For many people, the abiding image of the great Brazil side that claimed the 1970 FIFA World Cup Mexico™ is its attacking quartet of Tostao, Jairzinho, Pele and Rivellino - and understandably so. To be fair, however, immense credit is also due to the rest of the squad, and in particular Carlos Alberto Torres. And though as team captain, the Brazilian would have the privilege of raising the Trophy, fate decreed that a moment of Carlos Alberto brilliance in that defeat of Italy would enthrall the watching world and forever be associated with the occasion.
After a sumptuous build-up involving no fewer than eight Auriverde players, Carlos Alberto powered the sweetest of right-foot strikes into the bottom left-hand corner to seal a 4-1 win. Unquestionably one of the most-repeated goals in FIFA World Cup history, the strike ensured iconic status for one of the finest right-backs the game has ever seen. It was as if, in an instant, the player was granted footballing immortality. "That's right. In my home I have a huge photo of the precise instant I struck the ball. If I had to choose one moment to encapsulate my career, that would be it," the 64-year-old tells FIFA.com.
Of course, that is not to imply that the many achievements of O Capitão were limited to the most famous of the Seleção's five world titles. Carlos Alberto is hugely respected in Brazil for what he achieved with three of Rio de Janeiro's top sides (Fluminense, Botafogo and Flamengo) and, to an even greater extent, what he did at Santos, the team he joined in 1965 and now describes as "the best I've ever seen". "I could tell you the line-up without even thinking: Gilmar, myself, Mauro, Orlando Pecanha and Geraldino; Zito, Dorval, Mengavio, Coutinho, Pele and Pepe. It was out of this world. All players of international calibre who were at the peak of the powers," he adds.
Such was his reputation that his absence from the Brazilian squad for the 1966 FIFA World Cup in England caused immense controversy in his homeland. "The truth is that it was a big shock to me. When I saw that my name wasn't on the squad list, I was sure they'd made a mistake. As it turned out, many aspects of the team's preparation for that World Cup were very complicated. Some positives did come from it, however, as we realised that good planning, and not just skilled players, were necessary for the kind of triumph we had in 1970," explains the former defender.
After calling time on a hugely successful playing career in the early 80s, Carlos Alberto made a seamless transition into coaching, winning over the fans at many of Brazil's top club's with his trademark honesty and spontaneity. He began this new phase of his career at Flamengo (the last team he played for before joining New York Cosmos in 1977), where he guided the likes of Leandro, Junior and Zico to the national championship in 1983.
"As a player I think one of my greatest virtues was my leadership ability, even when I had iconic players as my team-mates. That characteristic I took with me into coaching, and I believe it's stood me in good stead in the many different managerial jobs I've had until now," he says. Over the course of the ensuing two decades, Carlos Alberto took the helm of no fewer than 12 teams across four countries: Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and most curiously, Azerbaijan.
"My last job was with the Azerbaijani national team, between 2004 and 2005, a period that demanded a lot of my energy. For someone who talks as much as I do, communicating through an interpreter was far from easy," he laughs. "For sure it showed the rest of the world that there's [football] activity in that country, which is why I feel proud of my work there.
In recent years, Carlos Alberto has been spending much of his time doing public engagements and courses, along with occasional TV commentary, such as for the FIFA World Cup. He is also involved in a project to promote Brazil as a tourist destination ahead of the 2014 FIFA World Cup on home soil. If the Seleção legend has his way, however, we should be seeing more of him on the bench than the TV studio in the near future: "My current work is very nice and also very gratifying, but football is something that gets under your skin and never leaves you. Next year, I'd like to get back into coaching somewhere," he says before signing off.