Roberto Carlos: The Complete Modern Day Full-Back With Thunder in His Boots

Oct 27, 2020, 11:30 AM GMT
Roberto Carlos was one of a kind
Roberto Carlos was one of a kind | Tal Gilad/Minute Media
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Some players are synonymous with a particular club, while others with a particular country. Few players, however, are the face of a single position.

Roberto Carlos is.

The old adage that nobody wants to grow up to be a full-back is one that doesn't apply in this case. So much so, that he left a major club in order to pursue a career at left-back.

That is just part of the story, though.

Indeed, the aforementioned departure relates to Roberto Carlos' time with Inter; his first dabble with European football having been plucked from Palmeiras in 1995. His professional spell in Brazil was short but sweet, yet even after mesmerising in South America, nobody could have predicted his move across the globe could have been quite as remarkable as it was.

Roy Hodgson, of all people, was the first European to get a first-hand look at Roberto Carlos when he brought him to San Siro. Even those who have a wealth of experience managing a plethora of clubs and players can make mistakes, Hodgson being fallible on this case.

His insistence that Roberto Carlos was best suited as a forward was one such error.

In fairness, he still scored seven goals that season and set up another two, but it wasn't what he had set out to become. Thus, the next move in his career would prove to be the greatest one he'd ever make: Real Madrid.

Roberto Carlos moved to Real after one season with Inter
Roberto Carlos moved to Real after one season with Inter | Getty Images/Getty Images

When he would eventually leave the Spanish capital, his legacy would be so profound that any mention of 'left-back' would immediately conjure up an image of his face. Either that, or one of the countless thunderbastards he'd score across a glittering 11-season spell with Los Blancos.

His impact was immediate.

Arriving before Florentino Perez's first term as president, the point in Los Blancos' history where a policy emerged of only signing superstars, Roberto Carlos indubitably became one of the famed Galacticos. He was by all accounts a complete modern day left-back before Europe even knew it.

Charges forward were measured but impossible to counter; his tackling fierce yet fair, awareness of danger exemplary, offloads precise, crossing pinpoint, shooting style vicious, and smile beaming. Combining all of the traits one could desire in a full-back, there was also the iconic Samba flair in his application. He would entertain the masses, but satisfy his own desires for playing the game the way he wanted to.

One season down, one La Liga title to his name. The first of four he would lift in the capital, although the only one he would win that decade. It mattered little though, as the Champions League would take centre stage over the next three years. That, and one specific moment against France.

Everyone knows the goal. Everyone knows the opposition. Everyone knows who scored it. Nobody can explain it. Roberto Carlos has detailed the moment of the free-kick he scored on 3 June 1997, one analysed by French scientists, among others, but even he has said "I can't explain it". One of the all-time great goals in football history, but just one moment for the Brazilian in a glittering career well-stocked with famous memories.

He would win the Champions League that season, scoring twice in the group stages and setting up three more goals en route to the final against Juventus. A drilled cross-cum-shot in the second half of that clash would turn out to be the assist for Predrag Mijatović's winner.

Two years later the feat would be repeated. 17 matches in total during Los Blancos' Champions League run, and Roberto Carlos didn't miss a single minute. Not only that, his four goals and four assists were invaluable throughout a gruelling campaign that culminated in a final showdown with Valencia. A 3-0 win would secure the crown in a slightly less nervy manner.

Roberto Carlos was the best in his position worldwide, barring only Paolo Maldini, who was a different ilk of defender. The ludicrous aspect of it being was that he wasn't even at his peak at this point. Voted as the UEFA Defender of the Year in 2002 and 2003, he would win a maiden World Cup in Japan and subsequently finish as runner-up in the Ballon d'Or ranking, behind only Brazil teammate Ronaldo.

His list of accolades is endless. Assisting one of the great Champions League goals, claiming further La Liga titles, becoming Madrid's most capped foreign player ever, earning 125 caps for Brazil behind only Cafu, the list goes on.

If you love football, you love Roberto Carlos. He made playing full-back fun. Being handed the tag of defender did not imply you couldn't express yourself in an attacking sense: 70 goals and 88 assists in 527 Real outings attest to that. Setting the tone for what a left-back could be in the modern era, it's of little surprise that his successor would hail from his own nation.

Marcelo has repeatedly cited Roberto Carlos as his hero. He's not the only one.

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