What Brazil has is something tantamount to a soccer conveyor belt. When the game changed to suit the power and size European football required, Brazil adapted accordingly. When big clubs started trawling South America for talents to commandeer, the Brazilians opened themselves up to it and smiled.
The Brazilians have a mystique about them in Europe and they are just as happy as anyone else to benefit from it. After all, the nation’s motto is “Order and Progress”.
If you concentrate just a little bit then it becomes easy to rattle off the names of some of Europe’s most cherished imports from Terra Do Brasil: Romario; Ronaldo; Ronaldinho; Kaka; Cafu; Rivaldo.
The last one is significant. Like three others named there, the silky dribbler was associated with Barcelona. There he cultivated an image as the deceptively fast and bandy left winger. He showed he had an eye for goal and was a bigger player than his sleight frame suggested. However, all the while he was at Barcelona he wanted to be the star; the playmaker.
Always in possession of a large ego it was understandable that he would want to be the main man at the tip of Barca’s attack. In 1999 he won the Ballon D’Or and was voted European Player of the Year. He was unquestionably good.
He seemed, like so many before or after him from the South, though, to court trouble. Always with a scowl on his face he would bear down on goal. He would nip at fellow professionals if the pass was not in the particular way he wanted it. He was rarely wrong in his own head.
He won a World Cup in 2002 with Brazil, but was picked out for stating in an interview that he would never stop diving. He called it his intelligence, and he was cunning like a fox in his endeavors to get others sent off. In Europe this did not go down so well.
Perhaps his personality is why he was released from Barcelona in ’02 by Louis Van Gaal. He had won a few La Liga titles and had cemented himself in Catalan folklore by scoring a hattrick against Valencia in ’01 which saw his team qualify for the Champions League and also showed the extent of his guile and skill: he scored a career-defining bicycle kick.
Since then he has been a journeyman. He has spent time in Greece, Uzbekistan, back in Brazil and now, at the age of 40, he is in Angola. He is trying to make as much money as possible.
Yet, while there is now the image of a money-grabbing diver in your head, it must be said that such an image would be unfair. He had moments of sublime achievement that personality could never touch. It must also be said that to play at his age after lucrative contracts in poor leagues must tell of a love for the game.
Rivaldo is not without sentiment. For example, he is the president of club Mogi Mirim back in Brazil. This gets little publicity because even Rivaldo wants to avoid a circus there. There is one snag with this, though. Rivaldo’s song, lovingly dubbed Rivaldinho, currently plays for Mogi Mirim. He has just scored a bicycle kick nearly identical to his father’s famous goal years before.
We may be in for it all over again…