Like many gifted technical players, the Brazilian Rivaldo was gifted with an impressive nutmeg: the move wherein the ball is played between the two nailed legs of the opponent. As a coach of Barcelona, Louis van Gaal forbade him to do that trick: the move had too little effect in the field, the Dutchman found. It was as remarkable descision because the nutmeg was an eye-catching feature that perfectly matched the playing style of Rivaldo, calmly managing to always find a unexpected solution in difficult situations.
Rivaldo had bowed legs, just like Garrincha, Brazil’s greatest dribbling player ever. Perhaps it was a trait caused by the malnutrition that Rivaldo was exposed to, growing up grew as a penniless kid in Encruzilhada, a slum in Recife, a city in northeastern Brazil.
Louis van Gaal insisted that Rivaldo had started playing well under his leadership at Barcelona, but maybe that was a bit of an exaggeration. Shortly before the arrival of Van Gaal, Rivaldo had reached the final of the 1998 World Cup in France with Brazil, scoring three times. The Dutchman Cocu may have had more reason to claim to a role in the success of Rivaldo. ‘Cocu does a lot of work for him at Barcelona,’ Ronald de Boer explains in a 1999 portrait on Rivaldo in the Dutch daily Het Parool. ‘Because of him, Rivaldo can play as he likes. Really, Rivaldo may thank god on his bare knees that Cocu is with him in the team. ‘
Rivaldo himself thought that Van Gaal initially forced him into a fixed position on the field too much, left on the flanks. He felt these tactics did not match his playing style. ‘Me myself and a few other players such as Figo and Cocu have argued for more freedom,’ he said in the Dutch paper. ‘He currently gives us more freedom, so that out qualities come into their own. Van Gaal is now convinced of the importance of switching. A good thing, because if one switches from position all the time, the chances to surprise your opponent increase.’
As a kid Rivaldo walked up and down to the training pitch for hours
Rivaldo grew up very poor andlargely lost his teeth due to poor nutrition. When he was 16 his father Romildo died. The man who had so supported and encouraged since at the beginning of his football career was run over by a bus. Rivaldo itself had no money for public transport. As a kid he walked up and down to the training pitch for hours.
A mistake that Rivaldo made at the Olympic Games, in the 4-3 quarter-final loss against Nigeria, has long been hold against him by the demanding Brazilian fans. He was yelled at so much in the stadium that he considered to quit playing football at least as an international. Luckily he did not and in 2002 he eventually became a World Champion with Brazil.