling chewing gum and ice creams at the city’s most popular beaches. He would set up outside the Estadio do Arruda, the home of his beloved Santa Cruz, on match days.
Rivaldo’s instructors describe him as a shy youngster who is apprehensive about reading aloud but who is more behaved than his two older siblings. He adored barefoot football and idolized Zico and Diego Maradona.
Friends remember him as the most skilled player, handling the ball as if it were attached to his foot and hitting with astonishing strength for such a frail kid. He was just as happy gathering grasshoppers or training cockerels for fighting as he was playing football.
Rivaldo acquired his first boots from his father Romildo when he was 13 years old, and was invited to a trial with Santa Cruz three years later after training with their youth set-up on and off.
Romildo was killed by a bus two weeks before the trial. His kid was distressed, ready to give up the game and bow to his environment, certain that happiness and success were not for guys from his neighborhood.
Rivaldo’s path turned only once his mother Marlucia intervened. She sat her son down and said, “Look at me,” looking him in the eyes “Your father would have wished for you to become a professional football player above all else. Take a chance.”
That is exactly what he did.
Rivaldo in 1997, after his transfer to Barcelona.
The trial went well, but new issues surfaced quickly. Rivaldo was obliged to walk the 30km return trek each day since Santa Cruz’s training center was 15 kilometers from his house and he had less money than before. He was exhausted when he arrived and fatigued when he left, and his bow-leggedness grew more obvious. Despite his dedication, appreciation was difficult to come by. He was heavily criticized, as he would be for the rest of his career, at least among Brazilians.
His early days in Santa Cruz were marred by erratic performances, and he rapidly became a scapegoat for the club’s problems.
He was mocked by fans and discarded by management, and he was finally used as a makeweight in a player swap with Mogi Mirim, a second-tier Sao Paulo club. Former Santa Cruz president Joao Caixeiro subsequently described it as “the worst transaction in the club’s history.”
Rivaldo spent the following four years collecting several awards, but he was still unable to gain general acclaim.
He performed something even Pele couldn’t do at Mogi: he scored from the halfway line. In 1993, he was loaned to top-flight Corinthians, where he scored 22 goals in 58 games, earning Player of the Season honors and scoring on his international debut against Mexico. Despite the pressure from the club’s fans, he exited the stadium disguised inside a bag of footballs on many occasions.
He won the 1994 Brazilian league championship and was voted player of the season after crossing Sao Paulo to join Palmeiras. More national team appearances followed, but coach Carlos Alberto Parreira deemed the 22-year-old “too egotistical” and “unreliable,” keeping him at home as Brazil went on to win the 1994 World Cup.
Rivaldo was named to the national team for the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, after Parreira had retired. However, he was once again forced to bear the brunt of the criticism.
Brazil lead Nigeria 3-1 with 12 minutes left in the semi-final when he lost control in midfield and the Africans equalized. They scored twice more to eliminate the favorites, and Rivaldo, who had previously squandered a fantastic opportunity to score, collapsed in the locker room.
“The game versus Nigeria was a shock for everyone since everyone expected us to win gold,” former teammate Luizao remembers to Sport. “Unfortunately, it was an unusual game, and everyone was disappointed, especially Rivaldo, who had gotten a lot of criticism. He was always a player with a lot of charisma and self-assurance, however.”
“I have a sad recollection of that moment,” Rivaldo said years later when asked about it. “But it helped me to find the desire to demonstrate the judgments made of me were unjust.”
Coach Mario Zagallo, who was in charge of taking Brazil to the 1998 World Cup in France, openly discounted Rivaldo’s prospects of playing for his nation. But he, like the rest of the critics, could not have predicted what was about to happen.
While it might seem reasonable to think that Rivaldo’s almost constant criticism from his fellow Brazilians drove him to seek a transfer abroad, the fact is that Palmeiras had already agreed to sell him to Parma before to the 1996 Olympics. He ended up in Spain instead after failing to reach an agreement on contract specifics. 7,000 supporters turned out to see him unveiled at Deportivo La Coruna that summer, hoping he might fill the shoes of departed Brazilian Bebeto.
Rivaldo only lasted in Galicia for a year, scoring 21 goals in 41 games as Deportivo went from mid-table mediocrity to third place in La Liga, tied with Barcelona, who were now paying careful attention to him.
It wasn’t only the quantity of goals Rivaldo was scoring, but also the diversity. Tap-ins, bullet headers, bending free-kicks, ripping long-range efforts, and even a cheeky Panenka penalty that almost went terribly wrong. When he phoned home, though, his family said they hadn’t watched the game since Brazilian television was only interested in Barcelona and Real Madrid.
Rivaldo was willing to do whatever it took to make the transition when the Catalan giants agreed to pay his four billion pesetas release clause (about £32 million today).
The next chapter is about contemporary folklore. Between 1997 and 2002, the youngster who had been rejected by his first club because he was too weak conquered Europe and the globe with speed, power, magnetic control, and an inexhaustible variety of technical mastery.
He combined missile-like precision with frequent rabonas, perfect assists with pirouettes, and a mind-boggling quantity of wonder strikes. As if to show that his goal for Mogi wasn’t a fluke, he scored from the halfway line against Atletico Madrid.
He scored 130 goals at Camp Nou on his way to winning La Liga twice, the Copa del Rey, and the Ballon d’Or and the Fifa World Player of the Year in 1999.
Rivaldo had the most time with Barcelona, out of the 14 teams he represented. He was brought in to replace Ronaldo, who had just joined Inter Milan.
The hat-trick occurred against Valencia in 2001.
It was the season’s last match, and Barca needed to win to go to the Champions League. His first goal was a rocket of a free-kick that rattled against the inside of the post, and his second was an unstoppable long-range shot. His third goal, with two minutes left in the game, was from another planet. He controlled a chipped ball on his chest while facing away from goal before securing victory with an overhead kick from the edge of the penalty area.
“I ended up witnessing that piece of art as a spectator,” says Simao Sabrosa, a Barca teammate who formed a lifelong connection with the Brazilian. It was an unforgettable evening.
“He’d done it before in training, but never so close to the goal.” He resolved to create history in that game since he had never done it before.
“He was a rock star, always excellent, calm, focused on his profession, and striving to improve every day. He was quiet and reserved off the field, but he was thoughtful and kind. When he won the Ballon d’Or, he made a point of thanking everyone of us personally by handing each of us a plaque with a little golden ball.”
Rivaldo was the best player in the 2002 World Cup under winning coach Luiz Felipe Scolari.
Rivaldo had even more success with Brazil, scoring three goals on route to the 1998 World Cup final, which they lost to France. He was awarded player of the tournament after scoring a brace in the final to become equal top scorer in the 1999 Copa America. He scored in each of Brazil’s first five games in the 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan, helping the team win a record fifth championship.
When Selecao coach Luiz Felipe Scolari was asked who he thought was the finest player in his star-studded group of 2002, it was evident how far he had progressed. Ronaldo? Ronaldinho? Cafu? Who is Roberto Carlos?
“I always believe Rivaldo was the player on that squad who benefited me the most,” Scolari stated. “People forget about the tactical part of the squad from time to time. They just saw the final, the goals… yet Rivaldo was the team’s finest player.”
Luizo concurs. “”Well, the bulk of the Brazilian people,” he continues before catching himself. Rivaldo was the finest player during the 2002 World Cup, as they all know.”
Rivaldo’s career brought him to Greece, Uzbekistan, Angola, and back to Brazil after a brief stint with AC Milan, where he won the 2003 Champions League in a penalty shootout victory against Juventus at Old Trafford.
He just retired in 2015, but not before accomplishing one last achievement.
Rivaldo purchased Mogi Mirim in 2008, the same club that had signed him in 1992. For the 2014-15 season, he returned as a player. At the age of 43, he scored a goal with his 20-year-old son Rivaldinho in a Brazilian second-division match.
The bigger picture, on the other hand, was far from rosy. Although formerly revered by Mogi supporters, the relationship soured after Rivaldo changed the stadium’s name to honor his father, despite the fact that Romildo had no connection to the club. It became worse when he put the training centers in his own name as a way of recouping some of his investment. His son was named head of the deliberative council, while his wife was named vice-president.
Faced with mounting criticism and owing more than R$10 million (£1.3 million), he placed the club up for sale in December 2014 and announced the decision on Instagram. In July of 2015, the deal was completed.
Rivaldo currently resides in the United States, but despite being persona non grata in Mogi, he continues to visit Recife and his childhood bairro Paulista on a regular basis, while admitting that seeing the poverty, unemployment, and crime frequently drives him to tears.
“As a poor kid, the concept of one day being regarded as the finest player in the world, of winning a World Cup with the Brazilian national team, of playing for Barcelona… it never entered my mind,” he stated earlier this year.
“My only ambition was to work for Santa Cruz as a professional. That was more than enough for me.”
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