Zlatan Ibrahimović merely places his palms on his head, whereas Andy van der Meyde drops to his knees in disbelief. It’s the 94th minute of a Champions League group match between AC Milan and Ajax. Trailing 1-Zero, the Dutch aspect are frantically looking for an equaliser. A low cross into the field finds the Swede, whose effort is blocked by Cafu. First onto the unfastened ball is Ajax captain Rafael van der Vaart, who redirects the ball in the direction of the empty internet.
With the Milan goalkeeper on the flooring, it seems a sure aim, one which can solely improve the burgeoning fame of the attacking midfielder. However it doesn’t go in. Unbelievably, Dida has managed to get off the deck, readjust his place and push the ball out at full stretch with his left hand. “I assure you that there are stops more complicated than this one,” he tells Gazzetta dello Sport afterwards. It appears unimaginable to assume, however his assertion is just not misguided if you possess such a degree of expertise.
Born in October 1973 in the Brazilian state of Bahia, in his prime Nélson de Jesus Silva was one of the best goalkeepers in the world. Taking his identify from the legendary Flamengo striker, the membership he helps, Dida’s preliminary introduction to sport was by way of handball and volleyball. This aptitude for dealing with was to serve him nicely. So too was his organisational expertise, which have been such that he shaped a workforce with his brothers at the age of 13.
4 years later he debuted for Cruzeiro de Alagoas, prior to a transfer to Bahia state giants Vitória. His early years featured a starring position in Brazil’s 1993 World Youth Championship victory, alongside being topped the youngest recipient of the Bola de Prata award for the league’s best goalkeeper. Such type prompted a transfer to nationwide giants Cruzeiro in 1994, the place, throughout a five-year stint, Dida would win each the Copa do Brasil and Copa Libertadores, alongside two extra goalkeeping awards.
By the finish of this stint he had already appeared for the Seleção, debuting at the 1995 Copa América towards Ecuador after common quantity one Cláudio Taffarel was suspended. He additionally travelled to the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, however embarrassed himself in a 1-Zero loss to Japan, crashing into Aldair to present Teruyoshi Ito the winner. At the 1998 World Cup, Dida was relegated to third-choice goalkeeper, and the following January, declared his want to additional his improvement in Europe.
The one aspect to present curiosity have been Milan, and Dida served to take Cruzeiro to courtroom in an effort to cancel his contract six months early. Naturally reluctant to lose one of their stars, Cruzeiro contested the determination for 5 months, throughout which FIFA allowed a mortgage to Swiss membership Lugano to ensure that Dida to keep his health. Enjoying twice in Switzerland, the switch to Italy would be finalised in Might 1999, with Milan paying round £3m for the 26-year-old.
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His begin in Italy would be troublesome. Regardless of enjoying in the victorious 1999 Copa América for his nation, Dida discovered himself as the third selection. Returning to Corinthians on mortgage, a yr away would set up the ‘keeper as a penalty-saving expert, with Dida denying Raí on two occasions during the 1999 Campeonato Brasil semi-final. There was also the winning save from Vasco’s Gilberto in the inaugural Membership World Cup remaining.
The Brazilian lastly debuted for Milan in a Four-1 victory over Beşiktaş in the Champions League in early September 2000. Lower than every week later he began away at Leeds, though he made a pricey error by dropping Lee Bowyer’s long-range strike in the 1-Zero defeat.
The 2001 false passport scandal that rocked Italian soccer ended his first season, with it being found that Dida’s Portuguese documentation was cast. He was banned by UEFA from enjoying in a European league for a season, being loaned again to Corinthians once more.
One other return to Milan got here in 2002, with Dida approaching for the injured Christian Abbiati in a Champions League qualifier once more Czech aspect Slovan Liberec. So impressed was Carlo Ancelotti with the Brazilian’s efficiency in the 1-Zero victory, from then on, Dida was his first selection. In his first correct season with the Rossoneri, he would concede solely 30 objectives, serving to Milan win each the Coppa Italia and Champions League.
In the remaining of the latter, Dida was to show decisive. Milan dominated the recreation towards Juventus, though it remained Zero-Zero and went to penalties. Step ahead Dida. In the shootout, the Brazilian saved from David Trezeguet, Marcelo Zalayeta and Paolo Montero as Milan gained their sixth European title. Following the match, Juventus boss Marcello Lippi admitted Dida’s stellar popularity unnerved his staff, with 4 gamers refusing to take a penalty.
To cap off this crowning first full season for Milan was a nomination for the Ballon d’Or, the place he completed 13th. Characteristically modest, he remarked prior to the ceremony: “I have no chance of winning as there’s a lot of excellent players on that list, but it’s an honour to be nominated.” The primary Brazilian goalkeeper to be put ahead for this award, eventually a nation infamous for its lack of goalkeepers had a shining star.
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The 2003/04 season noticed Milan go one higher in the league to win Dida’s solely Scudetto. The Brazilian turned the first foreigner to win Serie A’s best goalkeeper award, having conceded simply 20 objectives all season. In doing so, Dida broke a run of three straight wins for his rival Gianluigi Buffon and was universally recognised as one of the best in the enterprise.
Regardless of being despatched off towards Livorno on the opening day of the 2004/05 season, Dida would return for a incredible interval of type, with 10 objectives conceded as Milan misplaced solely one match out of 18. This run featured an astounding save off a free-kick from Chievo’s Roberto Baronio. With the shot on the right track and Dida taking a step to the improper aspect, the Brazilian one way or the other recovered to tip the ball over with his proper arm.
The season was, nevertheless, an enormous anti-climax, as Milan ended seven factors behind champions Juventus, who would later have the title stripped from them. There was additionally the small matter of the Champions League ultimate, when Liverpool famously got here again from Three-Zero down to win on penalties. Managing to save the effort of John Arne Riise, Dida was unable to repeat his heroics from two years earlier than, with reverse quantity Jerzy Dudek the star of the shootout.
This European marketing campaign additionally featured the defining second of Dida’s profession, coming in the second leg of a tense quarter-final with metropolis rivals Inter. After Julio Cruz was adjudged to have fouled Dida in the midst of Esteban Cambiasso’s disallowed aim, livid Inter followers responded by throwing a sea of flares onto the pitch. As Dida tried to take the ensuing free-kick, he was struck on the shoulder, falling to the flooring earlier than being rushed to security by medical employees.
The match was delayed for round 10 minutes and referred to as off completely following the persistent disruption of the Inter followers. Dida was unable to proceed, receiving remedy for bruising and first-degree burns, after the pyrotechnic lacking his head by inches. UEFA subsequently awarded the recreation to Milan, fining Inter €200,000 for the behaviour of their followers.
Regardless of dropping in Istanbul, Dida ended 2005 by being named as the goalkeeper in the inaugural FIFA Group of the Yr. He additionally got here a career-best second in the IFFHS goalkeeper award – the place he misplaced to Petr Čech – and was once more shortlisted for the Ballon d’Or. There additional success with Brazil, too, as Brazil gained the 2005 Confederations Cup, a event by which Dida turned the competitors’s most capped participant.
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The next season would sadly see the return of the nervous shows that typified his early days in Milan. In the first week of January 2006, he dropped a nook for Paolo Cannavaro to open the scoring for Parma, in a recreation Milan would ultimately win Four-Three. Then, a month later, he utterly misjudged a long-range effort from Andrea Gasbarroni in a 1-1 draw with Sampdoria. Involved, Carlos Alberto Parreira said how Dida would lose his beginning place at the World Cup ought to his type not enhance.
A powerful response in the Champions League semi-final loss to eventual winners Barcelona dispelled any doubt, although. Following two earlier tournaments as a substitute, Dida went to Germany 2006 as the undisputed first selection. 1 / 4-final exit to France was seen as a failure given the expertise in the reigning champions’ squad, however Dida was one of the few gamers who escaped criticism. Conceding simply two objectives throughout 5 matches, he additionally turned the first ‘keeper to captain the Seleção in 28 years.
In October, having amassed 91 appearances to grow to be the third most capped Brazilian goalkeeper of all time, Dida introduced his worldwide retirement. His exploits had paved the method for a brand new era, with the likes of Alisson, Ederson and Júlio César all following in his footsteps to achieve Europe.
In November 2006, Dida broken knee ligaments in a 1-Zero loss to AEK Athens, being sidelined for nearly two months. On his return to the aspect, he was simply crushed at his close to publish in the first leg of the Champions League quarter-final with Bayern Munich, an error that handed the Germans a 2-2 draw. He then let in two extra low cost objectives in the first leg of the semi-final with Manchester United, with a Milan fan furiously putting him on eBay after the match.
He did, nevertheless, atone in the second leg, retaining a clear sheet as Milan gained Three-Zero to attain the last in Athens. The third such event of Dida’s profession was to finish positively, with a brace from Pippo Inzaghi exacting revenge over Liverpool.
It was to be the Champions League, nevertheless, that may show the downfall of Dida. Following Scott McDonald’s last-minute winner for Celtic on a Wednesday night time in October 2007, a fan ran onto the pitch and tapped Dida on the head. Initially giving chase, the Brazilian then fell to the flooring in shameful circumstances earlier than being carried off on a stretcher. Deemed by UEFA to have feigned damage and violated the “loyalty, integrity and sportsmanship” of the competitors, he was handed a two-match ban.
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On his return to the pitch, Dida continued to flip in questionable performances. The worst of these got here in January 2008, when a comical error gifted Inter victory in the Derby della Madonnina. Bizarrely, he appeared to dive out of the method of a routine shot from Cambiasso. By now, the Ballon d’Or nominated goalkeeper was gone, changed by a nervous determine Milan followers christened Didastro, a play on the Italian phrase for catastrophe.
Such uncertainty, alongside recurrent again and knee troubles, meant Dida solely appeared as soon as extra that marketing campaign. The return of Abbiati from a fruitful mortgage with Atlético Madrid noticed Dida resigned to being backup in 2008/09, solely showing in the disappointing UEFA Cup run to the spherical of 32. A season-ending knee damage for Abbiati, nevertheless, after simply 12 minutes towards Siena in mid-March 2009 meant Dida did return to play in Serie A for the first time in over a yr.
Additional accidents meant he missed the entirety of 2009/10 pre-season, and consequently started the marketing campaign as again up to Marco Storari. The Brazilian would return to the aspect, along with some infantile errors. A blunder towards Actual Madrid noticed him drop the ball for Raúl to rating, and upon Abbiati’s restoration, Dida was benched as soon as once more. New supervisor Leonardo did, nevertheless, determine to rotate the pair as the season wore on, with the Brazilian recovering to finish the marketing campaign as first selection.
The conclusion of that season additionally introduced the finish to Dida’s time at the San Siro, with his contract expiring in the summer time of 2010. Insistent on discovering one other membership in Europe, he remained a free agent for nearly two years earlier than returning to Brazil in Might 2012 to signal for Portuguesa. There have been then brief spells at Grêmio, the place he displaced Marcelo Grohe, and Internacional, the place he served as understudy to Alisson.
Dida’s final look got here at the age of 41 in April 2015, making him Internacional’s oldest ever participant. He was additionally their first black goalkeeper in 43 years, with ethnicity a key half of his legacy. Prior to Dida, the solely different black quantity one for Brazil was Moacir Barbosa, the man blamed for the notorious Maracanazo defeat to Uruguay. Turning into Brazil’s first black goalkeeper at a World Cup for 56 years, Dida appealed to the nation to forgive Barbosa, saying “this is the moment to break the taboo”.
Talking on such a matter, Luiz Felipe Scolari was glowing in his reward. “He went to Europe, played in one of the biggest teams in the world and opened doors. What do you say after that?” A trailblazer who sought to problem conference, Dida deserves to be remembered as a lot greater than the error-prone goalkeeper we noticed at the finish.
By James Kelly @jkell403