EiF Exclusive Interview with Brazil Legend Clodoaldo

CLODOALDO, BRAZIL’S UNSUNG HERO

Brazil legend Clodoaldo, who scored a famous goal in Brazil’s 1970 World Cup semifinal victory over Uruguay, sat down for an exclusive interview with EiF Soccer, saying that no current player can measure up to his teammate Pelé. He reveals his rise to the top, and what it was like to play with the greatest players of all time.

By Thomas Horcel and Nick Hawkins, in partnership with editor Henry Trotter


CLODOALDO ON BECOMING A SANTOS GREAT

Clodoaldo Tavares de Santana, known by fans as Clodoaldo, is a Brazilian footballing icon. He played as a central midfielder for Santos FC[1] in Brazil for his entire club career, and he was a part of one of the most successful domestic Brazilian teams of all time. Clodoaldo made his professional debut for Santos at the age of just 16, and went on to win a multitude of international and domestic silverware during his illustrious career. At Santos, he was fortunate to fall under the tutelage of Zito[2], another legendary Santos central midfielder who made over 700 appearances for the club. Clodoaldo tells EiF Soccer’s Thomas Horcel that “[Zito] was wearing the #5 jersey he had always worn and I had the #8. He was the captain but one day, during a training session at Vila Belmiro[3], he came to me and gave me the #5 jersey…and 14 years then passed by with the #5 on my back!” Besides learning from Zito, Clodoaldo also had the chance at Santos to play alongside Pelé[4], who is still considered by many, including Clodoaldo, to be the greatest player of all time.

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Clodoaldo debuted for Santos FC at age 16.

CLODOALDO ON WINNING THE 1970 WORLD CUP

Clodoaldo’s work rate, skill on the ball, and composure did not go unnoticed, and at just 20 years old he became an integral part of the Brazil squad as well, operating as the Seleção’s #5 at the 1970 World Cup[5] in Mexico. The Brazilians won all three of their group stage matches, convincingly defeating England, Romania, and Czechoslovakia. In the quarterfinals, they beat Peru 4-2, and in the semifinals they ousted Uruguay 3-1, with Clodoaldo scoring a stunning equalizing goal just before halftime to spark a Brazilian comeback[6]. He says about the goal, “Carlos Alberto[7] called Gérson[8] and me and said: ‘look, you’ve got to play more offensively and Gérson will play a little deeper because Uruguay is marking Gérson too hard and he is not being able to play. We will switch your positions, then.’” Just 3 minutes later, Clodoaldo played a one-two with Tostão[9] and strode forward into the Uruguayan penalty box to unleash a perfectly executed volley. The goal was a manifestation of the beautiful game, and undoubtedly remains one of the most important goals in Brazilian National Team history.


CLODOALDO ON THE GREATEST TEAM EVER

In the final, the Brazilians left no doubt of their dominance, thrashing Italy by a score of 4-1. This match is often remembered for Carlos Alberto’s remarkable goal, which is widely recognized as the greatest goal in World Cup history, but what most people do not recall is that Clodoaldo dribbled past four Italian defenders in the buildup to this famous goal to make it possible. The Brazilian team of 1970 is still regarded by most as the greatest World Cup team of all time, and star players such as Jairzinho[10], Rivelino[11], Gérson, Carlos Alberto, Clodoaldo, and Pelé will be eternally remembered for their achievements.

Clodoaldo also spoke to us about his thoughts on current players and how they compare to his teammates of the 1970’s: “We cannot compare this incredible talent and play of Messi, of Neymar, of Cristiano Ronaldo, to Pelé; they are not as complete as him. Pelé was a complete talent, he could even head the ball very well. So, you cannot even compare anyone to Pelé, there is no comparison!” In fact, Clodoaldo’s dream 5-a-side team does not include any players from the modern era, but instead consists of the attacking five players from the 1970 Brazilian World Cup team: Jairzinho, Gérson, Tostão, Pelé and Rivelino. Clodoaldo says that their “joy of playing” was a huge reason behind their massive success.

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Clodoaldo with the 1970 World Cup-winning Seleção, third from top-right, between Fluminense goalkeeper Felix and Gremio left-back Everaldo.

CLODOALDO ON STAYING ACTIVE

Clodoaldo is still involved with Santos FC and Brazil today. He has been a member of Santos for over 30 years, and he continues to advise the coaching staff and players of both the academy and senior teams. Clodoaldo also spends time with the current Brazilian National Team as a counselor, and he believes that the group is “united and talented.” Additionally, he has tipped Neymar for success, saying that he expects Neymar to win the World Cup and earn the title of the best player in the world. No pressure then, Neymar…


CLODOALDO IN HIS OWN WORDS

Thomas Horcel – Clodoaldo, thank you very much for being with us today!

Clodoaldo – It’s my pleasure!

TH – Can you tell us a little bit about what you are doing nowadays?

Clodoaldo – I’ve always made my living with Santos F.C.[1] I don’t have an “official” post with the club, but I’m committed to both the academy and professional teams. Although I love spending time with the lads in the academy, whenever I have time I’m in touch with the coaching staff as an advisor…besides being a full member of the club for over 30 years now. But I can say my whole life has directly been involved with Santos Futebol Clube, as I joined when I was 15 years old.

TH – Can you describe what having played your whole career at the same club is like (although you played for a short time in the USA)? Why do you think that players nowadays rarely stay at the same club their entire career?

Although nowadays Barcelona… is considered the best team in the world, for me it was true then and now: Santos FC holds this status with its special charm and magic.”

Clodoaldo – The opportunity of having a guaranteed, comfortable financial situation makes it very difficult for players now to say “no” to offers that are more and more financially rewarding. Back in my day, it didn’t happen! We only switched teams for moving! I’ve always played in Santos F.C. in my career; it has camisa. Although nowadays Barcelona is considered the best team in the world, for me it was true then and now: Santos F.C. holds this status with its special charm and magic. I grew up here in Santos, I came when I was 15 years old. I lived in the Vila Belmiro[3] and spent many nights sleeping under the bleachers of the stadium with the other players, so it was fantastic!

TH – What was your favorite moment during your career with Santos F.C.?

Clodoaldo – There are so many because we won so many championships! I made my professional debut when I was 16 years old and then the first 3 titles I won were the Campeonato Paulista[12] in São Paulo. We also should have a world championship title that up to this day I don’t know if FIFA recognized, because we played and won in Italy but then our opponents didn’t want to come play here in Brazil. But Santos F.C. won many international titles then, so I cannot say there is “one” special moment because I consider my whole career as special and victorious! It was more than 14 years of so many conquests!

Unfortunately, I had to abandon my career at the early age of 29. I had a knee injury, did everything I could to recover, but had some problems with the recovery and was forced to end my career. Injuries stopped me from playing in 2-3 World Cups with the Brazilian National Team. I was played in the World Cup we won in 1970[5] but had a muscular problem in 1974 that stopped me from playing in that one, and well, I could have probably played in the 1978 and 1982 editions. It’s sad because I was very young and still in great shape. But in the end I am thankful anyway because I consider these 14 years I spent as a player very gratifying.

TH – You started your professional career at a very young age, basically taking over from Zito[2]. Did you feel the pressure?

Clodoaldo – It helped a lot! Zito was a natural leader; he didn’t have to “push” it! He was nice and fair and treated everybody equally. He would fight for every player: from Pelé[4] to the weakest one! I was very fortunate to start my career with someone like Zito at my side. I could learn a lot. I remember especially about when the Campeonato Paulista started in 1967 (my first one); I was playing in midfield with Zito. He was wearing the #5 jersey he had always worn and I had the #8. He was the captain but one day, during a training session at Vila Belmiro, he came to me and gave me the #5 jersey…and 14 years then passed by with the #5 on my back!

Zito… was wearing the #5 jersey he had always worn and I had the #8. He was the captain but one day, during a training session at Vila Belmiro, he came to me and gave me the #5 jersey… and 14 years then passed by with the #5 on my back.”

TH – That’s what I call pressure!

Clodoaldo – A big responsibility! I learned a lot with him! When you start your career so young as I did, playing with idols like Zito, Pelé, and so many others, you learn and gain a lot of experience. At the same time, because I was so young, I didn’t feel so much pressure being in the team.

TH – Now, speaking of the national team, and as you are wearing the jersey of the most famous team in history, tell us a bit about the dynamic of that group: was there a prankster? Who was the leader?

Clodoaldo – You know, every group has a “funny guy”, the guy who likes to play pranks! In the Brazilian team there was Brito[13]; he was a wonderful person – always in a good mood and with a smile. He boosted the team’s mood with his jokes and good spirit. There were other ones too! Paulo César[14], for instance, always had something new to say! The group was very united and it was very nice to be a part of it. I think that this sense of unity and respect led us to win the World Cup in Mexico. We were a family.

TH – What was it like to score the tying goal in a World Cup semifinal?

Clodoaldo – Yeah, it was a tying goal! Football evolved a lot in the tactical sense. In 1970, many teams already played with 2 or 3 central more defensive-minded midfielders. But Zagallo[15] gave our team more of an attacking mentality than defending. I was the only midfielder who could effectively cover. Gérson[8] and Rivelino[11] would assist me and Pelé was the one who would come back looking for the ball and go for the counter attack. I was a player who usually sat back and helped cover for the outside backs Everaldo[16] and Carlos Alberto[7]. But in this match against Uruguay, with about 15 minutes left in the first half and Brazil losing 1-0, Carlos Alberto called Gérson and me and said: “look, you’ve got to play more offensively and Gérson will play a little deeper because Uruaguay is marking Gérson too hard and he is not being able to play. We will switch your positions, then.”

With about 12 minutes left in the first half, I received the ball and passed it to Tostão[9]. I realized there was space and although I didn’t usually go forward in the attack, I knew Gérson was playing in a more withdrawn role than usual, so when the ball came in my direction through a pristine pass from Tostão, I kicked it before it even touched the grass! It was an important goal because we were not playing well before it and it put Brazil level with Uruguay. After the 1×1, the team started to feel stronger than the adversary; that’s the way it should be. You always have to play feeling you are in a superior, never equal, level! So, when we started the second half, there was Pelé’s famous play – drible da vaca[16]. After that we dominated the game and were able to play with tranquility, playing our best football.

TH – Do you consider the goal scored by Carlos Alberto[7] in the final to be the best in history?

Clodoaldo – Yes! It’s funny because I scored an important goal (in the semifinal) but every time they show something from that World Cup it’s the play for Carlos Alberto’s goal. Italy was putting a lot of pressure and pressing us so when I was able to dribble 4 or 5 Italians, space opened up and I passed the ball to Rivelino, who passed it to Jairzinho[10], it was a well planned play by team. He passed it to Pelé and Pelé passed the ball to Carlos Alberto. We then had a small bulge of elevated grass on the field that made the ball bounce up perfectly for Carlos Alberto screaming “shoot me, shoot me” and he hit it for our fourth goal of the game. This play, this goal, is considered to this day by FIFA as one of the most beautiful goals ever in a World Cup.

TH – Do you have any funny stories to tell about this 1970 team, any memory to share with us that was not shown on tv?

Clodoaldo – When you have a group of 40 people isolated in a training center, many pranks and jokes happen! I don’t remember one in particular, but I do remember that when we won the World Cup, people invaded the field and took everything they could. So many of us ended up in just our underwear! I also remember that our masseuse had a bell and every morning he would wake us up ringing it at every door! So we decided to hide the bell and he went “crazy” looking for it as he would not be able to start our day at 7 am anymore. We had hidden the bell outside his window, where we thought he would easily find it. But he never opened his window so… he never found it! I’m pretty sure that this sense of union in the group made us stronger as a team in our conquest of the title.

TH – What do you think is missing in the Brazilian team nowadays when you compare it to the team of 1970? Is it this sense of union?

Clodoaldo – I was with the Brazilian team a couple of months ago, for 2 weeks, as a temporary counselor – this consists in a former World Cup champion advising and participating in the build-up for the following match. I do think the group is united and talented. But the team doesn’t have many players whose talent can change a game as we had in 1970. We didn’t have to depend on only Pelé. They now have many very good players of excellent ability, such as one of the best in the world in Neymar. I think it would be very good for football if he won the World Cup and the title as the best player in the world, and strongly think it will happen!

TH– You heard it here first everyone! Now, Clodoaldo, we hear a lot nowadays about Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. What was it like playing alongside Pelé and what do you have to say to those who think Messi is a better player than Pelé?

Clodoaldo – We have already heard something like that with people comparing Maradona to Pelé. Now since Messi is the best nowadays he’s the one people talk about. I think Messi, just like Neymar, has tremendous skill and ability. His “final ball” and finishing ability are very decisive; it’s the type of ball that the goalkeeper finds very difficult to defend. Neymar I believe has this talent, too. But here’s the thing: Pelé was complete. He had incredible speed, acceleration, dribbling, skills, and finishing! So we cannot compare this incredible talent and play of Messi, of Neymar, of Cristiano Ronaldo, to Pelé; they are not as complete as him. Pelé was a complete talent, he could even head the ball very well. So, you cannot even compare anyone to Pelé, there is no comparison! But if there’s one area where there can be a comparison it’s that “final ball” of Messi. It’s very disconcerting, very hard to defend; it’s maybe the best I have ever seen…

Pelé was a complete talent… he could even head the ball very well. So, you cannot even compare anyone to Pelé, there is no comparison! But if there’s one area where there can be a comparison it’s that “final ball” of Messi. It’s very disconcerting, very hard to defend.”

TH – Now, for my final question: thinking of all the players you saw playing or played with, who are the ones you would like to have in your team for a match? What would be your dream 5-a-side?

Clodoaldo – That’s a difficult one, as I wouldn’t want to forget or insult anyone I played with! So if I had to choose, I would choose the 5 attacking forces we had in the 1970 squad: Jairzinho, Gérson, Tostão, Pelé and Rivelino for their joy of playing. They were fantastic. I could never have imagined I would be the one to score against Uruguay when I always saw those 5 names in front of me on the pitch. I thought they would score, not me!

TH – Clodoaldo, I would like to thank you very much once again for your time. It was a real pleasure!

Clodoaldo – Thank you, Thomas, my pleasure!


NOTES

Santos FC – Based in the city of Santos, a large Brazilian port in the state of São Paulo, Santos FC is a titan of Brazilian football. They have never been relegated from the top tier of Brazilian Football, and have won eight Brazilian championships and three Copa Libertadores (the South American Champions League). They also won 24 titles in the 1960s. That team, spearheaded by Pelé, was nicknamed Os Santásticos, and made Santos a worldwide symbol of Jogo Bonito (the beautiful game).
Zito  – 1932-2015. Captained Santos during their most successful period, the era of Os Santásticos. He played over 700 games for Santos, and also won the 1958 and 1962 World Cups with Brazil, scoring in the 1962 final. After retiring, Zico stayed with Santos as vice-president and then director of football, and is credited with attracting an 11-year old Neymar to the club.
Vila Belmiro – Built in 1916, Vila Belmiro is the home of Santos FC and is located in the Vila Belmiro neighborhood of Santos. It was given its official name, Estádio Urbano Caldeira, in 1933 after the just-deceased former player and manager Urbano Caldeira. Its modern capacity is somewhat low for a club of Santos’ stature, as the ground holds just over 16,000 supporters. The ground has undergone several major renovations, and the current board is considering building a new ground in nearby Cubãtao.
4 Pelé – Hardly needs an introduction. Sports a long list of honors including World Player of the Century as voted by former Ballon D’Or winners, Athlete of the Century, and TIME’s 100 Most Influential People of the 21st Century, and also holds records such as most league goals by any player. He began playing for Santos at 15 and Brazil at 16, and won three World Cups with Brazil before taking his talents to the New York Cosmos for 2 years in the 70s. He has been dubbed “The King of Football” and is one of the few surviving members of the great 1970 World Cup side.
5 1970 World Cup – The tournament took place in Mexico and was won by Brazil, allowing them to permanently keep the Jules Rimet Trophy. The Brazilian team who won the tournament is often considered the best team of all time, winning all of their qualifying games and all six games at the World Cup finals. The tournament was well-received for its attacking football, averaging the most goals per game of any World Cup. It was also the first World Cup to be broadcast in color.
6 Clodoaldo, who played as a defensive midfielder, didn’t usually score – this was his only goal for Brazil. It was a gem, though, and you can watch his volley here.
7 Carlos Alberto – Brazil’s captain during the 1970 World Cup, and scorer of one of the greatest goals of all time in the final. Played right back for this team, but moved to center back after a knee injury decreased his pace. He was a rare ball-playing defender in the the 60s, starting his career at Fluminense before scoring 40 goals in his eight years at Santos. The 1970 World Cup would be his only, as he suffered with injuries, moving to reunite with Pelé at New York Cosmos before retiring and exploring various management jobs. He was selected as the right-back in the World Team of the 20th Century.
8 Gérson – Considered the creative brain behind the 1970 World Cup winning team. Had prolific domestic careers for both Flamengo and Botafogo in Brazil. He had an incredible passing range, creativity and a strong left foot. After injury knocked him out of the 1962 World Cup and he performed poorly in 1966, he pulled the strings in the 1970 World Cup and scored in the final, earning a place on the team of the tournament.
9 Tostão – His nickname means “little coin”. He debuted at age 15, and at 17 moved to Cruzeiro, where he would become the club’s all-time top goal scorer (249 goals). He netted 32 goals for Brazil, including 2 at the 1970 World Cup, but suffered sight problems after he detached a retina when hit in the face by a ball. He retired at 27 and became a medical doctor.
10 Jairzinho – Brazil’s right winger, Jairzinho was athletic and quick, scoring a goal in each of Brazil’s 7 games in the 1970 World Cup. He was the successor to his idol Garrincha after the latter retired in 1966. He played the majority of his club football at Botafogo, before several less successful stints in France (Marseille) and South Africa (Kaizer Chiefs). He soon returned to South America to win the Copa Libertadores with Cruzeiro and the Venezuelan championship with Portuguesa. As a coach, he held several low-level jobs but also spotted a 10-year-old Ronaldo, scouting him for Cruzeiro and the Brazilian national team.
11 Rivelino – Brazil’s left winger was the son of Italian immigrants and had the mustache and footballing skill to prove it. Rivelino had powerful left-footed free kicks and close control, perfecting the “flip-flap” or “Elastico” that has been the favorite of several football stars. He began as a futsal player before signing with Corinthians in 1965. After they struggled in the 60s and Rivelino garnered blame, Rivelino moved to Fluminense, where he won two Rio de Janeiro championships. His performances for Brazil earned him the nickname “Patada Atómica” (Atomic Kick) after his free kicks in Mexico, and inspired players like Diego Maradona, who lists Rivelino among his idols.
12 Campeonato Paulista – The top flight of the São Paulo State football league. Corinthians have won this competition the most (27 times) followed by current holders Santos FC, who have won the league 22 times. Clodoaldo won the Campeonato Paulista with Santos FC in 1967, 1968, 1969, 1973 and 1978.
13 Brito – A center back who earned 45 caps for the Brazilian national team and was a part of the Seleção world cup squad in 1966 and 1970. He spent 13 years of his club career at Vasco De Gama, but played for a total of nine Brazilian teams over the course of his lengthy career. He also spent a year each playing at Deportivo Galicia in Venezuela and Le Castor FC in Canada.
14 Paulo Cesar – An attack-minded midfielder commonly known as Caju who scored 10 goals in 57 games for Brazil and was a member of the 1970 World Cup team. He played most of his club years in Brazil, but also enjoyed two stints in Ligue 1 in France for Marseille in 1974-1975 and Aix in 1982-1983. In total, he scored over 100 goals in his 17 year career.
15 Zagallo – The first man to win the World Cup as both a player and a manager, Mário Zagallo has four World Cup victories to his name. He was the manager of the Brazil 1970 squad and assistant in 1994 after winning the 1958 and 1962 tournaments as a player. The young coach, only 38 in 1970, had his team playing a sparkling brand of attacking football.
16 Everaldo – One of the best left-backs of all time, Everaldo played for Grêmio for 8 years as well as earning 24 caps for Brazil. After Everaldo started for the World-Cup-winning 1970 team, Grêmio added a gold star to their crest in his honor. Everaldo unfortunately died early at age 30 in a car crash in 1974.
17 Drible de vaca – Pele’s signature move, which involved touching the ball around the defender and running past on the other side; simple and deadly. Watch Robinho perform it here.