Ricardinho is the record six-time Best Player in the World
He evaluates his own place among the greatest in history
The No10 discusses Portugal’s trophy hopes at Lithuania 2021
“These are not footballs,” Americo, furiously shaking an orange as its juice dripped down the walls of his modest home, yelled at his six-year-old son. “Clean it up before your mother gets upset.” Call him disobedient, but 30 years on Ricardinho is still playing with a small, heavy ball – and leaving his parents in tears. The oranges are now, however, firmly in the fruit bowl. Futsals are what ‘O Mágico’ has used to enjoy the fruits of the sport. All but one. Ricardinho has been named Best Player in the World a record six times and in 2018 inspired Portugal to their maiden UEFA Futsal EURO – and his parents into floods of tears. The only missing trophy from his cabinet is the FIFA Futsal World Cup™. Ricardinho chats to FIFA.com about his mission to seize it in Lithuania.
Portugal won the last UEFA Futsal EURO and a Portuguese team are the UEFA Futsal Champions League holders. Do you feel there’s more pressure on you now? I think pressure is always good. It’s a sign that you’ve conquered things, and that comes with new responsibilities. But I always say that the contenders are those that have already won: Argentina, Brazil and Spain. We are outsiders who want to triumph. Let’s work hard without any pressure on our shoulders because our objective is step by step. What is Portugal’s target at Lithuania 2021? We came here with the target of doing better than we did at the last edition. At the last edition we came in fourth place. Our target is to surpass this. It’s not easy and we have to rely on the luck of the draw. We know that if we get past Serbia, we could possibly play Spain in a rematch of the EURO final. But, game by game, we’re working hard to win.
Who are your biggest rivals for the title? Right now I’d go with two national teams that have won a lot. One of them for what they are as a team, which is Argentina. And one of them through individual ability, which is Brazil. They have a lot of talent. I can’t decide between them. How important is individual genius towards winning trophies? I think individual genius can win games a lot of the time. But to win leagues, to win titles like the World Cup, the EURO, it’s more difficult to triumph just through genius. Futsal is much more physical, tactical. These geniuses who can win games are missed. Nowadays, what has been proven is that defences win leagues and competitions and it’s more difficult for players to be creative. What would winning the World Cup mean to you? It would be bringing the curtain down beautifully, winning the only trophy that I don’t have. It would be the perfect way to end my international career.
Swinging to the start of your life, you played with oranges growing up, right? (laughs) I played football with a lot of fruits! My dad worked on a fruit market and brought a lot of fruit home. Because our financial conditions weren’t great, I had to adapt. I played with rolled up socks and oranges, trying dribbles and different things. I would do keepy-uppies with oranges – I could do a lot. Unfortunately I smashed a lot of oranges on the wall and my parents weren’t too happy! Do you think about what could have been if you’d pursued a career in football? (laughs) We dream a lot, think about a lot of things. But from the moment I decided futsal would be my life, I left the football dreams behind. I could have been a great player and I could have been just another player. I’m very grateful I chose futsal. How much has futsal changed since your first World Cup in 2008? So, so, so much. The transformation has been enormous. Futsal is much quicker, more tactical, more physical. There’s far greater balance between national teams. Beforehand, there was a huge difference between Brazil, Spain and Russia and the others. There were so many more thrashings. I hope futsal keeps evolving.
What did you think of Falcao? Falcao is my idol. Falcao has always my idol. He was always an example for me. I always thought about trying to reach his level. I’m very happy that I managed to surpass him in certain things. In others I didn’t, but what’s more important is that we all write our own chapters in futsal. I believe Falcao will always been one of the greatest of all time and I also managed to write a beautiful page in futsal history. You have won a record six Best Player in the World awards. Do you think you are the best player in futsal history? I don’t think you can judge it on this. It’s just like records: Pele scored 77 goals but played far fewer games. Today players play far more matches, it’s much easier to score more goals, break more records. Falcao never played outside of Brazil. Tobias played in Brazil and Spain. I played in Japan, Russia, Spain. I think everyone managed to be an idol in their own leagues, for their own national team. I think we were all heroes in our own eras.