A true attacker, Rivaldo could do it all. Score goals, set up goals, bend in audacious free-kicks, take players on, link up the midfield and attack, the Brazilian forward was class and intelligent.
Rivaldo’s esteemed playing career took place over 20 eventful years. He reached the heights of his career during a long spell with Barcelona and spent his later years exploring football in more obscure nations.
Rivaldo – The Early days
Rivaldo was born in Recife, Brazil, in April 1972, He grew up in poverty in the favelas of the city and experienced malnourishment during his upbringing, causing bow-leggedness and poor health.
Rivaldo’s physical appearance lead to initial scepticism about whether he would succeed as a footballer. When he was 16, in 1989, Rivaldo played for Paulistano. But coaches believed he did not have the strength and physicality to make it to the professional level.
Santa Cruz – 36 Appearances – 20 Goals
Despite concerns over his physical stature, Rivaldo showed his uncompromising ability. In 1991, he signed for Santa Cruz, a Brazilian club based in Recife.
The striker hit the ground running at the lower league side and scored 20 goals in 36 appearances. However, he only remained at Santa Cruz for one season. His impressive goal scoring record earned him a move south to Sao Paulo.
Mogi Mirim – 40 Appearances – 36 Goals
In 1992, Rivaldo signed for Mogi Mirim, a second division Brazilian side. During his only season here, Rivaldo enhanced his reputation with more goals and with more frequency. His prolific form captured the attention of first division team Corinthians at the end of the 1992/93 season.
Rivaldo signed for Corinthians on loan from Mogi Mirim in 1993. But the forward was completely unfazed by the step-up in divisions and he scored 22 goals in one season whilst on loan with Corinthians.
Palmeiras – 97 Appearances – 68 Goals
By the mid-90s, Rivaldo was a well-known player in Brazil. As a result, he left Mogi Mirim in 1994 and joined their Sao Paulo rivals, Palmeiras.
Rivaldo remained at Palmeiras for two seasons and helped the club to retain their league title in 1994 – the first of the Brazilian strikers many footballing honours.
Rivaldo’s rise through the Brazilian leagues was not passed ignored by European teams. Spanish side Deportivo La Coruna took notice and signed the Brazilian star for an estimated transfer fee of £10 million.
Deportivo La Coruna – 44 Appearances – 22 Goals
Now an established striker, Rivaldo was given his chance to shine in Deportivo’s front line straight away in the 1996/97 season and he found the net four times in his first five matches.
Rivaldo continued to impress for Deportivo and finished his season in Spain with 22 goals in all competitions including a run of eight goals in six matches towards the end of the campaign.
Barcelona – 225 Appearances – 129 Goals
One season scoring goals at Deportivo was enough to convince La Liga giants Barcelona to make a move for the Brazilian. The club paid £25.7 million to secure Rivaldo’s services.
It was a profitable investment for Barcelona. Rivaldo established himself as the club’s top striker for five seasons and won several high-profile competitions with the club and earned individual accolades too.
In his first season at the club, Rivaldo was the top scorer with 19 goals, he also lifted La Liga and the Copa Del Rey with the Spanish giants. More success followed and Rivaldo was once again top scorer in the 1998/99 season, this time scoring 24 goals in Barcelona’s next La Liga winning season.
Rivaldo’s success was recognised in 1999 as he won both the Ballon D’or and the FIFA Best Men’s Player of the Year award.
The Brazilian continued to find the net for Barcelona with incredible regularity and he finished the 2001/02 season with 36 goals. However, once his contract expired in June 2002, Rivaldo was released.
AC Milan – 40 Appearances – 8 Goals
AC Milan quickly snapped up Rivaldo on a three-year deal in 2002. His first season in Milan was successful, but not as prolific. Rivaldo lifted both the Copa Italia and the Champions League in 2003 and scored eight goals for AC.
The following season saw Rivaldo decline and he left the club in November 2003, terminating his contract with immediate effect. The striker moved back to Brazil briefly to play for Cruzeiro but it wasn’t long before he was back in European football.
Olympiacos – 101 Appearances – 43 Goals
Rivaldo signed with Greek side Olympiacos in July 2004 and enjoyed a successful stint with the club. In his three seasons at Olympiacos, Rivaldo won three consecutive Greek championships. His defining moment for the club came at the end of the 2004/05 season when he scored the championship-winning goal for Olympiacos on the final day of the season.
Despite announcing that he would be returning to Brazil following the end of his contract in 2007, Rivaldo remained in Greece for another season.
AEK Athens – 47 Appearances – 17 Goals
After a dispute with Olympiacos’ chairman over concerns about his age, Rivaldo joined their Greek rivals, AEK Athens. He continued to score goals domestically and in Europe at the age of 34.
Rivaldo played in several positions and his change of position from a striker to an all-rounder was highlighted by his 15 assists throughout the season.
Uzbekistan, Angola and Return to Brazil
After leaving AEK Athens, Rivaldo joined Bunyodkor, a first division team in Uzbekistan. It was a high-profile move that earned Rivaldo a two-year contract worth over $10 million. In the later stages of his career,
Rivaldo flitted between teams in Brazil in the latter stages of his career. He re-joined Mogi Mirim twice and even spent some time playing in Angola for Kabuscorp. However, in 2015, following his third and final spell at Mogi Mirim, the prolific Brazilian retired from professional football.
Brazil National Team 75 Appearances – 35 Goals
For a decade, Rivaldo was one of Brazil’s star players and was central to the nation’s international success. Rivaldo was part of the team that reached the World Cup final in 1998 and played a starring role in the 2002 World Cup-winning side alongside Ronaldo and Ronaldinho.
In addition to his World Cup success, Rivaldo also lifted the Copa America in 1999. He was also named player of the tournament and shared the Golden Boot with his compatriot Ronaldo after scoring five goals in the competition.
Style of Play
Rivaldo had an exceptional footballing ability, reflected by the number of goals he scored at the professional level. He was capable of the spectacular, scoring many free-kicks and curling strikes.
Dribbling was a key asset of the Brazilian’s game. He could control the ball at pace, drive forward and regularly took players on with his famous feint. Rivaldo used this skill to expert effect in the 2002 World Cup final to set up Ronaldo.
However, a big part of Rivaldo’s game was also his professionalism and versatility. Although widely regarded as a striker, Rivaldo offered more intricate link-up play with his team-mates. He regularly played just behind the main striker, in a role known as a shadow striker. But, Rivaldo was also capable of creating goals from either flank as a winger, highlighted by his 89 career assists.
Rivaldo is one of the most decorated footballers in world football. Very few have emulated his career, particularly his open-mindedness later in his career to play football in Angola and Uzbekistan.
He is regarded as one of the greatest to play for the Brazil national team, placing him in high-regard alongside the likes of Pele, Socrates, Ronaldo and Ronaldinho.
Unlike many of his footballing contemporaries, Rivaldo did not take up coaching or club management upon retirement, leaving football behind when he hung up his boots in 2015.