For a long time there was almost universal agreement on the question of the world’s finest left-back. Indeed, you would have been hard pressed to find anyone who did not feel the distinction belonged to Brazilian legend Roberto Carlos.
It is a pity then that the FIFA/FIFPro World XI award was not around during his heyday, or surely he would have figured regularly in the elite list revealed at the annual FIFA Gala. In all likelihood, voters would have had less difficulty selecting their choice for left-back than Roberto had when he chose his own rather attack-minded team of 2012 during a humorous chat with FIFA.com.
FIFA.com: Around this time of year everyone is talking about the FIFA Ballon d’Or. Who’s your pick to win this year?
Roberto Carlos: Obviously everyone’s talking about [Lionel] Messi, but I reckon he’s won enough and there cannot be much more room in his trophy cabinet. Therefore, I’d vote for Cristiano Ronaldo. He’s someone who can win matches for you many different ways, from varying situations in attack. He deserves to win it again.
Speaking of deserving winners, many people consider you one of the finest players of your generation never to have won this award. Would you go along with that?
Well, back in 2002, I came up against Ronaldo and he robbed me of the trophy (laughs). But I’m not sure quite what my supporters saw in me (laughs again). Joking aside, I think there probably was a period of six or seven years when I was the best around in that position, and that’s something I’m immensely proud of. Moreover, that generation had an absurd amount of supremely talented players, all operating in midfield or up front, where you tend to get more attention.
Now that you’re going into coaching, who’s to say you won’t win the FIFA Coach of the Year award one day?
(Laughs) Do you think so? At least let me take the first step. I still have a long way to go before I starting thinking about that kind of thing.
So who would choose as Men’s Coach of the Year?
Well, seeing as [Pep] Guardiola has left Barcelona, I think it should go to Jose Mourinho. A club side like his is harder to manage than a top national team – something I know a lot about. During my time at Real Madrid, I played under Fabio Capello, who did an amazing job. But when you look at Mourinho’s results, you can see his coaching has a lot of merit and he really knows how to deal with the situations he faces.
OK so let’s hear your FIFA/FIFPro World XI...
Right, here goes. First Casillas, Daniel Alves, Thiago Silva, David Luiz and Marcelo; in midfield Xavi and Xabi Alonso; Ribery and Van Persie as withdrawn strikers; and Neymar, Messi and... Cristiano Ronaldo up front.
But that’s 12!
You’re right. OK let’s back up a bit. I better put Xabi Alonso on the bench as I need Cristiano Ronaldo. And I’ve forgotten Iniesta! OK, how about I sacrifice David Luiz and leave Daniel Alves, Thiago Silva and Marcelo. Barcelona play like that with three defenders, so why can’t I? (laughs)
Right so the final XI are: Casillas, Daniel Alves, Thiago Silva and Marcelo; Xavi, Ribery, Van Persie and Iniesta; Messi, Neymar and Cristiano Ronaldo?
Fair to say then that we can expect Roberto Carlos the coach to be a tad attack-minded?
(laughs) Give me a team like that, and you bet we’ll play offensively.