Football is a game that is fond of trying to compare the old with the new. How many times have we heard the phrases like ‘the new Messi’ or ‘the new Makalele’ being used for a young player? The media are quick to hype up a player as soon as he shows a single glimpse of ability. Unfortunately, some players just cannot live up to the hype and never reach the potential that everyone was so quick to thrust upon them. The result is a career filled with a constant a feeling of ‘if only’.
In this series, we look at the players we all thought would turn out to be some of the best in the world, but whose careers have taken turns for the worse. Bad decisions, big egos, and inconsistency leading to their downfall.
The first Forgotten Man we profile is Carlos Alberto De Jesus.
The 2004 Champions League Final was arguably the most surprisingly contested of the modern era as both FC Porto and AS Monaco reached the final to the shock of every football fan around the world. Porto’s 3-0 victory was the one of the first major victories for Jose Mourinho, now a managerial great. The final also boasted several players who would eventually be picked up by the traditional giants of European football such as Deco, Patrice Evra, and Ricardo Carvalho.
The final should also have been the platform for Carlos Alberto De Jesus to shoot to stardom. After all, when he expertly volleyed Porto into the lead that night, he became the 3rd youngest player ever to score in a Champions League final at just 19 years old. Scoring in the Champions League final was something that the likes of Ronaldo, Rivaldo and Ronaldinho, bona fide legends of Brazilian football, never managed in their careers.
That however, was as good as it got in an average career where he largely flattered to deceive.
Carlos Alberto started his professional career playing for his hometown club Fluminense, based in Rio Di Janiero. He caught the eye with several great performances, helping lead ‘Flu’ to their first Campeanato Carioca (Rio’s regional championship) in seven years. That resulted in a call up to the Brazilian National Team squad for the 2003 Gold Cup alongside the likes of Kaka and Robinho.
As is usually the case with any rising star in Brazilian football, interest immediately came from a number of European clubs looking to snatch him as quickly as they could. That move to Europe materialized soon afterwards as he signed for Porto in January 2004.
At the time, Porto were the reigning UEFA Cup champions and were managed by a certain Jose Mourinho, who was beginning to make a name for himself as one of the best young managers around. Mourinho, as he has showcased throughout his highly successful career ever since, never showed a tendency of experimenting with youngsters. He prefers to use experienced players who will follow his tactical instructions closely. But, Mourinho saw something exceptional in the mercurial talent that was Carlos Alberto. Playing as a second striker behind either Derlei or Benni McCarthy, Carlos Alberto started every single game of Porto’s incredible run in the Champions League. Scoring in the final was the crowning moment of an impressive season. At only 19 years of age, Carlos Alberto was a Champions League winner, a full Brazilian international and destined for big things.
However, immediately after the final, Jose Mourinho announced he was embarking on his next chapter as the manager of Chelsea. And it all went downhill for Carlos Alberto afterwards. Incoming manager Victor Fernandez did not trust the Brazilian, who showed attitude issues and his role was relegated to largely warming the bench. In a bid to re-energise his career, Carlos Alberto decided to move back to Brazil.
In 2005, Corinthians, a club based in Sao Paulo, was taken over by the Media Sports Investment group led by controversial figure Kia Joorabchian. The objective was to get Corinthians back on top of Brazilian football and heavy investment was put into the club. Argentines Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano were convinced to join the club to the surprise of many. Carlos Alberto was signed alongside them and had what proved to be the best season of his career. His outstanding performances alongside the brilliant Tevez culminated in Corinthians being crowned champions of Brazil for the first time in six years. Again, Carlos Alberto was on top of the world.
And once again he came back crashing down to earth the following season.
Tevez and Mascherano left controversially for the English Premier League in the form of West Ham United. Corinthians could not replicate their heroics, and neither could Carlos Alberto. His attitude problems resurfaced as well. A major bust-up with manager and well known disciplinarian Emerson Leao saw Carlos Alberto pledge never to play for the club again as long as Leao remained manager. His hometown club Fluminense handed him a lifeline with a loan move and he repaid their faith by helping the club win their first ever Copa do Brasil in 2007.
Still harbouring hopes Carlos Alberto could still fulfill his seemingly massive potential, Werder Bremen gambled and broke their transfer record to bring him back to European football for a fee of around €8 million. That gamble proved to be an utter failure. Making only two league appearances for the club, Carlos Alberto’s brief spell in German football was blighted by injuries and bad fitness. Famously, Carlos Alberto claimed the reason he failed so miserably in Germany was because he was suffering from insomnia.
And if his career was a stop-start one before then, Carlos Alberto’s career completely stalled thereafter.
Bremen attempted to offload the troublesome Brazilian by sending him on loan several times, but each time a dispute with the manager or bad performances would mean he would return back with his reputation even further in tatters. Ultimately, Carlos Alberto settled at Vasco da Gama, where he spent a year on loan and then three more when his contract with Bremen was terminated. Although he helped the club gain promotion to the top flight in 2008, his performances could be described as unspectacular at best. Further spells at various other clubs in Brazil were mediocre as well.
In 2015, Carlos Alberto signed for Al Dhafra FC in the United Arab Emirates. Fifteen days later, his contract was rescinded when he claimed the club’s management deceived him with false promises. It was typical Carlos Alberto, always having an excuse to justify his failures.
Now 31 years old and plying his trade at Figueirense, it is unlikely the footballing world will hear about Carlos Alberto again. Some glimpses of talent here and there will always give a reminder of what could have been. A promising career wasted by a combination of erratic form, unprofessionalism and plenty of character issues.