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Zico: The free-kick specialist

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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.’

Early years

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.

Club career

Flamengo (1971–1983)
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.

Udinese (1983–1985)
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,[19] 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

Retirement
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.

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Oliver Giroud top Europa League scorer

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Following the conclusion of the UEFA Europa League round of 16 second-leg ties on Thursday night, below are the current highest goal scorers, chasing the Golden Boot in the Europe second top-flight league:

Chelsea striker, Olivier Giroud scored a hat-trick in his side’s 5-0 victory over Dynamo Kiev to top the goal chart.

Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored a brace in his side’s 3-0 win over Rennes to take his tally to four goals.

UEFA Europa League leading scorers after Thursday’s matches:

9 goals: Olivier Giroud (Chelsea)

8 goals: Munas Dabbur (RB Salzburg), Wissam Ben Yedder (Sevilla)

7 goals: Luka Jovic (Frankfurt)

5 goals: Sebastien Haller (Frankfurt), Giovani Lo Celso (Real Betis), Fredrik Gulbrandsen (RB Salzburg)

4 goals: Callum Hudson-Odoi (Chelsea), Ever Banega (Sevilla), Ismaila Sarr (Rennes), Takumi Minamino (RB Salzburg), Emilio Jose Zelaya (Apollon Limassol), Patrick Cutrone (AC Milan), Lucas Alario (B Leverkusen), Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal), Gerard Moreno (Villarreal)

3 goals: Willian (Chelsea), Karl Toko Ekambi (Villarreal), Kai Havertz (B Leverkusen), Konstantinos Fortounis (Olympiakos), Pablo Fornals (Villarreal), Marcus Antonsson (Malmö FF), Jeremain Lens (Besiktas), Sardar Azmoun (Zenit St Petersburg), Ruben Loftus-Cheek (Chelsea)

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Aguero, Salah, Aubameyang top highest goal scorer in Premier League

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Following the conclusion of match-day 28 of the English Premier League, EPL, on Wednesday night, below are the current highest goal scorers, chasing the Golden Boot in the English top-flight league:

Manchester City striker, Sergio Aguero’s strike against West Ham on Wednesday night moved the Argentine international to number one position on the goal chart with 18 goals.

Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah failed to score in his side’s 5-0 win over Watford. The Egyptian international dropped to second position on the goal chart with 17 goals.

Arsenal’s Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang scored a goal in his side’s 5-1 victory over Bournemouth. The Gabonese international is occupying third-place on the goal chart with 16 goals.

See top-ten of Premier League highest goal scorers so far below:

Sergio Aguero (Manchester City) – 18 goals.

Mohamed Salah (Liverpool) – 17 goals

Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang (Arsenal) – 16 goals

Harry Kane (Tottenham Hotspur) – 15 goals.

Sadio Mane (Liverpool) – 14 goals.

Eden Hazard (Chelsea) – 12 goals.

Raheem Sterling (Manchester City) – 12 goals.

Alexandre Lacazette (Arsenal) – 12 goals.

Paul Pogba (Manchester United) – 11 goals.

Heung-min Son (Tottenham Hotspur) – 11 goals.

Meanwhile, the match-day 28 of the English Premier League will resume this weekend.

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Football

On this day in 2017 Theo walcott scores his 100th goal in Arsenal

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About

English Forward who was named BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year in 2006 as a member of Southampton; joined both Arsenal and England’s national team in 2006.

Before Fame
He began his youth career with Newbury in 1999 when he was just 10 years old.

Trivia
He was the 2012-13 Football League Cup Top Goalscorer with 5 goals for England.

Family Life
He was raised with a sister, Hollie, and a brother, Ashley. He married Melanie Slade and he has two children, Arlo and Finley.

Associated With
He became teammates with fellow forward Wayne Rooney on England’s national team in 2006.

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