Bags of pace, a natural talent and goalscoring extraordinaire; any defender that gave Bebeto half a yard, was ruthlessly punished.
As Bebeto’s son, Mattheus Oliveira, signs for Sporting Lisbon and quickly begins to make a name for himself in Portugal, the football world needs a reminder. Just how good was his dad, who 23 years ago marked the birth of his son with an iconic celebration at the World Cup Finals.
— Classic Football (@classic1904) April 8, 2016
Bebeto is part of an elite club of Brazilians, a club that already included legends in Zico and Pele and would later be joined by Ronaldinho and Ronaldo. He played a style of football that is now extinct and is among a list of pioneers who with their abilities on the field, would light up imaginations across the globe.
His goal against Denmark, comprehensively beating a Premier League and later Champions League-winner in Peter Schmeichel, would send Brazil all the way to the Final of the 1998 World Cup, which they would lose to France. Brazil were 90 minutes away from back-to-back World Cups, thanks largely to the talents of Bebeto and Romario.
Though this was his last international tournament, Bebeto had already propelled Brazil to the dizzy heights of world football. During his tenure, they won the Copa America in 1989, the World Cup in 1994 and the Confederations Cup in 1997.
Scoring three times at his second World Cup, Bebetto’s pairing with Romario up top, hindered by injuries four years previous, systematically took apart defences. It is often looked back on as one of the greatest strike partnerships in world football.
Bebeto’s ability to find space and to peel of defenders, combined with an unparalleled technical ability, made him one of Brazil’s greats. His passion and joy for the game meant he played with complete freedom. A passion that can be observed among many of Brazil’s greats but was especially potent for Bebeto.
In Brazil kids are born with a ball at their feet and they always want to play. I’ve played all my life and always done so with a great deal of joy. I believe you have to enjoy things in life for them to come out right. And not only football, but also basketball, athletics, etc. We should do everything with a lot of passion.
Though often lost in a sea of comparisons with Pele, Romario and later Ronaldo, Bebeto’s goalscoring record is nothing to be glossed over. Netting almost 40 times for Brazil and 179 times in his domestic career.
At domestic level, Bebeto would move back and forth between Spain and Brazil, eventually finishing his career with a short stint in Saudi Arabia. He has the honour of scoring in seven consecutive games for Deportivo, recently beaten by Lucas Perez – seven goals existing among the impressive 86 he would tally.
The figures, however, are merely the surface of Bebeto’s talents; the tip of the iceberg. Submerged, under the glistening waters of Brazilian football was a raw, natural talent. A player who played with a unique excitement and joy. To who money or fame was irrelevant, he played with and because of a pure, unadulterated joy for football.