Illustration by Emir Can Seviindik
Each era has gamers that didn’t fairly reside as much as the potential that everybody thought that they had. For one purpose or one other, some simply miss the grade and vanish out of public consciousness, leaving followers questioning what may need been had the participant not joined a sure membership or made a sure transfer.
In the early 2000s, a Brazilian by the identify of Diego Ribas da Cunha, recognized to you and I merely as Diego, was heralded as one of the subsequent nice playmakers for the Brazil nationwide aspect and was predicted to go on to massive factor alongside his greatest good friend and Santos teammate Robinho. He broke into the Santos first staff at 16 and instantly Brazil took discover. Right here was this child who had unimaginable shut management, a first contact that was the stuff of goals and a efficiency degree that was at a far greater than his age prompt.
He was destined to be a star, one of the flag bearers as the nationwide staff went into a new period post-Ronaldo and Ronaldinho, however it simply didn’t work out because it ought to have. I doubt we’ll ever have a definitive cause why, however we will take a look at his profession and attempt to determine the place precisely Diego stopped being one of the recreation’s largest skills.
Diego’s expertise noticed him begin coaching with Comercial FC in the north-western metropolis of Ribeirao Preto from the age of six, the place he would hone his expertise and first study what it’s wish to play in a group. A couple of years later, as Diego chased a greater membership, he was signed up by São Paulo-based giants Santos. One of the largest and most historic golf equipment in all of South America, Diego was in esteemed firm, with the membership beforehand being house to the likes of Pelé, Toninho Guerreiro and lots of other Brazilian legends.
At the age of simply 16, Diego would make his first senior look for Santos in the state championship. As mirror and take a look at early footage of the teenager, you may inform he was one thing particular. He didn’t juggle the ball on his head like Kerlon and he wasn’t doing tonnes of stepovers like Robinho; Diego was a basic attacking midfielder.
He wasn’t flashy, however he was definitely very efficient on the ball. He might beat gamers with a drop of a shoulder, he knew when to make runs into the field, and he definitely knew how one can discover the again of the internet. While he possessed unimaginable dribbling, his lack of ability to all the time decide the proper choice typically left his coaches and teammates annoyed with him.
He, Robinho, Elano and Alex quickly shaped a formidable group that helped Santos to the 2002 Campeonato Brasileiro, their first league title since 1968. The next season, Diego was a key think about Santos reaching the ultimate of the Copa Libertadores for the first time in 40 years, the place they might ultimately lose to Boca Juniors. Diego was turning into scorching property, with Pelé saying that each he and Robinho “have got what it takes to be better than Pelé.”
Learn | Robinho: the legend we waited in useless for
The primary membership to take an curiosity was Tottenham Hotspur. The story of this switch is sort of the metaphor for the relaxation of Diego’s profession, as the transfer seemed to be carried out and dusted till a final minute passport situation (no less than that was what was claimed) prevented the Brazilian from becoming a member of Glenn Hoddle’s aspect in north London.
With that deal lifeless in the water, Diego checked out other prospects and determined a transfer to Portuguese giants and Champions League holders Porto can be the greatest course of motion as the membership appeared to seek out a appropriate alternative for Deco.
On paper, Diego ought to have relished the problem of being the star in a transitional Porto group. José Mourinho, Paulo Ferreira and Ricardo Carvalho had all joined Deco in leaving the membership, and with Porto having a busy summer time to exchange so many stars, Diego was anticipated to right away take over from Deco.
Porto might solely muster up 39 league objectives as they misplaced their title to arch rivals Benfica, and with Diego unable to supply the type of performances that many had anticipated and had seen throughout his time with Santos, in hindsight we have been in all probability starting to see what his profession would finish turning into. He was full of promise and flashes of brilliance, however finally disappointing outcomes and untapped potential.
This was nearly as good because it received for Diego in Portugal as new supervisor Co Adriaanse took a dislike to the younger Brazilian. The 2 had a falling out and once once more we noticed what would develop into one other trait in Diego’s profession. If the supervisor absolutely supported him and gave unconditional love, Diego can be sensational, but when the supervisor didn’t – as Adriaanse did – he would disappear.
Diego struggled in his second season, resigned to only 19 appearances in the league. His profession with Porto was slowly slipping away, as was the hype surrounding his expertise.
Together with his time at Porto up, rumours ran wild on the place this temperamental however gifted Brazilian would head. The transfer that Diego received was precisely what he wanted. Werder Bremen managed to snare the attacking midfielder for simply €6 million – and what an funding that proved to be for the Germans.
Learn | Denílson and the mercurial expertise of a misplaced legend
Supervisor Thomas Schaaf knew precisely methods to deal with Diego, giving him the belief he required and constructing his group utterly round the mercurial midfielder. Diego was the focus of the whole lot artistic in the Werder staff, and eventually we started to see what he might do in a single of Europe’s largest leagues.
For the first time since his Santos days, Diego was liked. Not simply by his supervisor, but in addition by the followers and the gamers, and he was the textbook definition of a star. Schaaf realised that he wanted to maintain reassuring Diego about his essential, and his on-field disciplinary issues have been forgiven. When a participant delivered like Diego did, some indiscretions could be put to at least one aspect.
We’ve all seen the clip of him scoring from inside his personal half towards Alemannia Aachen; his performances have been out of this world at occasions. He was voted the greatest participant in the first half of the Bundesliga in 2006, whereas he and Torsten Frings have been dubbed the “two motors” of the membership. Diego ultimately went on to reclaim his place for the Seleção and gained the Bundesliga Participant of the Yr award.
The subsequent two years in Germany made Diego scorching property, together with his identify once more being on the lips of followers throughout the continent. His last season with Werder truly proved to be his greatest, scoring 20 objectives in complete, and regardless of Die Grün-Weißen ending 10th in the Bundesliga, his performances helped the membership attain their first ever European ultimate towards Shakhtar Donetsk.
Nevertheless, his on-field self-discipline issues in the semi-final value him his place in the remaining. His yellow card meant he missed out on the largest recreation in Werder’s historical past, and it value them. Nobody appeared responsible Diego, although – everybody knew he was leaving, and his efficiency in the DFB-Pokal remaining, the place he arrange Mesut Õzil, meant that the Brazilian left Bremen on a excessive.
On leaving Germany, Diego lastly made the transfer to the big-time that many had predicted, becoming a member of Juventus, the proper membership, at sadly the flawed time.
When Diego joined the Bianconeri, they have been at a crossroads of their historical past. The Italians have been making an attempt to rebuild after the Calciopoli scandal and had appointed former participant Ciro Ferrara as head coach in the hope of emulating the success Barcelona had once they appointed former participant Pep Guardiola.
Learn | Adriano: soccer’s monumental ‘what if’ story
Diego’s arrival prompted former Serie A legends to wax lyrical over the Brazilian. The good Zico stated, “For the role he plays and the way he takes free-kicks, it is true that we are a bit alike,” whereas Serie A icon Jose Altafini said, “Diego is faster than Zico and can play all over the pitch.”
Pietro Anastasi helped construct up Diego by arguing that he was a mixture of Zinedine Zidane, Roberto Baggio and Michel Platini. Gianluca Vialli was surprised that Juve managed to signal Diego, claiming: “Diego is worth the same as Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. He is one of the top three players in the world.”
It’s protected to say that expectations have been excessive in Turin.
His profession in Italy began nicely, with a one-man demolition towards Roma being the spotlight of his early weeks. Many have been amazed by how simply he took aside the Giallorossi, and it signified that Diego was succesful of huge performances at a huge membership. Sadly, this was nearly as good because it acquired for the Brazilian in calcio.
Ferrara carried out a Four-Three-1-2 formation to construct round Diego, however with Felipe Melo and Christian Poulsen providing subsequent to nothing in assault, an excessive amount of was positioned on the shoulders of their star midfielder and he was subsequently scapegoated for the failings of the membership. This wasn’t the Juventus we see at this time who repeatedly problem for honours and make sensible strikes; this was a Juventus in no man’s land.
The state of affairs didn’t go well with him. Diego was set as much as fail, and with Giuseppe Marotta fast to rid the membership of the earlier regime, Diego bit the bullet and his keep at Juventus was reduce brief. Perhaps if he had moved a few years later, we might be telling a totally different story about how the Brazilian turned the successor to the nice Alessandro Del Piero.
Together with his popularity having taken a beating, Diego returned to Germany to hitch Steve McClaren’s Wolfsburg, however the Englishman couldn’t work out the right way to get the greatest out of the mercurial star. When somebody is available in for a membership document switch payment, like Diego did, you’d anticipate the supervisor to have some type of concept of tips on how to use them.
He was informed that he was not needed at the membership and when Felix Magath changed McClaren, he tried every thing in his energy to maneuver Diego on. Atlético Madrid got here calling and provided him a lifeline, with Diego Simeone eager to make him half of his new journey.
Learn | Kerlon and the demise of a nice that by no means was
The 2 Diegos hit it off instantly and the Brazilian hit prime type in Madrid. Diego added a totally different dimension to Atleti and shortly turned one of the most necessary gamers for Simeone. He helped the membership win the Europa League for the second time in three years however needed to return to Wolfsburg at the finish of the season after his mortgage ended when a switch payment couldn’t be agreed.
Each participant and membership have been eager to half methods, however with no clear curiosity, Diego needed to keep put. The connection deteriorated additional as the season went on, and ultimately the two events determined to separate, with Diego heading again to Madrid in what would certainly be his final probability at a huge membership.
What most followers keep in mind about his second spell with Los Colchoneros is his marvel strike towards Barcelona, however many overlook that he was a half of the squad that captured the La Liga title and reached the UEFA Champions League remaining. Diego went on to wax lyrical about Simeone: “He was the best coach I have ever had. He not only improved me as a player but also as a person.” It spoke volumes about how Cholo managed to work with Diego, highlighting the significance of efficient, singular man-management when coping with the Brazilian.
A spell at Turkish membership Fenerbahçe would comply with as he signed a three-year deal after being informed by Simeone that his time in Madrid was over. Regardless of turning into a agency fan favorite in Istanbul and displaying fleeting moments of his undoubted high quality, it turned clear that his profession in Europe was starting to wind down. Hr performed out two years of his contract and ultimately returned house to hitch Flamengo, fittingly leaving Europe as a hero to a loyal set of followers in Turkey.
It didn’t take lengthy for Diego to develop into a key participant for Flamengo, and as his social media pages present, he and his household are having fun with life again in South America. He’s completely happy, and deep down that’s all Diego has ever needed – greater than trophies, huge strikes and finance.
It’s robust to sum up Diego’s profession with out specializing in timing and managers. He was unfortunate to return throughout disciplinarian managers too typically in his profession, and it’s no coincidence that his greatest days have been spent beneath wonderful man-managers at Werder Bremen and Atlético Madrid. The Brazilian was additionally unfortunate to hitch a Porto aspect in regression, a Juventus desperately rebuilding after their most crushing low, and a disappointing Steve McClaren at a robust Wolfsburg. For Brazil, it was a comparable story, with managers failing to belief him and a quantity of sensational stars forward of him in the pecking order.
Regardless of that, at his peak, Diego was a wizard on the ball. He might change the recreation with a devastating feint or a stylish, pinpoint of his boot. His set-pieces have been amongst the greatest in the recreation, his imaginative and prescient was typically unrivalled and, like his good friend Robinho, he achieved greater than many give them credit score for. In any case, it was by no means the two Santos boys who set the hype surrounding their careers.
Whereas he has all the time been in comparison with other nice gamers – from Pele and Ronaldinho to Del Piero and Zico – Diego is just Diego. He’s his personal man, on and off the subject, and regardless of failing to hit the heights many predicted, a era of followers from the golf equipment he performed at are left with unimaginable reminiscences of what he was succesful of at his greatest.
By Tom Scholes @TomScholes316