Continuing with our series on the greatest footballers of all time, here’s No. 16 on our list.
No. 16 – Romario
When historians in the future look back to the year 1966, they probably won’t find it any more special than the present year. Yes, Sergio Leone’s third part of the Dollars trilogy, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly released in theaters across Italy, England won the FIFA World Cup, and the Soviet spacecraft Luna 9 became the first unmanned craft to land on the Moon, but that’s just about it. A football fan, however, will remember 1966 as a monumental year; it was, after all, Romário de Souza Faria’s year of birth.
Incidentally, 1966 also happened to be Brazil’s worst performance in any World Cup, as they were knocked out in the group stages. Who would have thought that 28 years later, Romario would lift the World Cup for Brazil in the U.S.A?
Perhaps not even Romario did. His differences with the national team coach, Carlos Alberto Parreira, saw him being left out of the squad in 1994, and Brazil played the first seven matches of the World Cup qualification without Romario. However, Parreira caved in to the relentless media campaign for his inclusion in the squad, and Romario went on to win the World Cup Golden Ball for his five goals in the tournament.
That year saw him win the FIFA World Player of the Year award as well. Romario was probably the first player to give a whole new meaning to the award. Staying true to the title bestowed on him by FIFA, Romario globe-trotted for the rest of his career, playing across different leagues in the world.
Four stints at his boy-club Vasco da Gama, three at Flamengo, two at Fluminense, and brief stints in Australia, Qatar, U.S.A, Netherlands and Spain came to define his club career.
His best performance came in the Blaugrana colours in 1993-94, when he became the season’s top scorer after scoring 30 goals in 33 matches. He was part of the star-studded side of ‘94 that had Hristo Stoichkov, José Mari Bakero, Josep Guardiola, Michael Laudrup and Ronald Koeman, and which also, expectedly, the League title that season. However, Romario left Barca after just one season, citing a growing rift between him and club manager, Johan Cruyff.
“I want the best from my players. If Romario is not happy here and wants to go home, he no longer interests me,” said Johan Cruyff before Romario moved back to Brazil.
Romario did not feature in the next two World Cups for Brazil due to injury and indiscipline. Age finally caught up with the Brazilian and he failed to be the player he once was. However, even at the age of 40, he was the Brazilian Championship’s top scorer, scoring 22 goals. He retired in 2009 and is now actively involved in politics. Romario is also known to be a Footvolley enthusiast.
Never short on self-belief, Romario considers himself to be a better footballer than Lionel Messi.
“Messi is a good player, but I’m in the top three: it’s me, Pele and Maradona. I would include (Zinedine) Zidane in that list, too,” said Romario in an interview with Rio de Janeiro daily O Dia, recently.
While his claim of scoring 1000 goals in his career may be as dubious as his claim of being better than the Argentine star, there’s no denying that Romario’s achievements can rival those of any footballer in the history of the sport.
And now, here’s a video of the some of the finest moments of Romario’s career:
Here are the other players who have made it so far:
Read the detailed write-ups on all the players in this list here: