Rivaldo: A tribute

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Another great of the past retired from football in the form of Barcelona and Brazil legend, Rivaldo. The attacking midfielder won the World Cup in 2002 and was awarded the Ballon d'Or in 1999 in a stunning career. Here is an in depth look at one of the greatest players of the last 20 years.

Rivaldo began his career in 1989, spending the first five years of professional life playing for the likes of Corinthians and Palmeiras before joining Spanish side Deportivo La Coruna following the summer Olympics in 1996. Rivaldo spent just one season with the club, scoring 22 goals in 46 games, marking an excellent debut season in Europe.

Due to this successful first season in Europe for Rivaldo, a number of the continent's top clubs listed the attacker as a primary target. It was Barcelona who won the race to sign the Brazilian's signature in 1997, spending over £20 million to lure him away from Deportivo. Rivaldo's first season with the Catalan club was even more successful as he scored 19 goals to help his side win the double of La Liga and Copa Del Rey in 1998. The club would retain the league title the following season, when Rivaldo was named the World and European Footballer of the year as he scored 29 goals in all competitions.

However, the club underperformed in the Champions League that season, which created speculation over Rivaldo's future in Catalan. This was also due to his fragile relationship with then Barcelona manager Louis Van Gaal. However Rivaldo remained with Barcelona and the club performed significantly better in the Champions League during the 1999/2000 season, Rivaldo in particular who scored ten goals in the competition. Barcelona reached the semi final where they were defeated on aggregate by domestic opposition in Valencia. With the club failing to a trophy in that season, Van Gaal was sacked as manager.

Rivaldo's best season in front of goal for Barcelona came during the 2000/01 campaign. The Brazilian superstar scored 36 goals in all competitions including a sensational hat-trick against Valencia. His third goal, a famous bicycle kick is considered one of the greatest goals of his entire career.

Arguably Rivaldo's greatest achievement came in the summer of 2002. Brazil entered the World Cup looking to avenge their loss to France in the final four years ago. The Samba nation had been written off before the tournament, however with an attacking trio of Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and Rivaldo, Brazil looked as strong as ever. Rivaldo scored five goals for Brazil in the tournament en route to the final, including a goal against England in the quarter final. Rivaldo and his country celebrated its fifth World Cup triumph following a 2-0 over Germany in the final courtesy of two goals from striker, Ronaldo.

That same summer, Rivaldo's contract with Barcelona was terminated and he joined Italian side, A.C. Milan on a three year contract. His first season with the Serie A giants' was very successful as he helped the club win the Italian Cup and also the UEFA Champions League title,  despite being an unused substitute in the final win over Juventus. However, due to a lack of game time the following season, Rivaldo was loaned out to Brazilian side Cruzeiro before moving to Greece to play for Olympiacos.

Rivaldo spent three years with the Greek side, winning the Greek Super League three times in three seasons and the Greek Cup twice. The attacker scored 41 times in 91 matches in what were perhaps the last couple of seasons where Rivaldo was still in his prime.

After leaving Olympiacos in 2007, Rivaldo went on to play for the likes AEK Athens in Greece also and Sao Paulo in his homeland of Brazil. He continued playing into his forties, lastly for Brazil Serie C side, Mogi Mirim. He is now the president of that club.

During his near 25 year playing career, Rivaldo played more than 800 times at club level, scoring more than 350 goals in the process. He also won 74 caps for his country and scored 34 goals, eight of which came at the FIFA World Cup. He remains among fans and experts as one of the greatest attacking midfielders of his generation, maybe of all time. And in his pomp with Barcelona, former Manchester United captain Roy Keane stated that Rivaldo was the player he most wanted his team to sign.

Do you think Rivaldo was one of the greatest players of his generation? Have your say below.

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