Stellars Club

Carlos Alberto: The legacy of a goal

He was the captain of one of the greatest teams in the history of football: the Brazil team that triumphed at the 1970 World Cup in Mexico.

If there was a manual on how to be a captain of a football team, it would be illustrated with the picture of Carlos Alberto. He was the great captain of the Brazil of 1970, a unique team that captivated the world with its play, and of the country of football. Sadly, he passed away last October 25 due to a heart attack. He was 72 years old, a hard blow for the whole of world football, which did not expect one of the greats to be gone so soon. Nevertheless, his figure will remain immutable over time, embedded in the history of the beautiful game.

Carlos Alberto modernised the right-back position: “I was one of those who started this way of playing the full-back by going forward a lot. I always played that way. When I was a youth player at Fluminense, then at Santos… It was always like that, which made the coaches go crazy. I remember everyone telling me ‘come back, come back, you have to defend’. But Zagallo came up with a way for me to free myself from defending, and that was for Everaldo or Clodoaldo to cover my area when I attacked. After me, more full-backs came with that way of playing, both on the right and on the left. The pity is that some full-backs confuse a bit the mission of supporting the attack. The function is to support in attack, as the full-back is not an attacker. If it was an attacking role put a striker in place of him. But there are many who think they are attackers and spend the game dribbling and dribbling, giving the opponent the opportunity to counterattack. It’s a pity that the coaches don’t guide the full-backs better, in the sense of internalising that they come from behind as support, not as attackers”.

Carlos Alberto’s goal will go down in World Cup history.

His is one of the most beautiful goals in the history of the world championship. That right-footed shot straight into the heart of Italy’s heart, drawn after a choral move from the best Brazil the world has ever seen, that of the ‘Five 10’. Felix; Marco Antonio, Carlos Alberto, Brito, Piazza; Clodoaldo, Gerson, Jairzhinho, Rivelino; Pele and Tostão. A team you can recite by heart, with Carlos Alberto as captain. A team that ended up crushing all their opponents in the second halves. “It was the big key to our great championship. It didn’t matter what happened in the first half. We all knew that when we got to the dressing room Zagallo’s pep talk would be waiting for us,” said Carlos Alberto in an interview with Fútbol Táctico Magazine two years ago. In it, he recalled how it all began: “The training camp started a month before the tournament in Guadalajara, which was our host city. And we did it with the clear lesson of what had happened four years earlier in England, where the physique of the European teams was too much for the Brazilian team. That forced us to put in a lot of hard work, with long, exhausting training sessions, but nobody was complaining. Our mission was clear: to win the World Cup.

In it, he also gave a first-person account of that great goal against Italy: “It was a move at the end of the game. We were virtually guaranteed victory, leading 3-1 with only four minutes to go in the game. Italy had already given up and we were in total control of the game, so it was just a matter of waiting for the referee to blow the final whistle before we could celebrate the world championship. But at that moment we were faced with a situation that we knew could happen at any moment, and that was that the Italian team would break down after an attack. We had very carefully studied what we should do if that chance came up: one move from Rivelino, another from Jairzinho and Tostão would go to the right side of the Italian defence, opening up a big space where I could get there and wait for the pass to finish. We tried to go for it on several occasions during the final, but it didn’t come until the end, where we knew that with Italy desperately looking for a goal it could happen. And he showed up so that I could finish the World Cup by scoring at least one goal, a goal that everyone is talking about”.. Undoubtedly the best memory of his career, which began with the at Fluminense in 1963. He also played for Botafogo and Flamengo, but above all he was a team-mate and friend of Pele’s at Santos and also at the Cosmos, the New York football experiment of the 1970s, where he remained until 1982, when he stopped playing. “I am saddened by the death of my friend, my brother, Carlos Alberto, our beloved captain,” said El Rey del Fútbol. “Unfortunately, we have to understand that life goes on.”

“The memory of that game is the greatest I have of my entire career as a football player. It had everything: a goal in a World Cup Final, winning the title of the best team in the world as captain of that great team, definitively establishing Brazilian football… These are all great memories of that game,” said Carlos Alberto, who was still emotional about the goal and what it represented for the whole team. As captain, Carlos Alberto had to take all the pressure of leading a star-studded and fancied team to victory. The hardest moments came before that final against Italy: “They’re full of pressure, full of nerves, because playing in a normal championship final is already a very complicated thing, so imagine what it means to play in the final of a World Cup. I remember we were all very nervous before the game, but something happened at the start of the match that caught my attention. As usual, before we took to the pitch we spoke to each other and everyone, without any explanation, had calmed down. Obviously we were feeling the pressure, especially as we were up against a very tough team, and we knew it was going to be a very tough game, but the feeling was very different to what it had been like in the hotel. At that moment we were just thinking about playing football and focusing on a tough opponent like Italy.

“Pele was the leader of a team full of No10s”.

Charismatic, but modest. That was Carlos Alberto as a person and as a footballer. He was the captain of that team, but he acknowledged that “Pele had the leadership. That was indisputable.
I was lucky enough to play alongside Pele for 12 years of my playing career, which was a privilege. And I saw things in him that, standing next to him, I didn’t believe. For me, without a doubt, it was number one. Logically there have been players of great level, but none with the one of Pele. Apart from Maradona, there is a footballer who I don’t understand that his name doesn’t come up so much when we talk about the best players in history, and that’s Johan Cruyff. The Dutchman was extraordinary. In short, there are many: Di Stéfano, Puskas, Jairzinho… And nowadays Messi or Neymar. They’re all very good, although none of them can match Pele; for me it was the best,” said the best right-back in history, who never forgot what it was like to play with his team-mates at that World Cup.We were great players, one of the best generations of Brazilian football, with so many good players that we didn’t all make the national team. Players like Lopes and Djalma Dias, who in my opinion was Brazil’s best defender, were left out, but he wasn’t even called up to play in the World Cup. The victory in Mexico is also part of the work of Zagallo, who managed to put together an extraordinary generation of players. The coach had everything in mind, always looking to improve the team. That’s what he did with Rivelino. At the beginning, very few people understood him playing, as we had Paulo Cesar and Edu in that position, but tactically Rivelino adapted well to the role that Zagallo asked of him and the whole team gained in confidence. Then we had a player like Jairzinho. Not many youngsters remember him, but I can safely say that he was the Neymar of his time. He scored goals in every game. There was also Pele, Tostão, a player with a lot of intelligence, Gerson, very serious about balancing the team; Clodoaldo, always perfect, always keeping his position to give me the freedom to go forward; Everaldo, he was on the other side and when I went up he stayed so as not to break up the defence. I also don’t want to forget the two central defenders, Brito and Piazza, who played very efficiently and were two brilliant players. And a lot of people say that the weak point of our team was our goalkeeper Felix, but he was the best goalkeeper in Brazil. I remember some games we won thanks to his saves. I can’t stop thinking about the game against England, which was the key game for us to reach the final and Felix saved our team from defeat..

A Brazil that for Carlos Alberto had “the union of a group. Four years earlier, in England, Brazil had surprised the physicality of the European teams, and we knew we needed to arrive in the best possible shape in Mexico if we wanted to be champions. So we worked very hard under the guidance of the late Edmilto, the national team’s physical trainer. Before every training session he showed us what we had to look for in each type of training to achieve a performance that left us in a position to win every game in the second half, as happened in the World Cup. All the players understood this perfectly and their commitment was extraordinary. None of us complained despite the harshness because we believed in Edmilto’s message. “You have to be right, we have to be right to win that World Cup,” he said. And so it was. I don’t know what happened, but when you left the pitch after the game nobody complained about being tired. It was the predominant part of our success. People say we were the best Brazil ever. I’m happy to have been an important part of that team, especially for having had the honour of captaining that team of great players. I was only 25 at the time, the youngest captain in history to lift the trophy. It was an honour for me. An image that made him immortal: “In Brazil and all over the world, children dream of one day playing in a World Cup with their national team. Now imagine what it’s like to captain a great team like I did. To be the captain of the 70’s national team, the one that is considered to this day the best team of all time, and after the match and in the name of the country to receive that trophy. For me it’s everything. Today 90% of Brazilians call me by my name or captain. It is definitely something that will mark me forever.

Carlos Alberto passed away October 25, 2016 will always be remembered for having been the captain of the Brazil of ’70, for many the best team in the history of football. In his team’s 4-1 final win over Italy, he scored the fourth goal with a powerful cross-shot from Pele’s pass to cap a great team move, one of the most memorable goals of all time. His legacy and his mark will remain forever in the retina of all those who love football, all generations will always remember his goal, the goal of football.

Written in collaboration with: Tactical Football


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