For Santa Cruz, one of the big three clubs in the Brazilian state of Pernambuco, the deal struck back in early 1983 for Ricardo Rocha was just one of many done with smaller clubs from the interior. Yet even by the standards of the day the terms were very unusual. To secure the services of the then-20-year-old right-back, Santa had to compensate his former side Santo Amaro with no more than a set of training vests, two pairs of boots and two balls. That miniscule fee gave no hint as to the quality of a player who would spend the next 15 years at some of the world's top clubs and pick up a FIFA World Cup™- winners medal along the way.
It did not take long for Santa Cruz to realise the fantastic bit of business they had done for the full-back. Indeed, within two years Rocha had been sold on to Sao Paulo side Guarani, who moved him back to his original position in the centre of defence. His first international call up followed shortly afterwards, and soon the man from Recife was holding down a starting berth in the Seleção. In the years that followed, few Brazilian defenders commanded as much respect as Rocha, who was thrice voted Best Central Defender in his domestic championship, twice selected to represent his country at the FIFA World Cup, and dubbed ‘The Sheriff' for his reliability and leadership on the field.
"Over the course of my career, I moved around a lot. In fact, I lined up for 11 different clubs in four countries," he tells FIFA.com. "That said, I'm proud to have only played for top-class teams at a high level, and to have had an important role at each of those," adds the former Sao Paulo, Real Madrid, Vasco da Gama and Newell's Old Boys defender.
Memorable momentsHis commanding presence at a host of leading clubs explains why Rocha was generally an automatic choice for the Auriverde for the best part of a decade. However, as fate would have it, his involvement in the 1990 and 1994 FIFA World Cups, which should have been the crowning achievements of his international career, was limited to just three games.
At Italy 1990, where he adopted his Rocha surname to distinguish himself from fellow international Ricardo Gomes, he was handed a starting berth in Brazil's third group match, a 1-0 win over Scotland. Next up for the Canarinhos was a last-16 clash with Argentina, when Rocha was one of several Brazilian defenders unable to stop Diego Maradona from setting up Claudio Caniggia for the only goal of the game.
There's no way I could feel frustrated after becoming world champion. That was the ultimate goal of all 22 of us who were there.
After the disappointment of that elimination, Brazil were more determined than ever four years later in the USA, where the centre-back was among coach Carlos Alberto Parreira's starting 11. However, fate was to deal him a cruel blow 69 minutes into his side's opening 2-0 win over Russia. A torn muscle in his right leg brought his competition to an abrupt end, opening the door for his replacement Aldair to play the next six games en route to the world title.
Despite this misfortune, the 46-year-old insists there were plenty of positives to make up for the injury: "There's no way I could feel frustrated after becoming world champion. That was the ultimate goal of all 22 of us who were there. Yes I felt very sad at the time I was injured, as the World Cup is a unique opportunity and one that doesn't allow for mistakes or injuries, but the joy of winning the title compensated for everything."
TodayAlthough Rocha would make his final appearance for the Seleção the following year, he continued to compete at the highest level for several more seasons, representing some of the leading sides in his homeland and later Newell's Old Boys in Argentina. He finally called time in 1998 after a short spell with Flamengo and has remained closely involved with football ever since.
Now shorn of his trademark moustache, Rocha runs a company involved in sports event organisation and professional footballer representation in partnership with his former Vasco da Gama team-mate Alexandre Torres (son of Brazil's captain from Mexico 1970, Carlos Alberto Torres). In addition, he has a business partnership with former Auriverde midfielder Djalminha, dedicated to organising Showbol (a version of indoor football)* *events.
For now, his priority remains the development of that game, though he is not ruling out the possibility of traditional football coaching. "Perhaps in the future, as I believe I have what it takes. After all, if I was the Sheriff on the field, how could I not call the shots from the sidelines as well?" he says with a laugh.
Facts and figures
* Position:* Central defender
Clubs: Santo Amaro (1982), Santa Cruz (1983-84), Guarani (1985-88), Sporting (1988), Sa Paulo (1989-91), Real Madrid (1991-93), Santos (1993), Vasco da Gama (1994-95), Fluminense (1996), Newell's Old Boys-ARG (1997-98), Flamengo (1998)
National team: 42 caps
Honours: FIFA World Cup USA 1994, Pan American Games (1987), Pernambucano Championship (1983), Paulista Championship (1989), Brasileirao (1991), Copa del Rey (1993), Spanish Super Cup (1993), Carioca Championship (1994), Brazilian Golden Ball (1994), Brazilian Silver Ball (1986, 1989, 1991 and 1993)