Happy birthday, Cafu.
Today, the Brazilian icon blows out 52 candles on his birthday cake and strides into a 14th year of post-retirement life having drawn the curtains on his playing career at AC Milan.
A Champions League winner and two-time World Cup victor, Cafu is regularly named by fans, pundits and journalists alike as the greatest right-back in the history of the men’s game.
Happy birthday, Cafu
Cafu was part of a long line of Brazilian stars who added the flair and skill so often associated with the country’s football into their game regardless of where they played on the pitch.
Besides, you know you’re a special full-back when you’ll forever be remembered for juggling the ball over Pavel Nedved’s head – a Ballon d’Or winner, lest we forget – three times in mere seconds.
And if it wasn’t for another World Cup-winning Brazil captain in the form of Carlos Alberto, it’s fair to say that Cafu would be an absolute shoo-in for any and every all-time XI of the Selecao.
Or, of course, the problem could be eliminated by asking Cafu for his own selections where – in typically humble fashion – he can leave himself off the team sheet.
Cafu’s all-time Brazil XI
And that’s our not-at-all-contrived segue into exactly that because the birthday boy did indeed bless us with his selections for Brazil’s greatest ever XI while writing for the Guardian in the build-up to the 2018 World Cup.
It was not only fascinating to see how one of the finest footballers in history broke things down, but the line-up that he settles upon proved to be one of the most menacing that we’ve ever seen.
So, be sure to take a wild ride through a Brazil XI so star-studded that Ronaldinho is nowhere to be seen by checking out Cafu’s selections and his justification for them down below:
GK: Claudio Taffarel
Cafu says: “He was so calm, smooth and peaceful, always giving us confidence on the field. He didn’t do anything fancy, never jumped or dived unnecessarily and always had the ball under control.”
RB: Carlos Alberto
Cafu says: “Whether defending or attacking, he was always good. Carlos was a great leader, but his technique was even more incredible.”
CB: Aldair and Lucio
Cafu says: “They never played together, but I believe that they would form an amazing partnership. Aldair was very calm, never made a bad tackle and his positioning was incredible.
“He was my team-mate at Roma and with the Seleção – he saved my life many times when I was attacking. Lúcio was more aggressive and intense.”
LB: Robert Carlos
Cafu says: “A world champion, he played at a high level for many years, with the same quality and intensity whether defending or attacking. He was a giant.”
Cafu says: “He was a smart player, a legend with an elegance rarely seen on a football pitch. The king of assists, he never misplaced a pass or made a mistake.”
Cafu says: “Zico was intelligent, had incredible vision and could strike a superb free-kick. A foul around the area was as good as a goal to him.”
Cafu says: “He was a genius. Come on! It was so wonderful to see him with the ball. He played with the same style as Falcao. Rivaldo was brilliant.”
LM: Roberto Rivellino
Cafu says: “His elastico move was beautiful, like something from another planet. I love him! He was the best dribbler of a football ever.”
Cafu says: “The athlete of the century, he scored more than 1,000 goals, and won the World Cup three times. He was complete. I don’t need to say anything more. Pelé is Pelé. No one can beat him.”
Cafu says: “You had to pay attention to both feet with Ronaldo as they were as good as each other. He was an example to other players, too.”
What. A. Team.
If that’s not an outrageously good XI, then we don’t know what is.
You know that Brazilian football has a rich history of top-class quality when Ronaldinho, Neymar, Romario, Garrincha, Kaka, Socrates, Jairzinho, Dani Alves and Cafu himself can’t get a look in.
But that’s the levels that we’re talking about here and if anyone knows a few things about playing the beautiful game to the very highest of standards, then you can bet that Cafu is your man.