Rivaldo: His Time at Deportivo La Coruna and Barcelona
Rivaldo is fondly remembered in Spain, and not just in Catalonia.
After spending the first five years of his professional career in his native country, Rivaldo decided to try his luck in Europe.
It was the best decision he could've made.
No Grazie, Italia. Viva Espana!
What happened during the course of the Olympics is unclear, suffice to say that when he returned from international duty, it was announced that, in fact, Rivaldo would be joining Depor.
A case of no thank you, Italy.
21 Goals in 41 Games
If Depor fans were wondering how their new signing might fare in new surroundings and on a new continent, they didn't have to wait long to find out.
La Liga was very definitely suited to the Brazilian's languid style, and a better-than-one-in-two goals-to-games ratio was a perfect introduction to Spanish football.
Although he ended the season with 21 goals from 41 appearances, 20 of those were scored in an astonishing 16-game run, per Brittanica.com.
Tap-ins, headers or stunning Exocet missiles into the top corner—Rivaldo scored them all.
The legacy that Rivaldo left behind in Galicia is clear.
Still their biggest star signing to date. Although the team performances during his tenure were functional and effective each week rather than edge-of-your-seat drama, the fact remains that it was his presence and goals ensured that Depor ended up finishing the season in third place.
They kicked off the campaign with their best-ever start and Rivaldo had top-scored with seven, leaving the team just two points behind Real Madrid and level with Barcelona at Christmas 1996.
The goals and high quality of performance continued after the festive period to stand the club in good stead at the business end of the season.
Ask any Depor fan about that campaign, and they will most likely refer to it as "Rivaldo's season."
Move to Barcelona
His evident success would always see one of the big boys come calling, and Barca were the ones to pay up the $26 million it would cost to sign the Brazilian.
It was a masterstroke from Barca's then-manager Bobby Robson, who, according to Ben Crump of Inside Spanish Football, persuaded the club to sign Rivaldo rather than Steve McManaman:
Knowing that the Catalan club had also made an offer for McManaman made Rivaldo sign a contract quicker and he did just that.
Later, reports from the Barca camp had been that Sir Bobby Robson had also dissuaded the club from signing McManaman because he felt he would not score enough goals and that Rivaldo would.
It was a shrewd move from the manager, as Rivaldo went on to score 86 goals in 157 appearances.
Of those 86 goals, one will always stick in the memory.
Rivaldo's stunning overhead kick against Valencia no doubt still resonates with the Barca faithful when watching it.
It was one of the most important goals in Barcelona's recent history, and Rivaldo thought it was the best of his career, telling FourFourTwo:
Scoring the goal was incredible. One: it was an amazing goal—an overhead kick. Two: it was in the last minute of the game with the score tied. Three: we qualified for the Champions League.
I’ve scored a lot of good goals but that was the best one because of the importance. It’s not something I ever see happening again.
Rob Smyth of the Guardian put the goal into perfect context:
The quality of the goals was outstanding, but the context made his performance legendary. On the last day of a dire season Barcelona needed a win to qualify for the Champions League, against Valencia, who needed a draw.
That it had come to this for a club like Barca was an almighty affront to Rivaldo's pride, so he put things right with an almost vigilante single-mindedness.
His first goal was an unsaveable free-kick that swerved and dipped late before flying in off the post. Then, after Ruben Baraja had equalised, Rivaldo hit a low 25-yarder with such fury that it knocked him off his feet and brought the Nou Camp crowd to theirs.
Baraja equalised again but then, with 90 seconds to go, came the crowning glory: a staggering overhead kick from the edge of the box. After just 18 months and 17 days, the book on the greatest hat-trick of the 21st century was already closed.
Football is poorer for the recent retirement of Rivaldo Vitor Borba Ferreira.