Zico: The Maestro Topscorer.

It is impossible or unlikely that any football lover does not know who Zico was, the greatest idol of Flamengo and Kashima Antlers, with a beautiful participation at Udinese and the number 10 of one of the best teams ever formed in the world, Brazil in 1982.

The beginning.

Zico is native from Rio de Janeiro and lived his childhood in the Quintino neighborhood of Bocaiúva. He was named by his parents, Arthur Antunes Coimbra. Due to his skinny type he was called Arturzinho by his relatives, until one day his cousin Ermelinda (Linda) at the age of two, as she did not know how to pronounce Arthurzinho, started to call him Arthurzico, then Thurzico, but in her family there was already a Tunico, because of this the nickname naturally given by Linda was reduced, thus being called Zico, a nickname that he carries with him until today and known worldwide.

Zico always had football at home, his father José Antunes Coimbra was an amateur goalkeeper and two of his older brothers were professional players, Edu and Antunes. As Zico was the youngest in the family, he took a lot of inspiration from his brothers, who were Quintino’s little boy’s idols for a long time. Since he was a child, he had football as a passion and a serious thing, he played Futsal for the Juventude de Quintino neighborhood team and also for the River Football Club in the Piedade neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro.

Arthurzinho has always been a skinny kid, short and very thin, but that never stopped him from being a frequent highlight in River games, in one of those games Zico scored nothing but 10 goals in a single match. He was a very agile and skilful boy, who stuck the ball to his feet. The broadcaster Celso Garcia, a friend of Zico’s family, was watching the said game. Without thinking twice, Celso took Zico and took him to Flamengo’s football school at the age of 14 in 1967.

Arriving at the youth academy of the Rubro-Negro club, Zico became a highlight in training, but over time his body did not grow like other boys, even then he was given the nickname Galinho (nickname given by journalist Waldir Amaral), because he was skinny, fast and a fighter. But that didn’t shake him, he started to train more, with and without the ball, mainly the physical muscle part.

Also for the Juvenil team, Zico played in some games for the professional team, he made his debut against Vasco in 1971, which even gave a pass to Fio Maravilha’s goal, in the 2-1 Rubro-Negra victory in a game valid for the Guanabara Cup (in at the time was not part of the Carioca Championship), in the 1971 season, with only 18 years old, he played recurrently for the professional team, he performed well, but Flamengo at the time was not going through a good phase. This season Zico played in all front positions, from offensive midfielder to center forward.

Zico however, in the following years did not play much for the professional team, especially since the coach at the time, the legendary Zagallo, asked the boy to return to the youth team, which he did, to come back even better and stronger both mentally and physically , even underwent treatment with the application of hormones.

Montagem de Zico ao Lado dele mesmo adolescente.
Zico and his teenage version.

From Skinny boy to Flamengo’s Greatest Idol.

In 1974, more mature and with better physique for football, Zico definitively became a professional at Flamengo, even beginning as a starter and with the number 10 in the back of his shirt, Zico seized the opportunity and already in his first Campeonato Carioca as an absolute starter won the trophy for the second time. His overwhelming start made him the center of attention of Brazil, mainly because he had a great performance in Brazilian Championship and took home the award of the competition’s best player.

As time goes by, Zico became an increasingly better player, he continued with his intrinsic characteristics such as good handling of the ball but he was improving his shooting, his free kicks and above all his headers, which was decisive for Zico to become one of the best players in the history of World Football. With that, Galinho became the absolute leader of the Flamengo team and the fan’s favorite.

Between 1978 and 1983 Flamengo became a national and international player. At that time, Rubro-Negro won more titles than it had already won (apart from the Carioca titles) in its entire history, they were: the Carioca Championships of 1978, 1979 and 1981, the Brazilian Championships of 1980, 1982 and 1983, the Libertadores of 1981 and the Intercontinental Cup (Club World Cup) of 1981.

This team was mainly put together by coach Cláudio Coutinho, who in 1978 idealized a Flamengo that would play similar to Holland in 1974. Basically, Coutinho believed that due to the important names in the squad, such as Zico, Carpegiani, Júnior, Leandro, Adílio, Cláudio Adão, among others, he would be able to implement a strong pressure marking (spider web) that would make it impossible for the opponents to play.

Zico did very well in this scheme introduced by Coutinho, as he played the role of 3rd man in the middle, the famous 10 that provided many passes and decisive passes, in addition to having an impressive arrival in the attack with powerful shots, sprints that deconstructed the opposing team and masterful passes. But the aforementioned scheme did not limit Zico to being stuck in the middle, he always floated around the ends to work with his teammates who were in the sector.

Over time, Flamengo grew stronger with more stars and played a unique football, always commanded by Zico, who was the brain of the team. Galinho had a characteristic that made him different from any other players. He always played with his head held high and always anticipated the possibilities he would have before the ball reached his feet, Zico did it with such skill that it looked like he had eyes in his back.

In fact, Zico has mentioned several times that there were games in which he left exhausted, not physically, but mentally. Zico always thought about the game while he was playing and asked his partners to do the same. A curious fact is that Zico almost every day charged Nunes, one of the greatest beneficiaries of Galinho’s genius, that he attack the spaces so that the ball arrived in condition for finishing, and more than that, Zico tried to put balls that could be a one touch finish.

In 1981, Zico’s Flamengo, was no longer coached by Coutinho, but by the recently retired Carpegiani. The role of the former midfielder as coach of the Club was extremely important for Flamengo to become champion of the Libertadores, since he knew all the players he would coach, especially Zico. Which allowed him to make changes in the team’s tactics that made it possible to play in an extremely tight championship like the Libertadores.

Flamengo advanced from the 1st phase of the 1981 Libertadores after a 3-0 victory in the tiebreaker against Atlético Mineiro, which had won the same 8 points as the Rubro-Negro club. Something atypical of this game is that it was 3×0 but Flamengo did not score even 1 goal in that match, this result was due to the Atlético team losing by W.O in the 37th minute of the first half, as there were several players expelled.

Already in the semifinal stages, the Group as formed by Deportivo Cali from Colombia and Jorge Wilsterman from Bolivia. Flamengo reached the next phase easily after 4 wins in 4 games, with masterful performances by Galinho de Quintino.

In the Final, Flamengo faced Cobreloa from Chile, who had also won all the games in the semifinal phase, Cobreloa was known for being a very physical team and did not let the opposing team play, against Flamengo it was no different, but the genius and decision-making power of Galinho made Flamengo champion of the Libertadores for the first time.

In the first game of the final that took place in Maracanã, with more than 120 thousand fans, Zico scored the opening goal after a beautiful work with Adílio. The number 10 took off through the midfield, found a beautiful pass to Adílio at the entrance of the box, which he received, spun and returned it to Zico who, entering the box, straightens with his left leg and clinically finishes in the left corner of the goalkeeper.

After a counterattack pulled by Lico from the left, he was displaced by the defender of Cobreloa, penalty, Zico takes the ball, puts it on the mark, takes a firm and low shot in the same left corner that scored the first goal of the match. Cobreloa still scores at the end with a penalty goal scored by Merello, 2 x 1 for Flamengo.

The second game was complicated, Flamengo was unable to set the desired pace, mainly due to the strong and sometimes unfair marking of the Chilean club, Soto even removed Lico from the game who, after a strong tackle, had to be taken to the hospital. Flamengo lost 1-0 to Cobreloa, with a goal by Merello, so, according to the regulation at the time, there was the 3rd game (tiebreaker).

On November 23, 1981, at the Estadio Centenário in Montevideo, Zico made history, right at the beginning of the game Zico receives the ball near the box, tries to pass the ball to Andrade, the ball was intercepted, but Andrade recovers it and passes it to Zico , who at first (one more of Galinho’s many specialties) shoots the ball in the Chilean goalkeeper’s left corner, 1 x 0 for Mengão. The game became more tense, the Cobreloa players scored very strongly, with firm arrivals, but Galinho was not intimidated.

After a beautiful pass towards Adílio, who was running towards the area, goalkeeper Wirth leaves the area and intercepts the ball with his hand, a foul for Flamengo, Zico takes the ball with affection, adjusts it in a unique way, the foul was from the entrance to the box, a little to the left, a specialty of the greatest free-kick taker in the world.

Zico, curiously, took a short distance from the ball (about two steps) went and gave a masterful slap, watching and reviewing this goal it is not possible to understand exactly how this ball entered, it leaves strong from the feet of the rooster, it goes up and down straight into the left corner (again) of Goalkeeper Wirth. Zico and Flamengo win their first Libertadores title.

Zico made this Libertadores one of the best championships in his history, he scored 11 goals, 4 of which in the finals, he showed there that in addition to being a masterful maestro, he was a decisive player and that he scored goals like few others, perhaps that is why many people think that Galinho is the 10 most complete in the history of Football.

Following the the Libertadores win, Flamengo faced Liverpool for the Intercontinental Cup (Club World Cup). In the final Flamengo did not give the English club a chance and won 3-0 with two goals from the top scorer Nunes and one from the versatile Adílio.

Post Libertadores and Intercontinental, Zico was considered one of the best players in the world, even more so for the Brazilian titles in 1982 and 1983, which was extremely important for the achievements, being top scorer and best player in 1982 and best player in 1983.

With so many titles won and wonderful performances, both in Flamengo and in the Brazilian national team, European clubs did everything to sign Zico, but it was Udinese that managed to sign the 10.

Thus ends Zico’s first time at Flamengo, who returns in 1985, to be crowned the greatest idol in the club’s history.

Zico arrived from Udinese, and in his second game after his return to Mengão, he suffered a strong tackle and tore his knee ligaments, not playing that season.

After his return from injury in 1986, he silenced several critics who claimed that Zico was “bichado” (portguese football slang that means to be always injured). Right at the debut of the 1986 Cariocão in a game against Fluminense, Zico showed that he was still the best in the world in his role. Flamengo won the classic 4 x 1 with a gala performance by Galinho with 3 goals, one of them being an incredible free-kick masterfully scored in the goalkeeper’s top corner.

At his return to Rubro-Negro, Zico was also champion of Cariocão in 1986 and the Campeonato Brasileiro in 1987, Galinho said goodbye to Flamengo in 1989, and his last game with Mengão’s shirt could not be better, it was a great victory by 5 x 0 against Fluminense, including, as usual, Zico scored a beautiful free-kick goal.

Zico saindo para comemorar o gol de falta contra o Cobreloa na Final da Libertadores de 1981
Zico leaving to celebrate the free-kick goal against Cobreloa in the 1981 Libertadores Final

Italy and Udinese.

The signing of Zico by Udinese was at the time one of the biggest transactions made in world football, it was something around 4 million dollars, but the hiring was the subject of several controversies. The Italian Federation at first canceled the signing of Zico because it demanded accountability from Udinese to find out how the Club of Udine had obtained the money to hire Galinho.

This angered the Friulani fans, who did not stand still and began to protest for Zico to come and play for Udinese, including political protests, carried by the slogan created by the fans: “Zico or Austria”, which alluded to the Austrian Empire’s dominance over the Region where Udine is located in the 19th century. Therefore, great efforts were made to hire Zico, including the Italian president Sandro Petrini, which was essential for stabilizing the impasse.

Zico in his first season for Udinese was what everyone expected, he dribbled, assisted, scored free-kicks and had historic performances, but that were not enough for Udinese to do well in the Italian Championship. In his first season Zico helped Udinense to be in 9th place in Serie A, just one victory away from accessing the UEFA Cup. In the first season Zico scored 19 goals, being the second top scorer in the Italian League, just behind Platini who scored 20 goals, but Galinho received the Italian best player award that season.

If it weren’t for an injury that took him out of some games in the first championship he participated in, Galinho would probably have managed to take Udinese to the UEFA Cup, as well as being top scorer in the Italian Serie A, proof of which is that of the ten victories Udinese has won, Zico participated in 8 competitions, in addition to beating the top four in the league: Juventus, Roma, Fiorentina and Internazionale.

A curious fact in his first season at Udinese was the great free-kick that Zico scored in the 2-1 defeat against Avellino, Zico was teammate of midfielder Franco Causio. Always when Zico was going to take a free kick, Causio stayed close because he wanted to make a rehearsed move and Zico asked the Italian to step aside, until one day, Galinho came to Causio and said that at the right moment they would make the move, said and done .

In the game against Avellino there was a foul about 30 meters from the goal, in a central position but a little to the right. Zico takes a distance, pretends he’s going to shoot but plays for Causio, who gives a slight stop to the ball for Zico to arrive, shooting firmly and crosswise, the ball gains height and falls at the right time behind the goalkeeper who can do nothing.

Even after Zico’s great first season for Udinese, in the second he lived with many muscle injuries and was unable to show his magnificent football, playing for only 15 Serie A games, in this 1984/1985 season Udinese narrowly escaped relegation.

So, it came the an end the presence of Galinho in European football. It was a short period, but with good numbers. He scored a total of 57 goals, 17 of which were free kicks.

Many criticize Zico’s time in Italy, but the Udinese fans themselves love him and have him as an idol, proof of this are the title of honorary citizen of Udine. The survey by the Italian newspaper La Repubblica in 2006 that placed Galinho as the best Brazilian to play in Italy and also Zico’s farewell to the Brazilian National Team that took place in 1989 in the city of Udine against the World Team.

Zico jogando pela Udinese.
Zico playing for Udinese.

The importance of Zico for Japanese Football.

After his retirement in 1989, Zico received an invitation in 1991 to be a player for the then Sumitomo Metals, now Kashima Antlers, with the aim of popularizing football in the Japanese country. The idea was a success, even after two years off, Zico returned to playing masterful football, with disconcerting dribbles and several great goals scored, he became loved by the Japanese, who considered him the King of Football.

Zico SAN has created a huge identification for Japan since then, as he was one of the main exponents of the popularization and professionalization of the greatest sport in the world in Japanese lands. To this day, Kashima Antlers fans honor him every game with a banner dedicated to Galinho.

His history in Japanese football did not end after his departure from Kashima, Zico was still technical director of the team in 2018 and was coach of the Japanese national team from 2002 to 2006, being Champion of the 2004 Asian Cup and best coach of the competition.

Estátua de Zico na frente do Estádio do Kashima Antlers
Zico statue in front of Kashima Antlers Stadium

Post retirement, Zico the all-rounder.

With his beautiful and consolidated career, Zico has not given up football and has always worked in this world, including in different functions. Zico has already defended the Brazilian beach soccer team, being world champion in 1995 and 1996; he was the National Sports Secretary between 1990 and 1991, had several jobs as coach and director, was a sports commentator and has a YouTube channel.

Galinho’s versatility is the result of what he considers to be his greatest quality, determination, which always seems to be better, to add value and help people and institutions.

In addition to his work, Zico organizes one of the biggest charity games in the world, the game of the stars, which always takes place at the end of the Brazilian football season, in order to show the plurality that is Brazil and Brazilian football.

Zico entrevistando Parreira em seu podcast: GalinhoCast.
Zico interviewing Parreira on his podcast: GalinhoCast.

Awards, Figures and Records.

Counting official and friendly matches, Zico has 1199 matches in his career and 854 goals, 545 of which in official matches. Galinho’s numbers are impressive, he is even the 2nd player who scored the most goals in a single year in official competitions, in 1979 he scored no less than 89 goals, his record was broken by Lionel Messi in 2012, when the Argentine scored 91 goals.

Zico holds two records, they are: greatest scorer in the history of Flamengo with 509 goals, and greatest scorer in the history of Maracanã with 333 goals.

Proof that Zico was a born a killer and that he scored goals no matter what are the 9 top scorer titles he has in his career, such as: Carioca Championship 1975 (30 goals); 1977 Carioca Championship (27 goals); 1978 Carioca Championship (19 goals); 1979 Carioca Championship (26 goals); 1979 Carioca Championship (Special) (34 goals); 1980 Brazilian Championship (21 goals); Copa Libertadores da América 1981 (11 goals); Campeonato Brasileiro 1982 (20 goals) and Campeonato Carioca: 1982 (21 goals).

Zico, in addition to being a conductor and scorer, was above all a decisive player, which made him win several titles: Campeonato Carioca in 1972, 1974, 1978, two editions in 1979, 1981 and 1896; Brazilian Championship of 1980, 1982, 1983 and 1987, Libertadores of 1981 and Intercontinental (Club World Cup) of 1981.

When it comes to free kicks Galinho de Quintino is almost unanimous, by many he is considered the greatest free kick taker the world has ever seen, owning one of the most differentiated free kicks ever seen he has 62 goals from free kicks in official matches and 101 goals counting the friendly matches he played for Flamengo, Udinese, Kashima Antlers and the Brazilian national team.

Wherever he went, Zico was always highlighted, his unique way of thinking about the game, combined with his unique technique with the round being to pass it, lead it or kick it accredited him as one of the best football players ever seen, winning prizes like:

Best Player in the 1981 Libertadores, Best Player in the Brazilian Championships in 1980, 1982 and 1983, Best Player in the Italian Championship in 1983/1984, Best Player in the World in 1981 for Guerin Sportivo, Best Player in South America for El Mundo in 1977, 1981 and 1982, Best Player in the World by World Soccer in 1983, entered the FIFA Hall of Fame in 2000, among many other awards that put Zico in the Gallery of Eternal Idols of the best sport in the World?


What’s up Football lover? Was Zico really all that? Was he better than that? The fact is that there are plenty of reasons that credit him as one of the best football players the world has ever seen, and that what he did with the ball will never be equaled, thank you Galinho!

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Written by João Felipe Miller.

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Tags: Footballers, Highlights

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