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FC Barcelona Blast From The Past: Rivaldo

Romario was the first of the Brazilian R's to come to Catalunya. Then it was Ronaldo, coming from PSV Eindhoven for a record $17 million. After a season, O Fenomeno left for Inter Milan and the gun hired to replace him was Deportivo midfielder and emerging star, Rivaldo, for $26 million. Despite of the price tag, nobody really expected Rivaldo to fill the shoes of Ronaldo. He did, and much more.

Rivaldo was born in Recife, a sprawling metropolitan in Brazil by the Atlantic Ocean. Rivaldo grew up poor, and even now you can see that poverty has marked him. Rivaldo early life was marred by tragedy, as he lost his father to a road accident. Malnutrition was an issue as well, but despite those hardships his character and strength saw him have one of the most colorful careers in world football.

Rivaldo started out at Santa Cruz at age 16, and then moved to Mogi Morim in the 2nd division the next season. It was there that he started to catch the eye of Brazilian scouts, and after one season on loan to Corinthians he moved to one of the giants of Brazilian football, Palmeiras. Palmeiras went on to win the league title that year and by the time his second season in Palmeiras ended, he was considered the best in his position in Brazil. Then came a move to Spain to Deportivo La Coruna. He helped La Coruna finish 3rd in La Liga by scoring 21 goals and then came the move to Catalunya.

Rivaldo wore the famous no.10 shirt in Barcelona, and he lived up to it. He scored 19 goals in 34 league games in his first season as Barcelona won the league and cup double. Rivaldo was wiry strong, had outstanding dribbling skills and most famously, the best left foot in the world. He played with such anger, as if he had something to prove everytime he set foot on the pitch and it was evident from the way he strikes the ball. Rivaldo became the fulcrum of the Barcelona side, and with 24 goals, piloted them to another league title in 1999, capped off with the FIFA World Player of the Year award, a just reward for all the work he had done.

At the start of the third season, manager Louis Van Gaal started deploying him at wing (nice job, Van Gaal, you idiot) instead of his preferred playmaker. The two had a falling out, but he still lead Barcelona to the semifinals of the UEFA Champions League. The next season, he scored 23 goals as he squeaked Barcelona into the Champions League by scoring a hat-trick on the final day against Valencia, capped off by a ridiculous chilena from the edge of the box that beat Santi Canizares. He stayed another year in Barcelona, and when Van Gaal went back to manage Barcelona in 2002, that was Rivaldo's cue to go to AC Milan.

His post-Barcelona career has been disappointing, from Milan, to Greece, to Uzbekistan and back to Brazil. He did win a Champions League medal in Milan and trophies in Greece and Uzbekistan. He is still currently playing at age 39 in Sao Paolo.

His international career has been glittering as well, scoring 34 goals in 74 matches for A Selecao. He was the main protagonist in the 1999 Copa America, winning tournament MVP and helping Brazil to the title. And along with Ronaldo and Ronaldinho, he helped Brazil cruise to the World Cup title in 2002.

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