When Rogerio Ceni netted his first professional goal in a Paulista State Championship match against Uniao Sao Joao in 1997, only a fantasist could have predicted that he had embarked on a long sequence of strikes that would eventuate in him breaking the record number of goals scored by a goalkeeper.
But the aforementioned honour - as remarkable an achievement as it stands - now belongs to Sao Paulo's long-serving talisman. On Sunday, Rogerio Ceni's double in the Brasileiro leaders' 2-2 draw against Cruzeiro - the 41st free-kick of an illustrious career preceding its 23rd penalty - brought his tally to 64, surpassing the total of 62 set by Paraguayan legend Jose Luis Chilavert.
"I'm happy because this is a milestone with a difference," explained Rogerio Ceni. "As a goalkeeper I've scored more than 63 goals. I didn't imagine that I would ever reach this mark. It will remain in history and I'm very pleased for the club."
Continuing, the Brazilian international paid homage to his gaffer, Muricy Ramalho, who was in charge when he made his first-team breakthrough in 1997; "One of the things that made me happiest is that I scored the 63rd goal with Muricy in charge. He was the first coach that let me take free-kicks. I'm happy that, working with him again, he turned me into the goalkeeper with the most goals in history."
64 goals, 21 stadiums, four countries
Rogerio Ceni's 64 goals have been scored in 21 different stadiums, located within four different countries (Brazil, Mexico, Peru and Japan). 26 were celebrated in the Brasileiro, 20 in Paulista State Championships and 10 in Libertadores Cups, which makes him Sao Paulo's joint-record marksman in the competition, alongside outfield greats Muller, Palhinha and Pedro Rocha. The 33-year-old has also been on the scoresheet during the Rio-Sao Paulo tournament, the Copa do Brasil, the Copa dos Campeoes, the Copa Mercosul and the FIFA Club World Championship, when his crucial effort booked the South American champions a place in the 2005 Final, which they went on to win.
The Sao Paulo number one's double against Cruzeiro was the fourth of his career, his previous two-goal showings coming against Inter de Limeira (1999), Figueirense (2004) and Tigres (2005). Rogerio Ceni's most prolific year, meanwhile, was in 2005, when an astounding sum of 21 goals made him his side's top scorer and helped deliver the Paulista, Libertadores and FIFA Club World titles to the club.
Interestingly, the team that has been most afflicted by Rogerio Ceni's goalscoring exploits is Palmeiras, Sao Paulo's fiercest adversaries. In total, the Tricolor Paulista's captain has scored 5 times in duels against the Verdao, 3 of those having been dispatched past Marcos, the keeper who has competed with Rogerio Ceni for a place in the national team squad over the past decade.
One statistic that hasn't entered multiples is that all of his 64 goals have been in favour of the same club. In fact, Sao Paulo have never lost when Rogerio Ceni has been on target, and the club's success is something that their inspirational goal-tender evidently puts before reaching personal landmarks; "I would swap my 64 goals for all of the titles that I've disputed and not won with Sao Paulo," he insists.
Gentleman, captain, goalkeeper and now the record-scoring keeper in football history - it's so easy to see why Rogerio Ceni is one of the most adored players in the history of one of Brazil's most popular clubs.