Carlos Alberto was the icon who led Brazil to their finest hour… he was pivotal in creating the greatest team
- Carlos Alberto scored the most spectacular goal in World Cup history
- Brazil legend passed away at the age of 72 from a heart attack on Tuesday
- Alberto was a brilliantly understated leader and upstanding human being
- Brazil’s Beautiful Game was personified by Alberto’s goal vs Italy in 1970
The first time I met the scorer of the most spectacular goal in World Cup history was on a balmy night in Rio de Janeiro a couple of years before that immortal final in Mexico ’70.
The whisper was out that Brazil were in the throes of creating a team even more special than those who went before and we set off to find out if it was true.
Carlos Alberto Torres was the pivotal figure in that transition.
Carlos Alberto lifts the Jules Rimet Trophy after his Brazil side beat Italy 4-1 in the 1970 final
The Brazil legend, who was captain of the 1970 World Cup-winning side, has died aged 72
This majestic yet modest footballer, brilliantly understated leader and upstanding human being had been left out for the 1966 World Cup, a bizarre decision which cost the old manager his job.
Now he was being coaxed into his proprietary place at right back and enshrined as captain, much to the approval of such luminaries as Jairzinho, Rivellino, Tostao and his highness Pele.
Instead of hiding behind the darkened windows of ivory towers like those inhabited by our Premier League glitterati, Brazil’s finest — some of them to this day — go out after matches at the Maracana to mingle with their fans.
So it was that evening when they put old rivals Uruguay to the sword and a mutual friend introduced us.
It would not be the last time we sipped Scotch as the sun came up.
Carlos Alberto pictured in April 2014 with the World Cup trophy in Rio de Janeiro
Alberto in action against England captain Bobby Moore in Guadalajara at Mexico ’70
On this occasion, dawn rose on what would become the greatest football team of all time.
Could Carlos Alberto sense it coming? After a pause, he mused: ‘Perhaps something good is happening again for our football.’
Something so good that by the time they went to Mexico they were primed to win every match in the tournament. In the process they dethroned Alf Ramsey’s reigning champions despite that phenomenal save by which Gordon Banks defied Pele’s soaring header.
Brazil’s crowning moment came in the 4-1 destruction of Italy’s arch defenders, with Carlos Alberto placing the most dazzling jewel.
Their Beautiful Game was personified by the fourth goal, a flowing movement through the team climaxed by Pele’s disguised lay-off and Carlos Alberto’s trademark acceleration from defence to unleash a cross-shot of nuclear power and laser precision.
Alberto receives the Jules Rimet trophy in 1970 after Brazil beat Italy 4-1 in the World Cup final
Alberto with England captain Bobby Moore before their match at the 1970 World Cup
CARLOS ALBERTO TORRES
1963-66: Fluminense – 98apps, 9gls
1966-74: Santos – 445apps, 40gls
1974-77: Fluminense – 53apps, 4gls
1977: Flamengo – 28apps, 3gls
1977-80: New York Cosmos – 80apps, 6gls
1981: California Surf – 19apps, 2gls
1982: New York Cosmos – 20apps, 0gls
1964-77: Brazil – 53apps, 8gls
The world gasped in awe. A few minutes later even the Italians saluted as captain Carlos collected the Jules Rimet Trophy.
The greatest World Cup goal? He was asked that question many times down the years and tended to say: ‘My pride is in finishing the goal of all our team, for the football of Brazil. If people think it the greatest I am happy for them.’
For many of us the only other contender came 16 years later, again in Mexico.
How could we in England forget Diego Maradona? Not his Hand of God but the speeding, swerving run down half the pitch and through the entire England defence before the deadly strike. The World Cup’s ultimate individual goal.
Carlos Alberto remembered it, also: ‘That too was something of beauty.’
Alberto finishes off what has since been described as the World Cup’s ‘most beautiful goal’
Alberto celebrates a goal which is now remembered as one of the greatest in history
Alberto holds aloft the Jules Rimet trophy at the Azteca Stadium in Mexico City in 1970
In all these years I never heard him express a harsh word about anyone. The true gentleman, he was generous in his appreciation of others.
There was a moving affinity with two Englishmen of similar ilk. In Rome, the night before the World Cup Final at Italia ’90, we dined on the Via Veneto with Pele, among others. When Bobby Moore arrived Carlos Alberto stood to embrace him like a long-lost brother.
In Manchester last year, at the time of one of his countless engagements as an ambassador for Brazilian football, he had a similar greeting for Sir Bobby Charlton.
When we spoke one time of those relationships he smiled, raised his whisky glass to the two Bobbys and said simply: ‘My friends.’
Alberto stands for a picture in his Brazil kit during his time as captain in the 1970s
Alberto stands at the left of the Brazil line-up ahead of the 1970 final, alongside (L-R) Brito, Gerson, Clodoaldo, Everaldo, Tostao, Wilson Piazza, Roberto Rivelino, Pele, Jairzinho and Felix
His kindness extended to the age-old debate in Brazil as to which of their two most wondrous footballers is truly the greatest ever. The smile benign, he would say: ‘Pele was the most complete footballer, Garrincha a genius.’ And we would toast them. In whisky, of course.
If it was that taste for the finest Scotch which hastened his death at a premature 72, nobody will have been more surprised than himself.
He had not been at his most sprightly of late but sometimes when we touched glasses he would remark: ‘The doctors always say this is good for us.’
Alberto was often asked about his World Cup strike but he would always focus on the team
Alberto worked as an expert for Brazil television network SportTV during his latter years
During this summer’s Rio Olympics we had pencilled in a dinner at one of his favourite old restaurants. Unhappily, I had to postpone. That is a matter of deeper regret now. He understood the demands of work but our last supper will not happen.
The one consolation is that there was no suffering. Two days before that sudden heart attack he was behind his usual microphone in a television studio, passing his insightful judgments on the contemporary game he helped beautify.
I will raise a glass of Scotch to him tonight. Saude, Senhor Carlos Alberto Torres.