Mario Zagallo is number 25 in 90min's Top 50 Great Managers of All Time series. Follow the rest of the series over the course of the next five weeks.

It's the dream of aspiring footballers all across the globe to lift the World Cup. To be the conductor for an orchestra of jubilation that is spreading throughout your nation​. To know you've brought so much joy to your country, and that your name has been etched into history books.

Whatever your dreams may be, you're not Mario Zagallo. 

By all accounts he could be considered the greediest man in football, so accomplished at both playing and managing that he starved the rest of the world from coming close to success for so long.

That's right, Zagallo has four World Cup triumphs to his name. Two as a player, one as an manager and one as an assistant manager respectively. The Brazilian blows everyone else out of the water when it comes to prosperity in this competition, with his name forever being associated with the tournament for one of a number of reasons.

Winning it as a player in 1958 and 1962, Zagallo featured alongside Pele in both of those tournaments in a magnificent forward line, scoring in the 1958 final alongside the legendary striker.  

However, it was eight years after his second World Cup triumph where the world stopped in awe to witness was is rightly heralded as the greatest football team to grace the game. At least, if it isn't, it should be.

After a brief stint in charge between 1967-68, Zagallo returned to the national fold to take on, arguably, the most pressurised job in world football.

Career Honours
Rio de Janeiro State Championship (1967, 1968, 1972, 2001)
Taça Brasil (1968)
FIFA World Cup (1970)
FIFA Confederations Cup (1997)
Copa America (1997)
Copa dos Campeões (2001)

It was here where history was written. 

It was here where the blueprint for dynamic flowing football was forged. 

It was here where Zagallo sculpted a Brazilian side towards a style that has become symbolic with the country. 

Brazil 1970, the finest the world has seen.

Jorge Mario Zagallo

At this point the Seleção were in a state of uncertainty. Blessed with a plethora of immense talent, previous manager João Saldanha was sacked after disagreements with Brazil's president Emílio Garrastazú Médici over the use of certain players.

In stepped Zagallo. Undeterred by the previous off-field issues that were rumbling on, he had just one thing in his sights: finding out how to fit Brazil's plethora of talent into one lineup.

Having retained the 4-2-4 setup of the previous coach, Zagallo set about finding how to incorporate his wealth of outstanding number tens into one side.


Rivellino had been overlooked by Saldanha, more than often resigned to the bench. However, Zagallo saw him for what he was: a classy dribbler with a monstrous left foot. There was also Jairzinho, lightening quick with the ball at his feet with the strength and incision to take anyone on one-on-one. In the heart of midfield there was Gerson, the puppet master who pulled all the strings and had the range of pass no other player in world football possessed. Oh, and then there was Pele and Tostão. Who could forget.

At the back, Felix stood in goal alongside a back four of captain Carlos Alberto, Piazza, Brito and Everaldo.

The only player missing was Clodoaldo, who was the perfect accompaniment to Gerson in midfield, where together they combined to act as the pivot in the centre of the pitch from where the forwards could weave their magic.

Playing both Pele and Tostão was pivotal for Zagallo, and in order to make it work he applied a number of tactical tweaks for the tournament. Pele would operate slightly deeper than Tostão, acting as the essential playmaker and arguably the closest thing to a natural number ten.

"He let the players play" 


This meant Tostão was the number nine in the side, although he too operated more as a false nine, roaming across the front line and dropping deep to pull defender out of position and free space out wide.

When Tostão would make runs, the centre backs would follow, in turn creating space for Pele or Jairzinho, with the right winger cutting in from that flank in very direct fashion. The enigma that was Rivellino was what had troubled Saldanha, but Zagallo opted to field him as an unorthodox winger, drifting into the centre where he would forge a three-man midfield with Clodoaldo and Gerson. Yet, equally Zagallo would allow him freedom to burst forward and link up with Pele in attacking positions, where his lethal left foot could be put to use.

In defence, Piazza, Brito and Everaldo would stand guard. The former was in fact a defender, but his re-imagining in the role was yet another demonstration of tactical astuteness from Zagallo, knowing his superior ability on the ball would benefit the Seleção's build-up play. A notable absentee from the back four is Carlos Alberto, who was instructed to bomb down the right flank when Brazil were in possession - which was almost all the time.

These tweaks to the side were revolutionary. Other teams had dabbled with certain elements Zagallo utilised, but none had utilising them so effectively.

Nevertheless, for all his work in how Brazil would play, all that was instilled into the side tactically were no more than mere instructions. These were the best footballers on the planet, and their individual talent allowed them to remove the shackles and create 'Joga Bonito'.

When the tournament kicked off, a group of England, the reigning world champions, Czechoslovakia, and Romania posed a daunting test. Four years prior, European steel and aggression was ultimately what eliminated Brazil from the World Cup, however, on this occasion no such issues would boil to the surface. 

Brazil were to dazzle the world like never before.

With the public watching in colour for the first time, the globe sat back in awe, marvelling as the Seleção dismantled Czechoslovakia. Having fallen behind in the 11th minute, they turned on the style with a glorious display of team ethic, flair and ruthlessness to win 4-1.

Their biggest challenge followed. England awaited Zagallo's men but an injury in the opener to Gerson raised fears, with such a key piece in the Brazilian jigsaw deserting them.

They came close to a lead, only to be denied by what is widely regarded as the greatest save of all time by Gordon Banks. Unrelenting, Brazil continued forging ways to break down Bobby Moore's solid defence. It came with 30 minutes remaining, as Pele fed Jairzinho for the only goal of the game, meaning Brazil had come through their biggest test without a crucial cog in their machine.


Zagallo rested Rivellino for the final group game against Romania, yet still implored his side to entertain the world, which they did with gusto to set up a quarter final clash with Peru.

With Gerson back in the side, they not only beat the Peruvians, they schooled them.

Displaying every possible means of attack, they did everything that could be done on a football pitch for 90 minutes. From every angle they rained down on the South American side, with the confidence and arrogance to perform undefendable flicks and tricks throughout. A 4-2 win meant a semi final awaited with Uruguay.

This was another tricky test, and it was made even more tricky when Brazil fell behind to a 19th minute effort. However, they came storming back, and what transpired were 11 players cowering in fear as wave after wave of penetrable attacks carved holes into their defence.

Meanwhile, the spectators at home revelled in footballing majesty, the likes of which nobody had ever seen before. The game would finish 3-1 to Brazil, and Italy would await them in the final. 

The world's most lethal attacking force taking on Europe's most solid defence who counter attacked to devastating effect.

A match up that was mouthwatering on paper.

A match that ended up becoming one of the most one-sided in World Cup final history.

Aware of the Italian's approach, Zagallo commanded his side to exhaust the Italians, moving the ball around constantly across midfield to counter their man-marking. Oh boy, did it work.

Brazilian forward Jairzinho is carried by fans aft

Demonstrating their ability to score from nigh-on any position, the opener came from a throw in. Taken short, Rivellino lofted the ball into the air towards Pele to head home his nation's 100th goal in World Cup competitions. An equaliser arrived before half time, as a mistake at the back allowed Roberto Boninsegna to punish Zagallo's men. However, they needn't have turned up the second half.

A contest, this was not.

The indomitable Brazilians elevated football to a true art form. They represented the encapsulation of everybody's football dreams before and ever since. Gerson fired the second in and Jairzinho netted his seventh of the tournament before Carlos Alberto, the captain sealed the deal.

It is one of the most replayed and talked about goals ever. Every detail, from the steady build up play to Pele’s languid yet sublimely waited pass, and the exquisitely timed run and emphatic finish of Carlos Alberto - it was the perfect way to cap off Zagallo’s greatest managerial achievement.

In doing so, he became the first man to win the World Cup as a player and manager. An accolade since matched, but never bettered.

He would go on to lift the trophy as assistant in 1994, while leading Brazil all the way to the final again in 1998.

Nothing, though, came close to 1970.

Teams ManagedYears
Brazil1967-1968, 1970-1974, 1991-1994, 1994-1998, 2002, 2003-2006
Botafogo1966-1970, 1975, 1986-1987
​Flamengo​1972-1974, 1984-1985, 2000-2001
Vasco Da Gama​1980-1981, 1990-1991
Saudi Arabia​1981-1984
United Arab Emirates​1989-1990

Zagallo had crafted football that was quick, imaginative and full of flair. Potent, fluid and relentless, yet tactically peerless.

It was true 'Joga Bonito'.

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