Rivaldo is one of the greatest attacking midfielders to have ever played the beautiful game. His graceful skills, the intuition for when to strike, and the ability to score spectacular goals out of nowhere made him a fantastic player. He became a global icon when he moved to Barcelona, where he enjoyed one of the best phases of his life as a footballer. During his career, he won a number of tournaments for both his clubs and his country.
Rivaldo was raised in Encruzilhada, which is often referred to as a tough favela in Recife, Brazil. He overcame extreme obstacles to become the world’s greatest player. Life in Reclife was beyond poverty level. He was so malnourished as a child that he lost his teeth. His father died when he was just 15. His father was the only one who believed. Until the end, they were inseparable. "He always said to us that one of the three brothers would be a professional footballer," said Rivaldo.
Like Garrincha, he was bow-legged as a child. His athleticism and internal drive superseded any cultural or physical setbacks. His childhood was arguably a far cry from the pampered upbringing of La Masia.
His talent was unmistakable. He was selected by Brazilian giants Corinthians and Palmeiras, and his big break came with a move to Deportivo La Coruna at the age of 22. In Barcelona, Bobby Robson eventually chose to sign Rivaldo over Steve McManaman in 1997. With him, the Catalans regained colors again.
In his first season (in concert with Pep Guardiola, Figo and Luis Enrique), Rivaldo scored 28 goals to help the team conquer La Liga and Copa del Rey. The tight bond between players contributed to the entire team’s success. Rivaldo’s performance was outstanding throughout the year - a good indication of things to come.
In 1999, Rivaldo won the Ballon d’Or. He scored 19 goals as Barcelona marched to a league and cup double. The following year, they defended their La Liga title and, again, he was the conductor of the team, scoring another 24 goals.
Rivaldo was also an inspiration for the Brazilian national team as he helped them in reaching the final of the 1998 World Cup. Facing Zidane, and a team on a mission to succeed at home, Brazil could not stop them and was easily beaten. His greatest triumph came four years later when he became one of the architects of the national team’s record breaking 5th World Cup win.
Rivaldo is a very private and devout Christian. As somewhat of a recluse, the details of his life are not easy to obtain. He prefers to donate his photos to aid charitable causes, such as eyeglasses for children in Brazil, or to assist in the foundation of a charity that bears his name and to which he donates part of his wages in order to be able to help children in his homeland and also in Barcelona. "Many people still live in poverty, but thanks to my present position, my name and my reputation, I can hold out a helping hand towards them," said Rivaldo with integrity and humility.
When asked what was the key moment in his career, he recalls: “My life changed when I scored this goal on a commitment against Noroeste. It was April 18, 1993, if I'm not mistaken. We immediately began to make the comparison with Pelé, who had tried the same thing, but without scoring. When a whole country compares you to Pelé when you are only 21 years old, it is quite something. Sometimes football is about details. For me, the detail was this goal, which changed my life. It really opened doors for me.”
In a stellar career lasting over 24 years, Rivaldo won 12 league titles in six countries, a Champions League with Milan and a Copa America and a World Cup with Brazil, and the Ballon d’Or and FIFA player of the year in 1999.
“I was 26 or 27 years old. For a footballer, this is the ideal age. You are 100% and everyone respects you. The players who need to score you stay two meters away from you instead of sticking to you. I played several matches against Zidane when he was at Real Madrid. When he had the ball, I would go to him ‘for form,’ so to speak. It was mutual. When I had the ball, I could see he respected me. When you have a Zidane or a Rivaldo in front of you, better let him dominate… If you really want to challenge him and want to avoid the ridiculous, you better seek help from a teammate …”
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