Captain Carlos Alberto (center) and Pele (far left) led Brazil to the 1970 World Cup title in Mexico City. Carlos Alberto – Brazil superstar, World Cup-winning captain, friend and contemporary of Pelé, scorer of one of the greatest World Cup final goals ever, and re-inventor of the right back position – died of a heart attack at the age of 72 on Tuesday
He will always be remembered for the above goal, the final tally in Brazil’s 4-1 victory over Italy in the 1970 World Cup final. It exemplified the Brazilians’ dominance, whimsy and mastery of tactics. After an endless spell of possession, Jairzinho squared the ball at the edge of the box to Pele, who spotted to his right the streaking Carlos Alberto, who met the slow pass in its path and hammered it past Italian goalkeeper Enrico Albertosi.
The goal became the stuff of legend and was re-enacted in all sorts of ways
But it also illustrated the abilities of its scorer, captain Carlos Alberto, perhaps the first real wing back in the game. He made a habit – and career – out of streaking forward from his defensive position, creating overload situations and tactical problems for opponents. Today, almost every right back is expected to push up in possession, the way Carlos Alberto once did.
Born in Rio de Janeiro, Carlos Alberto spent 14 seasons in the Brazilian leagues with Fluminense, Flamengo and Santos, where he was a teammate of Pele’s. In 1977, he joined his friend at the New York Cosmos of the old North American Soccer League, arriving in the middle of the 1977 blackout that set the city ablaze in a spree of arson, violence and looting. He won four Soccer Bowls in five seasons with the Cosmos and one campaign with the California Surf, adding to his seven regional championships in Brazil and World Cup trophy.
After he retired in 1982, Carlos Alberto went into management and was in charge of 15 teams over the course of 22 years. Of those, 13 were clubs, all over the Western Hemisphere. The other two were the national teams of Oman and Azerbaijan. Remarkably, Carlos Alberto didn’t win a single trophy with any of his teams, yet remained employed for more than two decades – a testament to the power of his name and reputation as a player. Since his final gig in management in 2005, he had worked as a television commentator in Brazil, where he remained popular, working as recently as two days before his death.
In 1998, Carlos Alberto was voted the starting right back in the World Team of the Century. Santos has announced a three-day mourning period.