After Beckham, no other player has ever been able to bend it like Zico. The Brazilian free-kick specialist was able to curve the ball round or over the defensive wall in a banana-like manner which defied the laws of gravity.
He was also a clinical finisher, an exceptional dribbler and one of the most exquisite passers in the game’s history. Sadly, despite competing in three World Cups—including the 1982 Brazil side widely regarded as the greatest ever—Zico never lifted a major trophy at international level. However, he did pick up a bunch of silverware during his 16-year spell with club side Flamengo, including three league titles and the Copa Libertadores. The man nicknamed the White Pele also received the most glowing recommendation from the actual Pele, who described him as ‘the one player that came closest to me.’
Born in 1953, his real name is Arthur Antunes Coimbra but popularly called Zico.
He came from a lower-middle-class family of Portuguese origin, in the neighbourhood of Quintino Bocaiúva, Rio de Janeiro. In common with many young Brazilians, he spent much of his youth dreaming of being a professional footballer and skipped school to play football on the streets. His passion for the sport made him famous in the neighbourhood, where people would gather to see the boy’s brilliant performances against older children and teenagers. At that time he was playing for Juventude, a local futsal street team run by his older brothers and friends, and had also begun to play for futsal club River Futebol Clube on Sundays.
In 1967, at 14 years old, he had a scheduled trial at América, where his brothers Antunes and Edu were professional players. But on a Sunday, during a River match, Zico scored 9 goals and caught the attention of radio reporter Celso Garcia, who asked Zico’s father to take him to a trial at Flamengo instead. Being a Flamengo fan, Zico had his father’s approval, beginning his path towards becoming one of the most admired players in the history of the sport.
While at Flamengo, Zico was a key player during the most glorious period of the team’s history. Along with many other titles, in his first period at Flamengo he led the team to victory in the 1981 Copa Libertadores, the 1981 Intercontinental Cup, and four national titles (1980, 1982, 1983, and 1987). On the field, Zico made goals in all imaginable ways, was also a great assister and team organizer, and was known for his excellent vision of the field. He was a two-footed player and an expert at free kicks.
After receiving offers from A.S. Roma and A.C. Milan, moving to Italy seemed right and a four-million dollar proposal from Udinese was on the table. Such an amount of money made bigger clubs pressure the FIGC (Italian Football Federation) that blocked the transfer expecting financial guarantees. This caused a commotion in Udine as enraged Friulians flocked to the streets in protest against the Italian federation and the federal government. Historical reasons would make them shout “O Zico, o Austria!” (“Either Zico or Austria”). At the end of the controversy, the deal went through and though leaving Flamengo fans in sadness, Zico made the Friulians fans finally dream of better days.
In the 1983–84 Serie A, his first in Italy, his partnership with Franco Causio promised to take Udinese to a higher level, gaining respect from giants Juventus and Roma. His free kicks caused such an impact that TV sports programs would debate how to stop them. Despite his excellent performance, the club’s season ended in disappointment as Udinese, in spite of scoring almost twice as many goals as the previous year, only gathered 32 points and was ninth in the final standing, losing three places in comparison to 1982–83. Zico scored 19 goals, one fewer than top scorer Michel Platini, having played 4 fewer matches than the French footballer due to an injury. Plus, he was voted 1983 Player of the Year by World Soccer Magazine.
His following season would be punctuated by injuries and suspensions for openly attacking referees. He also used to complain about the board’s lack of ambition for not signing competitive players, which made the team too dependent on him. Furthermore, Italian tax officials pressed charges against him for tax evasion. Pressured, Zico delivered an amazing display against Diego Maradona’s Napoli, his last match as a bianconero, and returned to Brazil and Flamengo, sponsored by a group of companies.
He became a fan favorite with his spectacular goals and is still adored now by all Udinese fans.
Style of play
A classic number 10, Zico usually played as an attacking midfielder, although he was also capable of playing in several other attacking and midfield positions, and was also deployed as a central midfielder, as a second striker or inside forward, or even as an outright forward; he is regarded as one of the greatest footballers of all time. A diminutive playmaker, with a small, slender physique, he was a two-footed player, known for his flair, speed, exceptional technique, ball control, and dribbling skills, as well as his use of tricks and feints to beat opponents with the ball.Although he was not physically imposing, Zico was a quick, complete and highly creative player, with excellent vision, who is considered to be one of the best passers of all time, and was known for his trademark no-look passes.In addition to being an elite creator of goalscoring opportunities, Zico was also a prolific goalscorer himself, and an excellent finisher, due to his powerful and accurate striking ability;he was also a set-piece specialist, who was renowned for his ability to bend the ball and score from dead ball situations, and is considered to be one of the greatest free kick takers of all time.Zico’s unique free kick technique, which often saw him raise his knee at a very high angle when striking the ball, thus enabling him to lift it high over the wall, allowed him to score free kicks even from close range, within 20 to 16 metres from the goal, or even from just outside the penalty area.In addition to his footballing skills, Zico was also known for his leadership and determination, as well as his stamina, dedication, and for having an outstanding work-ethic.Throughout his career, Zico was nicknamed O Galinho (“The Little Rooster”, in Portuguese).Despite his ability, his career was plagued by injuries
Zico retired from professional football during the 1994 season but received an invitation to play beach soccer, winning the Beach Soccer World Cup 1995. Scoring 12 goals, he was the top scorer and was named the best player of the tournament. He returned to Kashima to become the Antlers’ technical adviser in 1995, splitting his time between Japan and Brazil – where he still managed to find time to play beach soccer. One year later, in 1996, he founded CFZ (Zico Football Centre) in Rio de Janeiro. Zico founded another club, named CFZ de Brasília, in 1999.
Zinedine Zidane: A three-time FIFA World Player of the Year
One of soccer’s all-time greats, Zinedine Zidane led France to victory at the 1998 World Cup, but was thrown out of the ’06 Cup final for striking an opponent.
Who Is Zinedine Zidane?
Zinedine Zidane was born on June 23, 1972, in Marseille, France. A three-time FIFA World Player of the Year, Zidane led France to victory in the 1998 World Cup and starred for clubs in France, Italy and Spain. His career ended in shocking fashion when he was expelled from the 2006 World Cup final for headbutting an opponent, though he remains regarded as one of the sport’s all-time greats. Zidane went on to a highly successful stint as manager of Real Madrid from 2016 to ’18, winning three consecutive Champions League titles.
Zinedine Yazid Zidane was born on June 23, 1972, in Marseille, France. The son of Algerian immigrants, Zidane learned to play soccer in the streets of La Castellane, a rough section of Marseille. After starring for local youth clubs, 14-year-old Zidane was discovered at a French Football Federation training camp by AS Cannes recruiter Jean Varraud, and spent the next three years honing his skills in Cannes’ youth division.
Zidane made his first professional appearance for Cannes at 17, scoring a goal in his debut. He transferred to Bordeaux in 1992, and in ensuing years the attacking midfielder earned renown for his sterling all-around play. Prone to the occasional flash of temper, Zidane otherwise was the embodiment of control with the ball at his feet, seemingly knowing when to maneuver through the defense, find a teammate with a pinpoint pass or rocket a shot at the goal.
Zidane transferred to Juventus F.C. in Italy’s prestigious Series A League in 1996. The move brought a marked increase in visibility and expectations, but Zidane proved he was up to the challenge by steering Juventus to an Italian Super Cup, a UEFA Super Cup, an Intercontinental Cup and a pair of Series A titles over the next two seasons.
At his peak when France hosted the 1998 World Cup, Zidane spearheaded Les Bleus’ march through the tournament with his crisp passing and dribbling, and then scored twice as France shut down Brazil in the final, 3-0, to become a national hero. Two years later, Zidane again was the linchpin of the French team’s run to international glory, which culminated with a 2-1 win over Italy for the European Championship.
In 2001, Zidane signed with Spanish club Real Madrid for a world-record transfer fee of more than $66 million. The investment paid immediate dividends, as the French import helped Real Madrid win the coveted UEFA Champions League title in his first year and La Liga the following season.
Zidane had indicated he would retire after the 2006 World Cup in Germany, and it appeared his career was heading for a storybook finish when France advanced to the final against Italy. Instead, it ended in shocking fashion when, enraged by opponent Marco Materazzi’s comments to him in extra time, he slammed his head into the Italian player’s chest. Zidane was thrown out of the game, and France subsequently lost on penalty kicks.
Real Madrid Front Office and Manager
Zidane joined Real Madrid’s front office as an adviser and was named the club’s sporting director in 2011. The following year, it was announced the French soccer legend would begin coaching at Real Madrid’s youth academy, and in 2014 he was named coach of the club’s B team.
In January 2016, Zidane took over as manager of Real Madrid’s first team. While some doubted how he would fare in front of a demanding owner and fan base, the icon soon silenced the critics with his overwhelming success, becoming the first manager to win two and then three consecutive Champions League titles. He also led Real Madrid to two UEFA Super Cups, two FIFA World Club Cups, one Spanish title and one Spanish Super Cup, before announcing he was stepping down from the post in May 2018.
In 2004, Zidane was named best European soccer player of the past 50 years by the UEFA Golden Jubilee Poll and was included in the FIFA 100, Pelé’s list of the 125 greatest living players. He remains one of a handful of greats to win the FIFA World Player of the Year/Ballon d’Or award three times.
Appointed a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador in March 2001, Zidane annually captains a team of soccer stars against a side led by fellow retired idol and U.N. Ambassador Ronaldo in a match for charity. In 2010, he also served as a high-profile ambassador of Qatar’s successful bid to host the 2022 World Cup.
David Beckham: The talented goal scorer
The great David Beckham has played for Manchester United, England, Real Madrid and the L.A. Galaxy. He is married to Victoria Beckham, also known as Posh from the Spice Girls.
Who Is David Beckham?
Soccer star David Beckham was born on May 2, 1975, in London, England. A phenom almost from the moment he could first kick a soccer ball, Beckham began playing for Manchester United, England’s legendary soccer team, at age 18, and was a starter by age 20. In 2007, he signed a five-year, $250 million contract with the L.A. Galaxy. In May 2013, he announced plans to retire.
Wife and Family
Beckham has been married to Victoria Adams (of Spice Girls fame) since 1999. The couple has four children: three sons (Brooklyn, Romeo and Cruz) and one daughter (Harper).
World-Wide Star for Manchester United
Beckham wasted little time in making a splash on the English soccer landscape. The talented goal scorer was named the Professional Footballers’ Association Young Player of the Year in 1997. A year later, he was one of the leading faces of England’s World Cup team.
Marriage to Victoria Beckham
His bravado and good looks offered up plenty of off-field potential, too. In 1998, Beckham, who’d already signed a deal with Adidas, netted $13 million in endorsement deals. The Beckham brand only enhanced in value when he met Victoria Adams, also known as “Posh Spice” of the Spice Girls, in 1997. The two quickly fell in love, and on March 4, 1999, they had their first child, a son they named Brooklyn Joseph. Two months later, Beckham and Victoria tied the knot at a lavish $800,000 wedding at a castle outside of Dublin, Ireland.
On the field, Beckham didn’t miss a beat. In 1999 he led Manchester United to the Premier League title, the FA Cup championship, and the Champions League title. Thanks to a last-minute free kick against Greece in 2001, England qualified for the 2002 World Cup. That same year, Beckham signed a three-year $22 million contract to remain with Manchester United.
But Beckham’s time with United proved to be shorter than anyone thought. In 2003 he was acquired by Real Madrid in a stunner of a deal that brought to light Beckham’s growing rift with Manchester’s manager, Sir Alex Ferguson.
Spanish soccer fans were thrilled to have their archrival join their team. Americans, meanwhile, were just getting to know him with the release of the movie, Bend It Like Beckham (2002), a delightful movie that tells the story of a young girl who bucks her family’s traditional ways, and falls in love with English soccer.
Moving to the L.A. Galaxy
America’s fascination with Beckham and his decade of dominance culminated in 2007, when the soccer great moved across the Atlantic to sign a reported five-year, $250 million deal with the L.A. Galaxy. The relocation was as much about giving Victoria Beckham’s career a boost (she helped drive the decision to move to the States) as it was to give America’s Major League Soccer a shot in the arm. Within 48 hours of the signing, the Galaxy sold more than 5,000 season tickets.
Beckham’s career since moving to the United States, however, has been a rocky one. He’s been beset by injuries, spraining a knee ligament his first season in L.A., and later missed out on a chance to play in the 2010 World Cup because of an Achilles tendon injury.
In July 2011, he and wife Victoria Beckham, who already had three boys together (Brooklyn, Romeo and Cruz), welcomed a daughter, Harper Seven, into their family.
In 2012 Beckham furthered his success by venturing into a new commercial endeavor, starting an underwear line for the company H&M. As part of Beckham’s marketing campaign with H&M, six 10-foot statues of the soccer star in his underwear were installed in New York City; others were installed in Los Angeles and San Francisco.
On May 16, 2013 — just days after winning a title with French club Paris Saint-Germain — the 38-year-old Beckham announced that he would be retiring at the end of the 2013 season, ending his 21-year soccer career.
“I wouldn’t have achieved what I have done today without my family. I’m grateful for my parents’ sacrifice, which made me realize my dreams,” Beckham said in a statement. “I owe everything to Victoria and the kids, who have given me the inspiration and support to play at the highest level for such a long period… If you had told me as a young boy I would have played for and won trophies with my boyhood club Manchester United, proudly captained and played for my country over 100 times and lined up for some of the biggest clubs in the world, I would have told you it was a fantasy. I’m fortunate to have realized those dreams.”
By 2013, Beckham had become credited as England’s wealthiest sportsman, reportedly earning more than $46 million annually. The following year Beckham announced plans — along with fellow investors — to expand the Major League Soccer franchise with a new team in Miami.
Beckham has been involved in numerous charity work over the years, most notably serving as a UNICEF UK ambassador in the arena of children and sports development.
Born on May 2, 1975, in Leytonstone, London, England, to parents Ted Beckham, an appliance repairman, and his wife Sandra, a hair stylist, David Beckham was the family’s only son. A middle child between two sisters, Beckham grew up with parents and siblings who were committed fans of Manchester United, England’s legendary soccer franchise.
At an early age, Beckham showed his own promise as a footballer, winning the coveted Bobby Charlton Soccer Schools National Skills competition at 11 years old. His talent soon caught the notice of Manchester United team officials, who asked him to try out for the club’s youth league. By the age of 16, Beckham had left home and was playing for United’s training division. Two years later he made the club, and by 1995, he was a full-time starter.
Best African players from Nigeria
Nigeria with the population of over 186 million is a country with a variety of sporting interests, but a widely celebrated one is football.
Since 1949 when a select group of Nigerian footballers were recruited to form the ‘UK Tourists’, a touring team that represented Nigeria in Europe, it’s been producing some of the finest football players out of Africa. In 1953, Titus Okere joined Swindon Town FC as the first Nigerian footballer to play for an international team and, ever since, many other talented football players have emerged from the country. Here is a list of some of the best football players from Nigeria.
Sunday Oliseh is a former Nigerian football manager and football player who, during his active years, played as a defensive midfielder. Born on September 14, 1974, his football career spanned from 1989–2006 when he retired aged 32. During his professional career, he played for the teams Julius Berger, RFC Liège, Reggiana, Ajax, Juventus, and Genk among others, and the Nigerian national squad from 1993–2002. As a club manager, he managed Eupen, Verviétois, Nigeria, and currently Fortuna Sittard.
At the age of 19, his exceptional skills earned him a €1.5 million (US$1.8 million) move to Köln from Reggiana and at 22 Ajax purchased him for €2.3 million (US$2.7 million). Oliseh played for Nigeria at the FIFA World Cup of 1994 and 1998, played 54 international matches and scored two goals for Nigeria. However, he is most fondly remembered for scoring the winning goal in a group stage match against Spain in the 1998 World Cup. Oliseh has an estimated net worth of €3.4 million (US$4 million).
Popularly known as ‘Jay-Jay’, Augustine Azuka Okocha was born on August 14, 1973. He played as an attacking midfielder during his career from 1990–2008 and was known for his technique, confidence and dribbling skills, especially his use of feints.
During his career, he played for Borussia Neunkirchen, Eintracht Frankfurt, Fenerbahçe, Paris Saint-Germain, Bolton Wanderers, Qatar SC, and Hull City. For Nigeria, he played 75 international games and scored 14 goals from 1993–2006. Since retiring in 2008, he’s now a business mogul, owning several companies in his native country, and is estimated to be worth around €127 million (US$150 million).
Stephen Keshi was a former Nigerian player and manager born on January 23, 1962. Sadly, after suffering a heart attack in his home, he died en route to the hospital on June 7, 2016. During his tenure as a defender, he played 64 international games and scored nine goals for Nigeria. He captained the national team to victory in the 1994 Africa Cup of Nations, and from 2011 coached the team to victory again in 2013, thus becoming one of only two people to win the tournament as both a player and a coach.
His football career spanned from 1979 to 1998, during which he played for five countries, including Belgium, where he won the Belgian Juliper League with R.S.C. Anderlecht in 1991. He was honoured by Google on January 23, 2018, when the search engine changed its logo in Nigeria to an illustration of him on what would have been his 56th birthday.
Born on August 1, 1976, Nwankwo was a forward player who captained the Nigerian national team for 17 years, from 1994–2010. During his career from 1992–2012, he played for Iwuanyanwu Nationale, Ajax, Inter Milan, Arsenal, West Bromwich Albion, and Portsmouth.
In a career spanning two decades, Nwankwo remains one of Africa’s most successful footballers winning over 20 accolades (individual, country and club) including winning the Olympic gold medal in 1996 with Nigeria, and made the third most substitute appearances in the UK’s Premier League history, appearing from the bench 118 times. As a member of his national team, he made 87 international appearances, scoring 12 goals.
In 1999, the Independent reported that Kanu was bought for £4.5 million (US$5.15 million) by Arsenal. Apart from his football career, Nwankwo is an entrepreneur with several investments in real estate, hospitality, oil and gas, and is said to be worth over US$104 million.
Born on March 26, 1974, Taribo West is a former defence player famously known for his unique and colourful hairstyles. He started his professional career playing for Obanta United in 1989, and after a successful trial in 1993 he joined Auxerre and helped them reach the quarter-finals of the UEFA Champions League, until 1997 when he moved to join Internazionale for around £2 million (US$2.7 million).
West had an unstable career with some controversy that saw him move to various teams in a short period of time. Between 1994–2005, he played 42 international games with no goals for Nigeria. He finally retired in 2008 and is now a Christian pastor at the church he founded, Shelter in The Storm Miracle Ministries of All Nations.
John Obi Mikel
Also known as Mikel Obi by fans, Mikel is a midfield footballer who plays for Tianjin TEDA in the Chinese Super League and the Nigeria national team. He was born on April 22, 1987, and started his career in 2002 at the age of 15. He started off playing for Plateau United, a Nigerian football club, then went on to play at Lyn and Chelsea, before heading to his current team in China.
In 2005, Mikel played for Nigeria at the FIFA World Youth Championships held in the Netherlands, and won the Silver Ball after being voted the tournament’s second-best player. By the time he turned 18, he was embroiled in one of the craziest tug-of-wars between Manchester United and Chelsea, including allegations of kidnapping, and was subsequently bought by Chelsea who paid off Manchester United for £12 million (US$16.2 million) in order to seal the transfer deal. He is estimated to have a net worth of US$50 million.
Victor Moses is a professional wing-back footballer who plays for Chelsea and the Nigeria national team. Born December 12, 1990, he began his career at Crystal Palace, before making his Premier League debut at Wigan Athletic in 2010. By the summer of 2012, he was signed to Chelsea making 84 appearances and scoring seven goals. From 2013–2016, he was on loan to Liverpool, Stoke City and West Ham United consecutively. Moses represented England youth teams at Under-16, Under-17, Under-19 and Under-21 levels, but has since opted to play for Nigeria where he’s made 29 international appearances and scored 11 goals. He has an estimated net worth of US$23 million.
Termed as the breakout Nigerian star of 2017, Onyekuru is a 20-year-old forward who plays for the Nigerian national team, as well as Anderlecht where he is on loan from Premier League club Everton. His career started in 2010 at the Aspire Academy in Qatar, where he graduated in 2015 before being signed up by their partner club, Eupen, from 2015–2017, and now Everton who he joined for £7 million (US$9.5 million) in June 2017.
Born on December 16, 1996, Wilfred Ndidi plays as a midfielder for Leicester City and the Nigeria national team. Only 21 years old, Ndidi began his career on January 31, 2015, after signing to Genk which lasted till 2017. Currently he plays for Leicester City after a £17 million transfer deal from Genk. In 2013 he joined the Nigerian U-20 team, and in 2015 got called up for the senior team, making his debut in the friendly game against D.R. Congo, and playing again a few days later against Cameroon, replacing John Obi Mikel.
Born on March 21, 1989, Anthony is a forward who plays for Hapoel Be’er Sheva in the Israeli Premier League. His youth career began in 2006 at the Vejle Football Academy. Then in 2010, his senior career commenced at Universitatea Cluj who gave him on loan to Romanian club Arieșul Turda where he played eight games and scored five goals. He went on to play for Petrolul Ploiești before returning to Universitea Cluj, and then moved on to Hapoel Ra’anana until 2015 when he switched to his current team. So far he has scored 14 goals in 32 league appearances earning him the honour of best player in Israel. He made his debut for the Nigeria national football team against Algeria in a 1–1 draw on November 10, 2017.
Born on May 23, 1988, Angelo Ogbonna is a centre back Italian footballer who plays for West Ham United and the Italian national team. In 2002 he signed to Torino where he was later on loan to Crotone in Serie C1. He left the club in 2013 to join Juventus, where he won the Scudetto in 2013–2014 and 2014–2015, as well as the 2013 Supercoppa Italiana and the 2014–2015 Coppa Italia. Although born to Nigerian parents who emigrated to Italy in 1983, he plays for the Italian national team where he made his debut with the Italian Under-21 team in a friendly game against Russia. He is currently signed to West Ham United on a four-year €11 million (US$13 million) contract.
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