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What was it like playing with Rivaldo during the latter stages of his sparkling career?

Rivaldo's latter years, as told by the people who were there

If Rivaldo’s name was to come up in conversation you’d likely think back to his time at Barcelona.

There’s the iconic hat-trick against Valencia, sealed with a ludicrous bicycle kick, that ensured Barcelona qualified for the Champions League on the final day of the 2000/01 season.

Maybe you’d picture him in a Brazil shirt, devastating world football alongside Ronaldo and Ronaldinho as one third of the Three Rs.

It was, after all, a trademark Mizunoclad left-footed finish by Rivaldo that got Brazil back on level terms with England during the 2002 World Cup quarter-final.

If you’re a true footballing hipster you’ll remember Rivaldo’s solitary campaign at AC Milan, between 2002 and 2003, in which he formed an orderly queue of world-class free-kick technicians at the San Siro.

How do you pick a set-piece taker out of Rivaldo, Andriy Shevchenko, Rui Costa, Clarence Seedorf and Andrea Pirlo?

After the glory years in Spain and Italy, in which Rivaldo won two league titles, the Champions League, two domestic cups and the UEFA Super Cup, not forgetting the 2002 World Cup, it all gets a bit hazy.

Name a more iconic duo than Rivaldo and Mizuno

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Name a more iconic duo than Rivaldo and Mizuno

Rivaldo’s career stretched as long as the stone reefs from which his birthplace of Recife gets its name, so it’s easy to forget a couple of clubs along the way.

Time to refresh your memory. The Brazilian attacking midfielder played for 14 different clubs, starting with Santa Cruz in 1991 and ending 24 years later alongside his son, Rivaldinho, at Mogi Mirim.

He played in Brazil, Spain, Italy, Greece, Uzbekistan and Angola before hanging up his Mizunos. Spare a thought for his tattered passport.

What drives a man to keep going into his forties, despite having a trophy cabinet full of football’s most sought-after jewels? Who better to ask than the team-mates who partnered Rivaldo during his odyssey?

Barcelona are getting some decent use out of these two

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Barcelona are getting some decent use out of these two

Like Rivaldo, American midfielder Peter Philipakos joined Olympiacos in July 2004. The 21-year-old followed manager Dusan Bajevic from arch-rivals AEK Athens.

Growing up, Philipakos idolised Rivaldo, telling Dream Team: ” I had pictures of him all over the wall in my room in my childhood home. I remember I even wore the same Mizuno boots with the white tongue, which took me months to find.

“Throughout my career, one of the best compliments I received numerous times was when people would ask which my stronger foot was, because both were very good.

“It is my right, but as a child I would watch Rivaldo so much, and also Fernando Redondo, and I would go to training and only use my left foot to emulate them.

Pete ‘n’ Charles

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Pete ‘n’ Charles

With the stars having aligned, did Philipakos keep his cool the first time he met his idol? Not quite.

“Honestly, I have played with and against many people that I looked up to as a child. I’ve had many amazing players in front of me and I am not the type to get starstruck,” he explained.

“Meeting Rivaldo was the first time I felt something very weird.

“It immediately made me take a deep look at the moment I was living in, which is very important to do as a footballer because the time passes so quickly and we do not appreciate the special moments sometimes, which we can’t recreate later in life.

“So my mind literally was processing that we are at the same club, I will be seeing him everyday, and that I had come very far from the kid hanging Rivaldo’s pictures on my wall.”

Hat game 100

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Hat game 100

But what was it actually like sharing a pitch with the great man? One moment stands out for Philipakos.

Philipakos, who now sells jewellery in California, recollects: “At Olympiakos, his first big moment was his first derby against Panathinaikos. The atmosphere was electric and he won it 1-0 with an amazing free kick.

“The next two seasons we went on to win two doubles. There were so many matches where he would take over and decide matches on his own. I have never seen someone so confident in their own ability before.

“The thing that surprised me most was his confidence, and how he did not have the words pressure or fear in his vocabulary. It is something very few players I have seen up close have, but he had it to another level.

“He always wanted and demanded the ball in situations where the team needed something special to win a match. The opponent did not phase him. To him, nothing was bigger than Rivaldo, I felt.”

Rivaldo spent three seasons at Olympiacos, scoring 36 league goals in 70 appearances, before falling out with the chairman and moving across town to AEK.

It was there he crossed paths with Canadian international Tam Nsaliwa.

Like Philipakos, Nsaliwa was a long-time fan of Rivaldo. He told Dream Team: “I actually idolised him already, which was surreal.

“I remember when he was at the ’98 World Cup he wore Mizunos, so I went and bought the exact same pair and acted like I was him as a kid. And this was before I even came to Europe with the thought of being a professional.”

They don’t half like a flag in Greece

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They don’t half like a flag in Greece

Nsaliwa and Rivaldo met prior to the Brazilian’s arrival when Olympiacos faced off against Panionios. That encounter was such a pivotal moment for Nsaliwa that he called his brother before leaving the pitch.

On training with Rivaldo as team-mates, Nsaliwa remembers: “It seemed like everyone was in rush and he would just take his time. Normally I could read a player’s intentions, but he always saw things I didn’t think he could or would.

“He was incredibly frugal. He drove to training in a smart car because it cost too much money for gas to drive the Audi Q7 the team provided him with.

“Even at his age, when it came to a willingness to put the work in for running exercises, he was always one of the best on the team. The athletic coach would always use that as an example to talk down to the rest of us!

“I learned that football is played more with the mind than the body. Seeing a pass but not showing it with your body or eyes was probably the best lesson I picked up watching him.”

He’s got your back

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He’s got your back

After a solitary season with AEK, Rivaldo was on the move once again. This time the destination of choice was Uzbek side Bunyodkor.

Efforts to track down Rivaldo’s team-mates at Bunyodkor proved futile, with Ulugbek Bakayev presumably still trying to hold onto his no.10 shirt which meant the Brazilian legend had to settle for wearing no.6 during his first campaign.

But one man who did experience coming up close and personal to Rivaldo during his time in Uzbekistan was Paul Reid.

Reid was part of the Adelaide United side that knocked Rivaldo’s Bunyodkor out of the 2008 AFC Champions League at the semi-final stage.

Should have gone the other way

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Should have gone the other way

The midfielder remembers: “I was told not to allow him a lot of time on the ball where possible due to the influence he still had on the game.

“He was 36 at the time but he still moved very fluently and with the ball at his feet and was very graceful.

“Rivaldo always looked to get it onto his left foot and was much taller than expected.

“I actually spoke to him at half time to ask if we can swap shirts after the game which he was happy to do, even after this tackle in the first half.”

Paul getting stuck in

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Paul getting stuck in

After winning three Uzbek league titles in a row and two Uzbekistani Cups, you’d have forgiven Rivaldo for calling it a day.

But the bow-legged genius still had enough gas in the tank for spells at Sao Paulo, Angolan outfit Kabuscrop, Sao Caetano and Mogi Mirim.

In 2015, 12 years after his 74th and final appearance for Brazil, Rivaldo called it a day.

It speaks volumes for his pure love of the game that he carried on for so long, inspiring generation after generation, from Brazil to England via Angola and Uzbekistan, to lace up a pair of Mizuno.

Time to recreate that bicycle kick against Valencia.

Barcelona kits give you wings

Reuters
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Barcelona kits give you wings

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