Paulo Roberto Falcao was a footballer much loved by Roma fans, one of the strongest players in the history of Brazilian football and one of the hundred strongest players in the history of football, according to statistics compiled by Fifa.
He was born on 10/16/1953 in Abelardo Luz in the state of Santa Caterina. His career began in the Internacional of Porto Alegre where he arrived at the age of fourteen. Playing in the youth team, he was noticed by coach Dino Sani, former great footballer of the Brazilian national team, world champion in 1958 and of Nereo Rocco’s Milan, at that time coach of the first team.
Sani who as a footballer played as a director immediately noticed this boy, who moved on the pitch with elegance and tactical wisdom. For this elegance and for his movements on the pitch, he will later be compared to three monuments of world football: Gianni Rivera, Franz Bechenbauer and Johan Cruijff. He was also immediately noticed by the fans who soon made him an idol. In 1972 he took part in the Olympics in the green-gold selection and the following year Sani decided that he was ready to stay on a permanent basis with the first team.
In 1973 he immediately stood out with the first team, where he was one of the protagonists of those years, in the successes of Internacional, which will win three national championships the “Brasilerao” and five state championships. In the seven seasons played in Internacional he will score 78 goals, not bad for a central midfielder. In 1976 came the call-up with the Brazilian national team and the debut against Argentina in Buenos Aires. Due to some differences with the selector Coutinho, however, he did not participate in the World Cup in Argentina.
He made himself admired four years later in Spain, where he was one of the protagonists of the Selecao. In 1980, when Italy opened up to foreign players, he arrived at Roma, where he will play for five seasons totaling 107 appearances, scoring 22 goals and winning two Italian cups, a Scudetto in 1982/83 and the final of the Champions Cup in 1984, unfortunately lost against Liverpool in Rome. After five years in yellow and red he will return to Brazil playing for six months in San Paulo
Negotiation with Milan
The Italian team that was first interested in Falcao was Milan, through the excellent relationship between Dino Sani and Gianni Rivera. The agreement between the Rossoneri club and Falcao was defined in all details, but due to the problems that Milan had that season which led to its relegation, it fell through. Rome took advantage of this situation and managed to bring him to the capital.
Falcao arrived in Rome accompanied by his lawyer Cristoforo Colombo Miller who oversaw his transfer. He was greeted with skepticism by the yellow and red fans, because he wasn’t known like other Brazilian footballers of that period, like Zico and he wasn’t considered so strong, because according to some he didn’t have the technical qualities that distinguished the Brazilians. But Falcao soon demonstrated the opposite, right from the first friendly organized for his transfer between Roma and Internacional, and in this regard we can recall what happened in that friendly.
Before the start, the Romanist president Viola approached Paulo and asked him if he would show some typical Brazilian football plays on the pitch. Falcao didn’t say anything, but during the game a ball hit him on the edge of the penalty area, he passed it over the head of the opponent who was marking him and kicked towards the goal on the fly, touching the net. There was a roar from the crowd who appreciated his play. When at the end of the game Falcao saw the president Viola he said:
“President, don’t ask me these things anymore, because I came to be a professional and not a juggler.”
This is because Falcao considered himself, and then proved to be, an elegant and technical midfielder, very concrete and charismatic with even offensive characteristics, so much so that he was defined as universal and that’s why he was called: “The Divine”.
The national team
Falcao initially didn’t have much luck with the Brazilian national team, but after the 1978 Argentine World Cup, where he was not called up, he became an absolute protagonist and together with other great champions such as Zico and Socrates formed the backbone of the team that presented itself from favorite at the World Cup in Spain in 1982.
In that world Falcao was the driver of the Selecao also in the match against Italy, in the three-way group in the quarter-finals where Argentina was also there. In that match which ended 3-2 for the Azzurri, he scored the goal of the temporary 2-2 with a great shot from the edge of the penalty area and which made all the green-gold fans think, since Brazil was enough to qualify the draw, which was the decisive goal. For Falcao that game was a big disappointment, because immediately afterwards Paolo Rossi scored again and Selecao was eliminated.
After the disappointment of the World Cup, Falcao had the opportunity to make up for it by dragging Roma from leader and absolute protagonist to the conquest of its second championship in history. In that team led by Nils Liedholm there were many important players such as Di Bartolomei, Bruno Conti, Graziani and Pruzzo, the team revolved around Falcao, who dragged the team along with his personality and unlocked several matches also with goals from he. Because of his aptitude for often scoring, he was defined as a “Universal” player, he built, inserted and concluded. In that season there was also some bitterness like the expulsion he got at San Siro against Inter.
Failure to transfer to Inter
Falcao, having shown all his class and greatness in the first few years in Rome, attracted the interest of the main clubs, first of all Fraizzoli’s Inter. On the initiative of the then director Sandro Mazzola, who moved under the radar with Falcao’s attorney Colombo Miller, he managed to get the player willing to transfer.
It seemed that everything had been done for the transfer to Inter, but it jumped due to the intervention of an exceptional Roma fan the honorable Giulio Andreotti, who spoke to president Fraizzoli, asking him to desist from buying Falcao, believing that his sale would have been too much painful for the yellow and red colors. Then the black and blue president had the already signed contract torn up and Falcao remained in Rome to the delight of the Romanist fans. Subsequently, the malicious ones said that the honorable Andreotti sent the Inter president a large state order in exchange for breaking the player’s contract.
The second disappointment
After the 1982 World Cup there was another bitter disappointment in Falcao’s career, namely the 1984 Champions Cup final against Liverpool, which Roma won also thanks to him. In the final something did not go right when it came to penalties. Falcao didn’t kick one of the penalties because he wasn’t well, then Roma lost and from there suspicions arose from some, who said that he didn’t have the courage to take on a great responsibility.
This controversy created a strong unease for him, because from the moment of his arrival in Rome he had shown that he was very attached to the fate of the Giallorossi team and would never have backed down from taking the penalty if he had been well. Indeed, precisely because of the great respect and trust he had towards his teammates, he made sure that one of them kicked the penalty. From there began the idea of leaving Rome to return to Brazil, even with the opposite opinion of his friend-lawyer Cristoforo Colombo Miller.
Paulo Roberto Falcao and Maradona
When Falcao returned to Brazil there was a very concrete interest from Napoli, through the then sporting director Pierpaolo Marino. The Neapolitan manager’s goal was to get him to play alongside Maradona, to create a dream couple, made up of technique, imagination, elegance and strength. Maradona himself moved to realize this idea, who on the occasion of a match between the stars of South America and those of Europe in Los Angeles, spoke to Falcao to convince him to come to Naples.
The operation did not go through, despite the availability given by Falcao. In that year there were changes to the law for foreigners, but malicious rumors said that the transfer was canceled due to political intervention by Roma and Juventus, opposed to a further strengthening of the Neapolitan team. Who knows what it would have been like to see two stars of such magnitude play together!
After his competitive career Falcao embarked on a coaching career, he was in several clubs in the Brazilian top flight. When he’s not coaching, he works as a TV commentator on Brazilian TV stations. Furthermore, he often returns to Rome, where he is always welcomed with great affection because he has always been considered the eighth King of Rome, loved by fans and female fans also for his great charm and for this reason he will always be “The Divine”.