Roberto Carlos is a legend and an icon. He was also a man ahead of his time as one of the most recognisable players in world football who happened to play in the position usually reserved for defenders who were too small to play at centre-back and not good enough to attack on the wing. He was, however, a full-back who scored more than 100 career club goals, with a record of around one strike every eight games. Not bad for a defender, and especially at a time when a left-back’s primary job was to defend.
That might have been helped by the teams he played in and his roles within them, of course.
As a left-back for Real Madrid and Brazil, he was often up against smaller teams who would let Carlos’ team have possession more often than not, allowing the Brazilian to get up the pitch in support frequently. He was also an iconic free-kick taker, and that, too, helped him to get goals.
Clearly, training is imperative for every player, but a technique like this requires precision, and you only get that through heaps of practice, “half an hour forty minutes, not too much or your legs will start to feel heavy,” he says, and at Real Madrid, Roberto Carlos was able to practice with some of the best free-kick takers the world has ever seen.
Speaking at Betsafe Star Sixes 2017, Carlos said, “I’ve spent 26 years playing football, 26 years always staying on after training – we would always put the goals up and we would start hitting the ball and before you knew it half an hour, forty minutes would have passed and we would always put a bet on it, it would cost a lot, the loser would by dinner.”
“At Madrid with Beckham and Zizou (Zidane), Roni – Ronaldo (Nazario) – would also come but he’s never scored one goal against me in his life so we got rid of him! The top three are Beckham, Zidane & Diego Maradona.”
That Galacticos team is the stuff of legends, and for many children growing up around that time, the stuff of dreams. Take some of the best players in the world and put them together to create the footballing equivalent of a supergroup, though, and you do have a team of disparate figures who don’t always make the best team possible: as Zidane himself said when the Bernabeu side sold Claude Makelele to Chelsea, “Why put another layer of gold paint on the Bentley when you are losing the entire engine?”
But that was the way Madrid worked. David Beckham, brought up by Manchester United and turned into what he’d become, was a massive signing for the Spanish club, and although they were buying the best free-kick taker Carlos has ever seen, Madrid already had plenty of the greatest in the business. And the fact that the former England captain would only win one La Liga title as his only major honour in Spain rather shows the waste.
Carlos’s admission about Figo speaks to the excesses of that time, too, when Madrid were able to assemble a team of dreams without really giving too much thought to anything else. It must have been a special team to play for, even if the trophies mostly came to the club before and after that era.
“The forward who complicated my life was Figo. I used to dream about how I could stop Figo, if he came at me from the right or the left – such a great player; thankfully our president decided to bring him here to play with me.”
Rivaldo, Roberto Carlos and David James were speaking exclusively to Betsafe Star Sixes. For all the odds and betting markets on England vs Brazil, please click here.