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Looking back over some 80 years of Brazilian Soccer, it is noticeable that a really outstanding forward appears every 20 years or so. In the early days of the century the great star was Petronillo de Brito, a coloured centre-forward who won unanimous praise from all South American critics alike for his exceptional ball control, the power of his shooting and his intelligence, this was in the days when soccer was a much more physical game than it is today.

In the late 1900's a player began a career that was to make him a talking point not only in South America, but also on the continent of Europa. This was Arthur Friedenreich, or, as the Uruguaians called him, "El Tigre" (The Tiger) for his tenacity and his outstanding goal scoring talents. It was unusual for "Fried" to fail to score in any game he played. A mulato, he was an elegant ball player who was not intimidated by heavy tackling. At an early age he joined the Paulistano Club (nowadays a tennis club) and immediately went into their first team. His first international match was against Exeter City memorable because he lost two teeth as a result of a heavy tackle! Later, in 1927, Paulistano arranged a European tour - the first Brazilian club ever to do so. In Europe "Fried" won the acclaim of the press and the fans in France, Switzerland and Portugal and was, as expected, top goalscorer with 11 goals in 8 games. The greatest Brazilian goalscorer of all time until the advent of Pelé, his career record totalled 1329 goals officially recognized by FIFA. He played first class soccer up to 1934, and at the age 42, inevitably, he scored the winning goal in his last game.

In the mid-thirties another star was rising. This was Leônidas da Silva, who first attracted attention because his signing-on fee included two suits and two pairs of shoes. Leônidas was the leading scorer in the 1938 World Cup with 7 goals in 5 matches. The European press were euphoric and bestowed upon him the title of "The Black Diamond", and "Homem Borracha" (The Rubber Man), because of his incredible agility. He invented the bicycle kick, and could always be relied upon to do the unexpected - some of the goals he scored were fabulous. Clubs could always count on at least 2,000 extra spectators when the Black Diamond was playing. Leônidas can only be ranked alongside Pelé as the greatest-ever Brazilian soccerer, in fact, proportionally, his goalscoring record was better - 24 goals in 24 games.

In the late 1950's Pelé appeared. Considered world-wide as the greatest player ever, he received every honour soccer could bestow: World Cup medals, World Club Championship medals, South American Championship and Club Championship Medals, Brazil league Championship medals, cup and league championship medals, record all-time goalscorer, are amongst the many achievements of "The King", who became a legend in his own lifetime.

The late 1970's saw the advent and development of Zico, an outstanding player, who reached his peak of success in the 1980's. A goal scorer "par-excelence" Zico scored some 800 goals in first class soccer which works out almost a goal a game. For Brazil his record is 77 goals in 92 games. Like Pelé, Zico has achieved many honours in the game with medals for the World Club Championship, South American Club Championship, Brazil and Rio League and Cups, plus the leading scorer on many occasions.

In the late 1980's a small striker burst upon the Brazilian scene - Romario, a player who has tremendous balance, dribbling dexterity and ball control. Romario was soon selected for Brazil, but because of injury and other problems he has not played for the national team as often as he should have. Romario went abroad early, at first playing in Holland and latterly in Spain, returning to Brazil in 1995 to play for Flamengo.

The early 90’s saw the advent of Ronaldo, whose goal scoring feats attracted the attention of PSV Eindhoven, who signed him in 1994 when he was only 18 years of age. For PSV, Ronaldo has continued his prodigious goal scoring record. During his first season in Holland he scored 28 goals in 30 matches. Ronaldo has tremendous balance with a blistering turn of speed. He takes just under 5 seconds to run 30 metres with the ball under full control. Good with both feet, his opponents never know which way he is going to dribble, and he is also very good in the air. Ronaldo is a player who enjoys training, and is normally still out on the pitch shooting and running well after the normal training has finished. This has contributed to the standard of his general play which seems to confirm that he is destined to follow in the long line of outstanding Brazilian forwards.

Another youngster, 17 years of age, looks to be booked for the top. He is Caio of São Paulo F.C., who is already attracting the attention of the top European clubs in view of his outstanding performance in the FIFA junior world competitions.
 
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