The current team may be on an early flight back home despite having Paulinho on the squad, but win or lose, there’s something about the Brazilian national team that conjures up memories of that yellow and green jersey back in 2002. We’re talking players who could do anything with a ball at their feet and who didn’t roll 15 times after a slight tackle (we’re looking at you, Neymar). Players who were a joy to watch no matter what the occasion. And so, in tribute to the most talented footballing nation the world has ever seen going home, we’re taking a trip down memory lane and wondering what the heroes of the Brazil team that last won the World Cup are doing now. From playing poker to running racing teams, it seems they’re quite the busy bunch.
Arguably one of the most gifted players with the ball at his feet, Ronaldinho was pretty much every winger or creative midfielder’s idol. Interestingly, though, the man himself claimed that Henrik Larsson was his idol, and while at Barcelona, would greet him as “idolo” every morning.
After an illustrious career in European football with PSG and Barcelona and a rather uninspiring spell at A.C. Milan, Ronaldinho enjoyed spells at Flamengo, Atletico Mineiro and Fluminense in Brazil and a season with Queretaro in Mexico. He then moved on to play Futsal in India, and it was only in January of 2018 that he finally announced his retirement. Interestingly, he now lives back in Brazil with his two girlfriends, and the three intend to marry in August of this year.
It takes some effort to forget that dive from the Turkey match back in the 2002 World Cup, but we’ll give it our best shot because after all, this is Rivaldo we’re talking about. A 14-club man, the best spell of his career undoubtedly came at Barcelona. Crowned the “World Player of the Year” and consistently scoring bags of goals, you’d think that a Cup Final or league-winning goal would have been his most memorable contribution, but it was his season-saving hat trick against Valencia for which all will remember him.
It is remembered by many as the best hat trick ever, but such was the quality of the third goal that who can even remember what the first two were like? He collected a chipped pass on his chest and surrounded by players, casually bicycle kicked the ball into the net to win the game 3-2. It saved the club’s season and helped them qualify for the Champions League.
After playing his way from Greece to Angola with stops all over the world along the way, he is now president of Brazilian club Mogi Mirim. No, we never heard of it, either.
Denílson doesn’t quite have the same hype surrounding his name as other players on this list, but his quiet way of going about his business on the left wing always had us enthralled. He spent most of his career at Sao Paulo and Real Betis and believe it or not, was the world’s most expensive player in 1998. Yes, Real Betis had the world’s most expensive player. Incredible.
He was a talented player of that there is no doubt, and while he failed to make a big impression at club level, he still managed 61 caps for his country. The consensus is that he never reached his full potential. After retiring, he took up the game of poker and ever the competitor, decided that playing around with his mates wasn’t quite as thrilling as it could be and so he started playing at live events. He was good enough that online poker provider 888Poker took him on as their ambassador in Brazil.
The real Ronaldo as everyone likes to call him is probably also their favorite one. It’s not only Ronaldo’s skill that makes him live long in the memory but also his attitude and likable personality. He was a guy who loved football and who played it for fun. He didn’t care who he was up against; he always played the same way.
His career was a roller-coaster of emotions and saw him play for Europe’s most illustrious clubs. PSV, Barcelona, Inter Milan, Real Madrid and A.C. Milan all feature on his CV, and we can’t single out one match as his best; there were too many from which to choose. Our favorite moment of his career, though, was the 2002 World Cup Final where he overcame his nerves and beat Oliver Kahn to help Brazil win their fifth World Cup.
Like Denílson, Ronaldo is a big lover of poker and spent some time after he retired making his name playing Texas Hold ‘em. But the draw of the sport mixed with business was too great and he soon left the poker table and became the co-owner of the Brazilian A1 racing team. He now co-owns a sports marketing company called, rather fittingly, 9ine. He makes the odd appearance on TV as a pundit, but is pretty much away from the game permanently, which is a little sad if you ask us.
Forever remembered for that goal against France, the left back with thighs as big as many a man’s waist was the most attack-minded fullback we’ve ever seen. He spent 11 years at Real Madrid playing in 584 matches and scoring an incredible 71 goals, which has to be a record for a defender.
But come on, let’s get back to that goal. It was the Tournoi de France, one of those meaningless international friendly tournaments that would soon be remembered for all time as the place where Roberto Carlos scored the best free kick ever. Indeed, there was so much bend on the ball that a ball boy 10 yards to the right of the goal ducked thinking the ball would hit him. Fabien Barthez didn’t even move, and the entire stadium looked on in utter disbelief. It was so good that some French scientists even wrote a paper on it in 2010. He’s getting on the list for that goal alone if we’re honest.
He later had spells in Turkey, Brazil and Russia and then brief managerial runs in Russia, Turkey and India. He now runs a software company that connects players with coaches around the world while rather bizarrely, he was the ambassador for Morocco’s bid for the World Cup in 2026.
An honorable mention goes to Juninho, Edilson, and of course, Captain Cafu, but if we were to see any of the squad from that World Cup play again, it would be the men above. Ronaldo, Rivaldo and Ronaldinho, the three Rs backed up by Denilson and Roberto Carlos. What a five-a-side team that would make; who needs a goalkeeper anyway? Now, that’s a smart poker move if you ask us!