If you ask most people where the most storied and cultivated football history exists in the entire world, you are likely to hear one country’s name time and time again: Brazil. South America’s largest nation has been home to many of the sport’s unstoppable talents, flashy stars, and classy studs. It’s a simple fact of the game – nobody makes them quite like Brazil.
For that reason, along with a few others, Brazil represents an essential component of the sport. Football wouldn’t be the same without them. Whether we are talking about their truly dominant team at the 1970 World Cup, their diehard fans who never fail to show up to an international game – regardless of wherever in the world it is being held – with their party vibes and exuberant demeanor, or the feelings that names like Pele and Garrincha engender, you know that Brazil will always represent one of the top dawgs in the sport. In shorter terms, they are the New York Yankees of football.
We could spend weeks talking about the downright nasty players who have represented the great nation of Brazil and have gone down in football lore (practically as urban legends). However, that is not to say that these men were something larger than that – men. They were merely humans who were masters at their craft, and for every legendary great, there is an equivalently awful player who failed to live up to sky-high expectations.
Fans try to forget that these duds ever disgraced a football pitch, but there is no denying that these players have existed over the years. Brazilian football fans may have to dig deep into their repressed memories to relive the awful experiences these guys so graciously brought to the world.
Like we said, for every Pele, there was a Fumaca, and many, many more in between.
So here is our list of the 20 Biggest Studs and Suckers of the Brazilian Football World. Feel free to drop a comment if you feel that we have left any poor soul or unmistakable legend out.
- Stud: Rivaldo
One of the players who is often forgotten about as a remarkable midfielder in the 1990s, Rivaldo in his heyday used to overwhelm opposing defensive fronts like it was nobody’s business. Known for being creative, skillful, sweet-footed, and talented beyond belief, Rivaldo often doesn’t get the praise he deserves. Perhaps he gets lost in-between the greater legends before him and the promising youngsters coming up through the ranks in the modern game. But let us not forget to celebrate the great career Rivaldo had, with those bending free kicks, overhead daggers, and strikes from long range.
When he officially called it a career for good in 2015, Rivaldo had amassed 18 European honors and three Brazilian titles as a club player. He also notched five winners’ medals with the national club, including the unforgettable 2002 World Cup.
Personal accolades were not of his wheelhouse either. In 1999, he took home the Ballon d’Or hardware and was honored with the FIFA World Player of the Year award. Five years later, Rivaldo was included in the FIFA 100 list of the greatest living players in the world. Additionally, he is an inductee in the Brazilian Football Museum Hall of Fame.
Rivaldo did it all, and the long list of achievements speak volumes to the type of impact he brought to the Brazilian pitch.
- Sucker: Branco
Claudio Ibrahim Vaz, or the player commonly known as Branco, is a Brazilian left back that many fans strive to push far out of their memories. His shining moment was scoring a couple of timely goals for the victorious Brazilian team in the 1994 FIFA World Cup. He was most known for his habit of pointing the valve of the ball in the direction he wanted his free kick to travel.
Other than those moments and individual quirks, Branco was nothing but a letdown.
To put this claim into perspective, Branco made appearances in 72 times for Brazil from 1985 to 1995. In all, he netted nine goals. He sat out the first four games in the 1994 World Cup, before knocking out the Netherlands in the quarter-finals with a 35-meter free kick and putting a penalty kick in the back of the net in a shootout win against Italy in the final.
Over the course of three World Cup tournaments, Branco saw time on the field in only 12 matches. Later in his professional career, he faltered under issues with his weight. It was a sign of an underwhelming career coming to a close.
- Stud: Roberto Carlos
Roberto Carlos was more than just one of the best left-backs in football’s modern era. He is often times described as the most offensive-minded left-back in the history of the game.
El Hombre Bala (“The Bullet Man”) was quite the suitable nickname for Roberto Carlos. Not only could he kick the ball up to an ungodly 105 miles per hour, but he could also bend his free kicks like it was his birthright – so much so that his free kick is often times dubbed the “banana.”
But Roberto Carlos would not have made this list based solely on his elite left foot and ability to put unpredictable movement on the ball that caused even the best opposing goalkeepers to look dazed and confused. He boasts one of the longest lists of accomplishments of any footballer in the history of the great game. Roberto Carlos was voted runner-up as the FIFA World Player of the Year in 1997. He was selected to the FIFA World Cup Dream Team, and cracked the FIFA 100 list of world’s greatest living players in 2004. Playing for the Brazilian national team in three World Cups, he was instrumental in the team making the final in 1998 and 2002. In both of those years, he was named to the FIFA World Cup All-Star Team.
Roberto Carlos will always be remembered as one of the greatest players, not only to suit up for Brazil, but to step foot on a football pitch.
- Sucker: Mario Jardel
In all honesty, Mario Jardel was not a poor footballer. The now retired forward enjoyed a successful career with multiple clubs in England, Italy, Spain, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Argentina, and Australia. In his 20-year career, he was responsible for 345 goals in 443 appearances.
But as for his performance with his home squad of Brazil, he fell well short of expectations.
He began his national team career when he was a mere 19 years old. In 1993, he capped one time for the Brazil U-20 football team during the FIFA World Cup in Australia. Brazil went on to become champions of that tournament. His debut for Selecao was in 1996, when he was put into a friendly game against Russia as the legend Ronaldo’s substitute. He also made the national team for the Copa America tournament in 2001.
His best stint was for the Portuguese team Porto, where he scored 130 goals in four seasons (125 appearances). Brazil never was able to enjoy Mario Jardel at the top of his game.
- Stud: Neymar Jr.
Neymar da Silva Santos Junior, the man known to most people as Neymar or Neymar Jr., is the youngest player on this list. The 25-year-old Brazilian playmaker is already getting votes as having the potential to be the best footballer of all time. With speed like Ronaldo (Brazilian Ronaldo, that is) and dribbling skills like Messi, Neymar Jr. brandishes a skill set that hardly anybody in the football world can match.
Now on to the accolades. Neymar Jr. is already Brazil’s all-time leading scorer and holds an Olympic gold medal to his name. Those opposed to Neymar Jr. being included on a list of Brazilian greats will point to the fact that he has yet to win a FIFA World Cup. That may be true, but Brazil’s inability to win a World Cup in his time can hardly be put on his shoulders. The lack of supporting cast is what has doomed Brazil in recent tries, rather than Neymar’s play. If anything, Neymar Jr. was the only player on the national roster keeping them in those games.
This list would be incomplete without him. Who knows, maybe in a few years Neymar Jr. will slide even further up the list of Brazilian greats. After all, he still has at least another 10 years of his career left (barring injury) and could surpass the 1,000-goal threshold.
- Sucker: Afonso Alves
Afonso Alves Martins Junior, or simply Afonso Alves, was a brilliant striker and enjoyed an illustrious career. The bad thing for Brazilian fans was that none of his brilliance was in a Brazilian uniform.
Afonso Alves burst onto the scene in 2004, helping his team Malmö FF win the Swedish championship with 29 goals. He then went on to play for the Dutch club Heerenveen, where he notched 45 goals in 39 appearances from 2006 to 2008.
But in his eight appearances for the Brazilian national team in 2007, he managed just one goal against Mexico in a 3-1 victory.
Afonso Alves saved all his good stuff for the overseas play. However, in 2008 he underperformed after being sold in a ludicrous contract to the premier league (Middlesbrough), which had him promptly shipped out to the Qatari sports club Al-Sadd for a discount price.
At least Brazil wasn’t the only place that had their expectations crushed.
- Stud: Kaka
Kaka may have been the most elegant footballer ever. He burst onto the scene as an 18-year-old kid in 2001 and since went on to dazzle the world with his ability, rack up some of the most prestigious awards the sport has to offer, all while helping his Brazilian national team along the way to greatness.
While Kaka is often remembered for his successes playing for the Italian club Milan and the MLS expansion club Orlando City, he also is fresh in the hearts and memories of Brazilian fans for his prowess in the international spotlight. He made his debut with his homeland in 2002 (what a great year to begin!) and was also included on the roster in 2006 and 2010. He led the entire World Cup tournament in assists in 2010.
Additionally, Kaka was a member of Brazil’s 2005 and 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup victorious squads. In the latter campaign, he took home the Golden Ball Award as the tournament’s best player.
At the twilight of his career, Kaka is considered one of the best players of his generation. Not only was he nominated three times to the FIFPro World XI and the UEFA Team of the Year, but he has been listed on ESPN’s most famous athletes in the world compilation and is one of only four players to have won the FIFA World Cup, the UEFA Champions League, and the Ballon d’Or (along with Ronaldinho, Rivaldo, and Zinedine Zidane).
- Sucker: Kleberson
Only one word comes to mind upon hearing the name Kleberson: disappointment. The midfielder was supposed to be part of the one-two punch alongside burgeoning star Cristiano Ronaldo (sound familiar?) in a Manchester United uniform in 2003. But over the course of his career both abroad and playing for Brazil, Kleberson proved to be more of the punching bag than the puncher.
In 32 appearances for the Brazilian clubs, Kleberson notched a lowly 2 goals and was an overwhelming disappointment. In his 2002 FIFA World Cup debut, he was relegated to the bench for the first four games. He was thrust into the starting lineup for the remainder of the tournament after a modest showing in a game against England, and his signature moment (arguably the only one of his World Cup career) was setting up one of two Brazilian goals in the final match.
Kleberson was retained on the roster for the 2003 FIFA Confederations Cup, but after being eliminated in the group stage, he fled to Europe to join Manchester United. Not only did he squander his opportunity there, but he also lost his position on the national team in the process. He would bounce around on and off the national team for the next seven years.
- Stud: Romario
Perhaps the most flashy and selfish player on this list is Romario. In his heyday, the guy had a knack for the back of the net, so much so that he claimed to have scored more than 1,000 goals over the course of his stellar career. This claim has been disputed wholeheartedly over the years, but the very fact that he stands by it says something about the type of person that he is.
Romario was rumored to be a bit of a flaunty character around the training ground and it showed on the field. He would often times demand the ball and take shots when passes would have given his team a better chance to score. He also insisted on penalty kick duties at all times.
But that being said, he backed up that attitude. With the Brazilian national team, Romario formed a partnership with Ronaldo and ended his career having notched 55 goals. That number has since been surpassed, but Romario remains a fan favorite of the Brazilian people.
Say what you will about his character as a player, but it is entirely possible that Romario’s psychological fortitude gave him that edge over his opponents.
- Sucker: Anderson
If you want to talk about a player who saved it all for his club team and never game his national fan base anything to cheer about, then look no further than Anderson. Coming up the ranks in the early 2000’s, Anderson burst onto the scene with the Primeira Liga club Porto and established himself as a hot name in the game. But failed stints with Manchester United, Fiorentina, Internacional, and the Brazilian national team would go on to define his career.
In full disclosure, Anderson actually had modest success in 2005 playing for Brazil in the South American U-17 Championship. His timely goals and consistent crosses helped Brazil take home the honors.
But once he graduated to the Brazilian senior team in 2007, his best days were already behind him. Anderson went on to appear in eight games from 2007 to 2008, and did not score another goal.
A Premier League flop and national dud, Anderson is remembered as one of the biggest wastes of potential in Brazilian football history.
- Stud: Zico
If it were not for having played so long ago, many football fanatics would argue that Zico should be ranked even higher than tenth on this list. The man who is often referred to as the “White Pele,” Zico was perhaps the world’s best player in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. As an attacking midfielder, he showcased his creative playmaking skills, centered around his superb technical skills, seemingly clairvoyant vision, and a knack for the goal, especially with his unpredictably bending free kicks.
To this day, Zico is considered one of the most clinical finishers and precise passers in the history of the game. He was able to show off his moves in the 1978, 1982, and 1986 World Cups, though Brazil did not emerge victorious in any of these tournaments. He was chosen Player of the Year in 1981 and 1983, and finished his career with 48 goals in 71 appearances for Brazil – cementing him as the fifth highest goal-scorer in Brazilian national history.
If you doubt the abilities of Zico because you are too young to have seen him play, Pele once described him as “the one player that came closest to me.” How is that for a comparison?
- Sucker: Mirandinha
Francisco Ernandi Lima da Silva, or the man known to most as Mirandinha, was the first Brazilian football player to make the transition to the English leagues after signing a £575,000 contract in 1987.
That was probably the highest and only shining moment for him in his career.
Mirandinha never really panned out for Newcastle United that year, nor any of the other clubs he played for (Palmeiras, Ponte Preta, and Fortaleza, to name a few). While playing for Newcastle United, he amassed 19 goals in 54 appearances, a weak tally when compared to the 300 or so goals he had notched in his time playing for Brazilian clubs.
For all the hype he brought to the game after that transfer to England, Mirandinha only appeared in four games for the Brazilian national team and scored one goal. If it were not for making the countless lists on the internet of worthless football players, Mirandinha would be a forgotten name lodged deep in the history books.
- Stud: Ronaldo
Once upon a time there was another man named Ronaldo who did not flash his washboard abs on television commercials and was not considered the hottest beau in the world by female football fans.
“O Fenomeno” was a striker from another planet who revolutionized the game in so many ways. By the age of 23, he had scored over 200 goals for various clubs and his country. Brazil definitely enjoyed having the three-time FIFA World Player of the Year (1996, 1997, and 2002), two-time Ballon d’Or (1997 and 2002) and UEFA Club Footballer of the Year (1998) to call their beloved son. Ronaldo also was crowned La Liga Best Foreign Player (1997) and won the European Golden Boot after scoring 34 goals in La Liga in 1998.
But where the legend of Ronaldo really resides is in Brazilian national team history. In 98 career matches, he compiled 62 goals, which is good enough for second place in Brazilian national history. He was the youngest member of the Brazilian squad to win the 1994 FIFA World Cup at age 17. He received the Golden Ball award in the 1998 World Cup. In 2002, the legend continued to grow as he scored twice in the final matched and received the Golden Boot for the tournament, all while playing alongside Ronaldinho and Rivaldo. In the 2006 FIFA World Cup, Ronaldo scored goal number 15, a World Cup all-time record at that moment.
- Sucker: Andre Santos
Andre Clarindo dos Santos, or simply Andre Santos, makes the list as one of the more recent suckers in modern memory. The left-back, left-winger hybrid has bounced around from club to club in his moderately short career, without having enjoyed breakout success anywhere. He currently plays for Boluspor in the TFF First League.
Andre Santos has been a particularly poor player for the Brazilian national team. In 2009, he debuted as a substitute in a match against Egypt. Although he was a member of the Brazilian squad to win the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup, he has amassed a whopping zero goals (count ‘em) in 24 total appearances. That is pathetic.
Other than starting a few games for the national team and picking up a yellow card against the United States that ultimately led to him being dropped from the roster, Andre Santos has had nothing short of a lousy career. There is still time for the 34-year-old letdown to make some noise with Boluspor, but the clock of his career is ticking by day by day.
- Stud: Ronaldinho
The biggest and brightest star footballer to come out of Brazil in the 21st century has undoubtedly been Ronaldinho. Even the name Ronaldinho emits some sort of feeling that you know you are talking about a truly fantastic expert at his craft.
Where to begin with his accolades? The attacking midfielder navigated his way to multiple FIFA World Player of the Year awards and a Ballon d’Or honor. As an international phenomenon, Ronaldinho played 97 matches for his home country, netting 33 goals. He was a critical component of the 2002 FIFA World Cup-winning team, together with Ronaldo and Rivaldo. In that tournament, he scored twice, registered two assists, and was awarded to the FIFA World Cup All-Star Team. He also captained his team in the Confederations Cup in 2005 to the title.
Ronaldinho perpetually beat defenders with impeccable technical skills, blazing agility, dribbling prowess, tricks with his feet, no-look passes, and darting free kicks. Ronaldinho was truly unstoppable with the ball at his feet.
His legend lives on to this day, and will surely live on for many more years to come.
- Sucker: Roque Junior
A trend that has not been seen so often on this list is a bust being included on UEFA Champions League and FIFA World Cup rosters. Roque Junior managed these feats and somehow flew under the radar for so long. But to this day, it baffles so many football fanatics how the backer managed to accumulate 50 caps for the Brazilian national team.
His awful play rears its ugly head most noticeably in the Premier League with Leeds United. Simply put, he was not to be trusted to defend the back line. In the seven games in which he appeared in for Leeds, the club conceded 24 easily-earned goals. Roque Junior was part of a unit that allowed 3.4 goals per game in that span.
It is not entirely fair to place all of the blame on Roque Junior for this abysmal stat, but the fact that he only found success at the professional level when surrounded by actual established professionals suggests that he rode the coattails of superior talent for many years. Even Urban Dictionary took notice, citing his name as the equivalent of an awful player. The entry reads, “Like whoa, Roque is the worst player ever, Bagguley is infinitely better.”
- Stud: Garrincha
You cannot discuss Brazilian football greats without mentioning Garrincha in your first breath. Though he is long removed from the game, his legend lives on with the likes of the best players of all-time.
Often described as the greatest dribbler ever, Garrincha could make defenders run in circles around him to no success. In 1962, he is credited by many football historians to single-handedly provide Brazil with the World Cup victory. He got it done before it was cool; twenty-four years down the road, everyone in the world lost their minds after Diego Maradona had a similar run of success for his national Argentina team.
Garrincha earned his nickname: “Joy of the People.” Even though his statistics certainly attest to his greatness, nothing speaks more to it than the challenge he had to overcome to even set foot on a football pitch. Garrincha was plagued with a spinal defect bestowed upon him from birth, which made his legs bend in unnatural positions. The odds were stacked against him from the moment he entered the world, but he persisted and won the hearts of Brazilians and worldwide fans alike.
Despite winning the World Cup twice in his storied career, perhaps his biggest legacy has been inspiring others to strive through difficult circumstances and be the best they can be when the deck is stacked against them.
- Sucker: Jo
Most people today think of Jo as a flop with just about every team he has ever dawned a jersey for, with the exception of Corinthians. This reputation is almost entirely spot-on.
Jo was a young Brazilian stud at the age of 16 for Corinthians and later CSKA Moscow, scoring 47 goals in 133 appearances for both clubs. But when the big boys up at Manchester City came calling, the brightest spotlight proved to be too much for the kid to handle. He netted only one goal in 21 appearances for the baby blue team and was finally shown the door for good in 2011.
His Brazilian national resume does not exactly burst off the page either. Jo has amassed five goals in 20 caps from 2007 to 2014, which altogether is not too bad, but definitely not up to par in comparison to the three goals in seven appearances he created for the U-23 team in 2008.
Jo’s story is not one of a downright awful player. He is simply the textbook example of overhype; his occasionally average form is never given any credit because of the stratospheric levels he once played at as a mere teenager.
- Stud: Pele
Will there ever be a player as talented, as praiseworthy, as downright unstoppable as Pele was for Brazil for close to two decades? I would bet a hefty sum against it.
Pele represents a living embodiment of the romance of 20th century football. He boasts a three-time World Cup champion to his name, and is often regarded as the most iconic player to ever grace us with his presence on this earth. After making his international debut for Brazil at the age of 16, he would go on to be crowned a world champion less than a year later after scoring six goals for Selecao, two of which came in the 1958 final against Sweden (a 5-2 victory for Brazil). In all, he procured an untouchable 77 goals in 92 total matches, a feat that will likely be in the record books for all of eternity.
Pele also made a name for himself at the club level, making his mark for Santos over 18 years and then joining the New York Cosmos in the NASL. Pele haters point to his absence in European club football as a knock against his resume as the best ever to play the game. But if you ask the man, I doubt it bothers him very much.
- Sucker: Fumaca
At the top of this list, and likely to hold that spot for the next 100 years and counting, is none other than the man most loathed in Brazilian football history. Fumaca is a name that conjures up some of the worst feelings in those fans loyal to the yellow and green.
It would not surprise me if many people have forgotten the former midfielder. After all, he has not played in close to eight years and did not exactly light up the score board in his time on the pitch. But the only way he could truly be forgotten is if you unconsciously and forcefully removed his memory from your head.
Once given the nickname “Brazilian non-footballer” (an overt slight to his inability perform on the pitch), Fumaca was nothing short of a liability for clubs like Newcastle United, Birmingham City, Crystal Palace, Colchester United, Derby County, Caxias, and Watford, along with many others. He has even been compared to the equally-poor Ali Dia by recent internet trolls.
All things considered, Fumaca is the ugliest blemish on the hulking supermodel that is Brazilian football.