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What happened when the world’s best futsal player swapped over to football?

Falcao, arguably one of the best futsal players ever, crossed over to play football for Sao Paulo in 2005

If you saw Alessandro Rosa Vieira, aka Falcao, walking down the street you probably wouldn’t recognise him.

But this is a man with 393 goals in 201 international appearances for Brazil, 48 of which came at World Cups.

Okay, so we’re leaving out quite an important fact. Falcao is a futsal player. In fact he’s probably the best futsal player ever.

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If Lionel Messi is the goat, Falcao is the ibex.

We know what you’re thinking. Obviously he couldn’t play real football. He probably wouldn’t even get in your 5-a-side team, would he?

Don’t speak too soon. Back in 2005 Falcao signed for Brazilian giants Sao Paulo amidst a hail of publicity and controversy.

He looks delighted to be there

He looks delighted to be there

This wasn’t Falcao’s first attempt at crossing over.

In 2001 Falcao was 23 and established as one of Brazil’s best futsal players after prolific spells with Corinthians, Atletico Mineiro, Banespa and Jaragua.

But the call of the football pitch was too loud to ignore.

He went on trial with Palmeiras, playing 59 minutes of a training game against minnows Flamengo de Guarulhos in which he found the back of the net before cramp set in.

After the game Falcao said: “I’ll ask for some advice, listen to what the coach says. I may have gone wrong, but I think I showed qualities.”

Despite the promise Palmeiras were hesitant to offer him a contract and so Falcao went back to futsal.

Falcao, but not like you’ve ever seen him

Falcao, but not like you’ve ever seen him

Fast forward four years and Falcao found himself being presented to the media at Sao Paulo alongside midfielders Mineiro and Josue.

Mineiro would go on to play for Chelsea (once) and represent Brazil at a World Cup, while fellow Selecao international Josue would go on to win the Bundesliga with Wolfsburg.

However there was no doubt who all the fuss was about that day.

For a start, Falcao’s arrival pointed to a power struggle going on within the club’s hierarchy as president Marcelo Portugal Gouvea had signed him over the head of coach Emerson Leao.

You’ve always got to flex your jewellery, even in training

You’ve always got to flex your jewellery, even in training

Publicity stunt aside, Sao Paulo were no mugs.

This was a squad containing legendary keeper Rogerio Ceni, future Real Madrid right-back Cicinho, Uruguayan centre-back Diego Lugano, Grafite, who would go on to be the Bundesliga Top Goalscorer and Player of the Year in 2009 and several Brazil internationals.

But, unlike four years earlier, Falcao actually made it onto the pitch this time.

Falcao’s debut was a poignant one, coming exactly a year after the death of his father who had long wished to see his son take to the football pitch.

Coach Emerson, presumably with a imaginary gun to his head (although you can never be sure), introduced Falcao for the last eight minutes of Sao Paulo’s opening Campeonato Paulista game against Ituano.

With the score at 3-1 it was a fairly relaxed environment to introduce Falcao to the 6,527 fans at the Estadio Cicero Pompeu de Toledo.

The no.12 wasted little time making his mark, receiving a pass from Cicinho before playing in Grafite, who saw his shot saved by the keeper.

He then nearly had the fans on the pitch with a rifled shot from the edge of the box, only for the goalkeeper to spoil the fun with a magnificent stop.


It would be another three months until Emerson handed Falcao his first start.

Falcao lined up alongside Grafite to take on Mogi Mirim with the Campeonato Paulista already in the bag.

Sao Paulo went ahead through Grafite in the first-half but by the time Souza’s strike settled the game in the 64th minute Falcao had been replaced for Velber.

Someone tidy up that Grafite

Someone tidy up that Grafite

That game against Mogi Mirim turned out to be Falcao’s last appearance for the club.

He returned to futsal side Jaragua after playing 13 times in all competitions for Sao Paulo.

Technically he bowed out of football as a Campeonato Paulista and Copa Libertadores winner, with Sao Paulo going on to win South America’s premier competition that year.

Although Falcao had left by the time Sao Paulo lifted the title he’d appeared in the tournament’s early stages, starting a 2-2 draw with Quilmes and coming off the bench during a 4-2 win against Universidad de Chile.

Just making sure it’s still there

Just making sure it’s still there

What Falcao did was quite remarkable.

Imagine England’s best futsal player signing for Man City and going on to be part of a Champions League winning squad.

So, in hindsight, he probably would get in your 5-a-side team. Anyone got his number?