Legends in Review – Roberto Carlos

Roberto Carlos – The Early Days

Roberto Carlos da Silva Rocha was born in a small town near Sao Paulo, Brazil in 1973. Carlos grew up in poverty and his family worked as labourers on a nearby coffee farm. At the age of 12, Carlos himself took a job in a textiles factory to support his family financially.

However, the young Brazilian’s dream was to play football. He played on nearby streets with friends, and it wasn’t long before local clubs recognised his football talents.

Carlos’ first taste of higher-level football came with Uniao Sao Joao – a lesser-known Brazilian team in the lower leagues. He impressed at the club and, despite Uniao Sao Joao’s stature, Carlos earned his first call up to the national team at the age of 19.

As his reputation grew, Carlos earned a move to Atletico Mineiro, a first division Brazilian side. The defender continued to impress and after one season, moved again to Brazilian giants Palmeiras.

Palmeiras – 44 Appearances – 3 Goals

Carlos played for Palmeiras for two seasons and helped the team to win to successive Brazilian league titles. His consistent performances as an attacking full-back started to catch the eye of European clubs. Despite being linked with English top-flight team Aston Villa, it was esteemed Italian winners Inter Milan who secured Roberto Carlos’ services.

Inter Milan – 34 Appearances – 7 Goals

Carlos joined Inter in summer 1995 and he started his European career brightly, scoring the winner on his Serie A debut against Vincenza. It was a goal that would define one aspect of Carlos’ play as a footballer; a rocket of a left foot!

However, despite an impressive first season in Milan, where he scored seven goals, Carlos became frustrated playing as a left-winger. He wanted to feature as a left-back and playing out of position, along with Inter’s seventh-place finish in Serie A, left him to leave after one season.

Real Madrid – 527 Appearances – 70 Goals

Carlos joined Spanish side Real Madrid in the summer of 1996 for an estimated £5.4 million. It was a move that defined Carlos’ career as he immediately became first-choice left-back at the club, a role he made his own for a decade.

During his 10 year spell, Carlos became a serial winner with one of the most decorated clubs in world football. He won La Liga four times, the Champions League three times and the Spanish Super Cup three times.

Carlos’ career with Madrid saw him become part of the infamous Galacticos squad of the late 90s and early 00s. He played alongside many of the greats to play the game including, Zinedine Zidane, Raul, David Beckham, Ronaldo and Luis Figo.

The Brazilian full-back also developed his reputation for a scorer of supreme goals. He scored many incredible goals with his powerful left foot from all angles and distances.

Although Carlos did not win many individual awards, he captained Madrid on several occasions. He was also named as one of the club’s eternal captains alongside Madrid greats Guti and Raul.

After a dip in form in the 2008/07 season, Carlos announced that he would leave Madrid at the end of his contract. It was a move that brought the curtain down on an impressive 11-year spell with Los Blancos.

Fernebahce – 104 Appearances – 10 Goals

After his departure from Madrid, Carlos signed a two-year contract with Turkish side Fenerbahce. He helped the side to win the Turkish Super Cup in his first match for the club.

Carlos became an important part of Fernebahce’s side during his spell with the Turkish side and made over 100 appearances. The Brazilian helped the club to win another Turkish Super Cup in 2009 but, despite announcing that he wanted to bring a major trophy to the club, Carlos left before this was possible.

The Brazilian’s contract expired in December 2009 and, although he offered to play for Madrid for free, Carlos returned to Brazil for a second stint.

Corinthians – 44 Appearances – 1 Goal

Carlos’ return to Brazil was short-lived. He joined Corinthians for one season and joined his compatriot Ronaldo in their squad.

Carlos played well in his spell with the club, helping them to reach the top spot of the Brazilian league. He also scored more outstanding goals for the club including a swerving corner kick.

But the Brazilian’s time with Corinthians ended prematurely. He requested that the club terminate his contract after fans sent threats following a defeat in the Copa Libertadores. After just a year with the club, Carlos moved back to Europe.

Anzhi Makhachkala – 28 Appearances – 4 Goals

Carlos signed a two and a half year contract with Russian side Anzhi Makhachkala in February 2010. He took a new role in the team, often featuring as a defensive midfielder rather than in his left-back position.

The Brazilian continued to impress during his time in Russia, leading the team through the captaincy and scoring several goals for the team. He also took the role of the caretaker manager towards the end of his spell with Anzhi, replacing Gadzhi Gadzhiyev.

By 2012, Carlos had announced his plans for retirement. He withdrew from his playing responsibilities and started to support the club behind the scenes. ,

Brazil National Team – 113 Appearances – 10 Goals

Carlos was first called up to the Brazil national team at 19, whilst he was still developing in Sao Paulo. However, despite playing at an inferior level to some of his teammates, Carlos became a central part of the Brazil side of the 90s and early 00s.

Carlos featured in seven major tournaments for Brazil and also took part in one Olympic game. He was incredibly successful, winning one World Cup in 2002 and two Copa Americas in 1997 and 1999.

Despite international success in the late 90s and early 00s, Carlos was part of the Brazil team who were eliminated in the quarter-finals of the 2006 World Cup. As a result, the left-back announced his retirement from international football after the competition.

Style of Play

Roberto Carlos changed the role of full-back in modern football. He was the first of his kind in terms of getting forward to support attacking plays, despite playing in a defensive position.

He developed a reputation as a marauding defender but he had more to his game. The supersonic left foot was his key asset and produced a highlight reel of goals, unlike any other player. An absolute joy to watch in this regard, no other player has been able to hit the ball like Carlos.

Carlos’ leadership qualities were also very impressive. Not every player gets named as an eternal captain at a team as good as Real Madrid. His captaincy of the Brazil national team was also a testament to his character and professionalism.


The number of goals and assists he contributed throughout his career was, at the time, highly unusual for a defensive player. However, coaches and teams have adopted Carlos’ style of play in recent years.

The likes of Jurgen Klopp at Liverpool and Carlo Ancelotti at Everton encourage their full-backs to attack. It begs the question of whether the entirety of football today would be different if Roberton Carlos hadn’t played professional football.