One of the greatest players to have run out for Brazil and Real Madrid over the last 30 years, Roberto Carlos is a born winner who lifted many a trophy with the Spanish giants and appeared at four FIFA World Cup™ finals with A Canarinha, becoming a world champion at Korea/Japan 2002.
In an exclusive interview with the left-back turned coach, www.sc.qa asked him about his World Cup memories, his views on Neymar, Zinedine Zidane’s appointment as Merengue coach and, of course, his hopes for Qatar 2022.
What memories do you have of the FIFA World Cups you played in?
I made my international debut in 1991 and I was on a shortlist of 23 to 26 players for USA 1994 but [Carlos Alberto] Parreira said I was very young, and Ronaldo was already in the squad. In 1998 we reached the Final and lost 3-0 to France, and then in 2002 came the crowning moment of my career, when I won the World Cup with Brazil, a country where nothing less than winning will do. That was the biggest of all the highlights I enjoyed with the national team. Then, in 2006 we got knocked out in the quarters, though I’d already fulfilled all the dreams I’d had.
How did it feel to lift the Trophy?
I didn’t lift it. I’ve got a photo of me with my arms around it. All the captains lift the Trophy but in that photo it looks as if I’m holding a baby. I’ve got it framed in my house, on a wall in my museum. It means a lot, to be a world champion wearing my country’s shirt, making millions and millions of fans from Brazil and other countries that love Brazilian football happy. That photo of me holding the Trophy makes me very happy, knowing how important it is.
Is there anyone around today who can take free-kicks like you did?
Cristiano, Cristiano Ronaldo. Nobody strikes the ball like him. I used to hit it with the outside of my foot or the instep, but Cristiano hits it with the front part, which makes the ball dip quickly. Who else is there? There aren’t many who can take good free-kicks. When I was in Delhi I did a lot of work with my players but they found it hard to take them. They don’t all have the quality you need.
What does the future hold for you?
If I do a good job at the club where I am now, I’m sure there’ll be a lot of clubs who want Roberto Carlos as a coach. I’m a modern coach when it comes to training. I pick a lot of things up and I watch a lot of training sessions and follow a lot of leagues around the world. I’m taking things slowly, though. My goal one day is to be Brazil coach, but to get there I need to have a club career. I started well in Turkey. I started well in Russia and I did a good job in India.
Who is your coaching role model?
I’ve had a lot of great coaches. I think Guus Hiddink and Vicente del Bosque are the ones closest to my style. I’m more friendly with the players than a “formal” coach. I’m not a professor. I’m Roberto Carlos and I want to win with my players and I want them to help me by doing their job well. I mention Hiddink because we have a similar way of working: we do the ground work.
What do you think about the work Qatar is doing?
The whole structure that Qatar is creating for the World Cup is spectacular. It’s really nice. I played in Korea and Japan but everything was very far away. We had to travel for matches the day before and we were always changing hotels. But here in Qatar everything is no more than an hour on the metro. It’s a 40-minute drive from the stadiums to the hotels. I think Qatar is going to be the best World Cup in history because of its infrastructure. I’d like to congratulate the Organising Committee and I wish them the very best of luck.
Will you be going to the World Cup?
Definitely. I’m going to make sure I go to all the games because it’s very easy to get from one stadium to another. You can go to two or three matches a day. I’m going to make plans to do it.
What do you think of Neymar?
As a former player and current coach, I think he’s coming along really fast. He went to Barcelona, settled in very quickly and he’s now the third-best player in the world. I don’t think it will be very long before he’s the best of the lot because he’s developing so fast. When Messi was out, Neymar took responsibility and played superbly
And Zidane? How do you think he’s doing at Real Madrid?
The experience he picked up at Castilla was important, but the first team is a different thing altogether. He’s started very well and he’s got some very smart people around him. They’re going to help him. All I can do is wish him the very best of luck because everything he did in the game was just phenomenal. He always won matches and titles. That’s Zizou’s mentality. I think they (the players) have to forget about what’s been happening lately. With Zidane it’s a happy team, one that’s having fun on the pitch. Everyone’s getting along with each other and it’s a team that listens to Zizou when he talks. The fans need to be a little bit patient because he has to build the team around the players he trusts. And from there the titles will start to come.