You will have seen the photographs of Ze Roberto’s physique that not too long ago circulated on-line. The previous midfielder turns 48 in July however you wouldn’t understand it. His Instagram web page reveals him honing a ripped torso and espousing the advantages of a wholesome life-style.
“I’m not a footballer however I proceed to take care of my well being and my physique,” he tells Sky Sports activities over Zoom from Sao Paulo in Brazil. “To dwell a clear, wholesome life is a good legacy I can depart for the following era of individuals and gamers. That is essential for me.”
Ze Roberto has actually reaped the advantages of that life-style. His exceptional taking part in profession ran till he was 43 years previous and his excellence endured till the top, when, aged 42 in 2016, he gained the Brazilian championship for the primary time with Palmeiras.
Earlier than that, there have been two Copa America wins with Brazil (for whom he gained 84 caps and performed at two World Cups), a Champions League triumph with Actual Madrid, and 4 Bundesliga and German Cup doubles throughout two glittering spells with Bayern Munich.
He amassed greater than a thousand profession appearances in complete and even now, when our wide-ranging dialog turns to Manchester Metropolis, he’s adamant he might nonetheless minimize it of their midfield.
“I’ve by no means stopped coaching,” he says with a smile. “If I used to be to put on the Metropolis shirt in the present day, within the bodily situation I am in, and with the best way they play, I consider I might play in central midfield for them simply as a result of it is a workforce which by no means loses the ball.”
Fanciful? Maybe. However it isn’t tough to think about how a lot Pep Guardiola would have liked to have him in his pomp.
Ze Roberto was particular, an impressive all-round midfielder additional distinguished by a stage of tactical intelligence and flexibility few might match. When he was not quietly excelling in central midfield, he was doing the identical at left-back or on the wing.
The ‘pillars’ of his longevity
His eyes widen on the considered taking part in for Guardiola, however today, when he’s not fulfilling ambassadorial duties or participating in social tasks in his homeland, Ze Roberto is often travelling far and broad to share the secrets and techniques of his longevity.
The care with which he maintains his physique is only one of them.
“I do quite a lot of lectures the place I communicate at golf equipment and companies concerning the significance of the pillars I had in my life that allowed me to have an extended and profitable profession,” he says. “It is principally about planning, focus, self-discipline, and the significance of teamwork and management.
“It was doable for me as a result of I used to be all the time a really centered and balanced participant and I additionally knew the significance of getting clear aims. That helped me stay centered on reaching them.
“One of many aims I had after I began taking part in in Brazil was to someday play for a giant membership in Europe, as a result of that will allow me to put on the Brazil shirt and have an opportunity of representing my nation at a World Cup. When you may have readability about your aims, you routinely start to work in direction of them.”
Ze Roberto achieved his first goal in his early 20s, his performances for boyhood membership Portuguesa incomes him a transfer to Fabio Capello’s Actual Madrid in 1997.
“The bottom line is to make the correct selections,” he says. “Once I went to Actual Madrid, one of the best resolution I made was to chop sure issues out of my life, like alcohol, and to go as a married man with my household.
If I used to be to put on the Metropolis shirt in the present day, within the bodily situation I am in, and with the best way they play, I consider I might play in central midfield for them simply
“Being younger and being married helped me preserve my deal with my occupation. My spouse helped me rather a lot in that course of as a result of when a foreigner goes to dwell out of the country on his personal, he can have quite a lot of difficulties. I used to be capable of keep away from that.”
Nonetheless, although, Ze Roberto discovered himself again in Brazil, this time with Flamengo, solely a 12 months after his arrival at Madrid having struggled to make an affect on the Bernabeu.
However that in itself highlights one more reason for his longevity – his willingness to take daring selections within the pursuits of his profession. Ze Roberto might simply have seen out his contract in Spain. As an alternative, he decided it was higher to return dwelling and play often.
It turned a theme of his profession. Ze Roberto by no means stayed wherever for greater than 4 consecutive seasons, broadening his footballing expertise – he performed for 9 golf equipment in 4 totally different nations – and guaranteeing his motivation all the time remained excessive.
He additionally mirrored on his errors alongside the best way. Certainly, Ze Roberto got here to treat his unsuccessful spell at Actual Madrid as a formative one – and an important lesson within the significance of adaptability.
“I received the transfer to Madrid as a result of I had stood out for Portuguesa, reaching the ultimate of the Brazilian championship, however I made a giant error as a result of I believed that with the shape I had proven in Brazil, I’d have the ability to go straight in and do the identical at Actual Madrid.
“I did not assume I wanted to do something in a different way, however in the long run I wasn’t capable of succeed there as a result of I used to be popping out of a decrease stage to go to a a lot greater stage.
“Once you arrive on the stage of a prime European workforce, what you may have completed at a decrease stage does not aid you.
“I realized that I wanted to adapt in two methods.
“Firstly, I wanted to develop a greater tactical understanding of how they performed in Europe – I had no thought how totally different it could be – and secondly, I wanted to be bodily stronger.
“I weighed 69kg after I moved to Madrid however I wanted to be at the least 71kg so as to compete with the opposite gamers.”
Ze Roberto chuckles on the suggestion that he may discover it simpler now – “I’m actually stronger than I used to be then,” he says – however when he was given a second probability in Europe by Bayer Leverkusen in the summertime of 1998, he was much better geared up to take advantage of it.
“My mentality had modified,” he says. “I went there absolutely ready to develop my tactical understanding of the sport and I additionally began to placed on extra weight and turn into bodily stronger.”
Why Ronaldo will not observe in his footsteps
Ultimately, Ze Roberto’s tactical and bodily skills would show invaluable in serving to him prolong his profession however, regardless of information of a two-year contract extension for the 44-year-old Gianluigi Buffon at Parma this week, he shakes his head when requested if we might even see extra gamers reaching the identical ranges of longevity sooner or later.
“I do not assume so as a result of with yearly that passes, soccer turns into extra bodily,” he says. “Within the coming years, if you’re not bodily good, you aren’t going to have the ability to play within the trendy sport at a excessive stage.
“And if soccer turns into extra bodily, then mathematically the typical age of gamers goes down relatively than up.
“Right here, for instance, we have now two gamers coming by means of who’re thought to be Brazil’s subsequent massive stars, Angelo Gabriel at Santos, who’s 17 and began taking part in at knowledgeable stage at 15, and Endrick at Palmeiras, who is barely 15 however already coaching with the professionals.
“Yearly, the typical age of when footballers begin their skilled careers goes down and logically meaning the typical age of after they end their careers will go down too, so I believe it is tough for anybody to play at a excessive stage at 40 now.”
There’ll come a time when he decides it’s higher to cease relatively than search for one thing that will not be the identical
What about Cristiano Ronaldo? The Portuguese turned 37 final month however has expressed his want to play into his 40s. Bayern Munich’s Robert Lewandowski, 33, has mentioned the identical.
“Cristiano is, for me, a machine,” says Ze Roberto, “however I do not assume he’ll nonetheless be going at 40 as a result of he’s a participant who has all the time performed on the highest stage, all the time successful trophies and all the time making an attempt to be one of the best participant on the planet.
“However within the final two years, we have now seen he has not been ready to do this with Juventus and now with Manchester United. The most effective proof of that’s that he hasn’t been among the many prime two or three gamers for the massive particular person prizes.
“He’s nonetheless a participant who prices rather a lot, however as somebody who’s used to competing at such a excessive stage, there’ll come a time when he decides it’s higher to cease relatively than search for one thing that will not be the identical.”
How the Bundesliga formed him
Whereas Ronaldo’s subsequent steps stay to be seen, Ze Roberto’s legendary standing within the Bundesliga is already assured. He spent over a decade in Germany, beginning with the four-year spell at Bayer Leverkusen which allowed him to ascertain himself in Europe.
Bayer benefitted immensely from his presence.
With the Brazilian shining alongside Michael Ballack in midfield, they loved one of the best spell of their historical past, securing three second-placed finishes within the Bundesliga, the final of which coincided with agonising Champions League and German Cup closing defeats.
“It was a singular expertise as a result of Leverkusen have been a impossible workforce to succeed in finals or compete for titles,” says Ze Roberto. “Within the Bundesliga, we had gone from mid-table to prime of the league, making an attempt to be champions, which was unprecedented for the membership.”
Their Bundesliga title problem collapsed within the closing weeks of that season, nevertheless, permitting Borussia Dortmund to grab the crown, with Ze Roberto subsequently lacking their Champions League closing loss to Actual Madrid at Hampden Park as a result of suspension.
“We received to the purpose we did as a result of we had an excellent and really aggressive workforce, however what was tough for us was that the season was very lengthy, taking part in in three totally different competitions, and there was a interval once we misplaced some necessary gamers,” he says.
“We misplaced Jens Nowotny, Lucio and typically myself, and once we missed a few gamers, the supervisor, Klaus Toppmoller, discovered it tough to reconfigure the workforce as a result of we did not have a deep squad the place one other participant might are available in and preserve the extent.
“I believe Leverkusen’s error that season was in not having gamers on the bench who might preserve the extent of the workforce, however for me it was nonetheless a really, very constructive expertise.”
Optimistic, partly, as a result of it led him to Bayern Munich, the place he would proceed his midfield partnership with Ballack and eventually win the silverware he had lengthy craved.
“Even after I began taking part in for Leverkusen, I all the time had the ambition to play for Bayern as a result of I wished to be a champion in Germany and I knew my greatest probability of successful the Bundesliga was by taking part in for Bayern,” says Ze Roberto.
“I realised a dream I might had ever since I arrived at Leverkusen by doing that and to dwell each of these experiences was basic for me.
“I realized and tailored at Leverkusen, then I consolidated all of it at Bayern Munich. They have been totally different experiences however each very constructive ones in my profession.”
Premier League, Bernardo Silva admiration
Ze Roberto’s two spells at Bayern got here both aspect of a transfer again to Brazil with Santos. There was a profitable two-year stint with Bundesliga rivals Hamburg after that. However the midfielder by no means had the possibility to check himself within the Premier League.
He stops wanting calling it a remorse however his admiration for the competitors is obvious.
“For me, the Premier League is probably the most aggressive league in Europe in the present day,” he says. “It is a very engaging one for gamers as a result of earlier than each season, there are three or 4 groups who might turn into champions and that’s distinctive.”
It’s Manchester Metropolis, although, who impress him most.
“I consider they’re the workforce that performs one of the best soccer within the Premier League as a result of they’ve possession of the ball all sport they usually have a method of overwhelming most of their opponents.
Proper now, I consider Pep Guardiola has one of the best participant in Europe and that’s Bernardo Silva
“They’re a chilly and calculating workforce. Chilly after they have the ball; calculating when they’re discovering a strategy to aim.”
They’re helped, Ze Roberto says, by the presence of 1 participant particularly.
“Proper now, I consider Pep Guardiola has one of the best participant in Europe and that’s Bernardo Silva,” he says.
“He’s a participant who, if I used to be a supervisor, I’d need above all others as a result of he’s very arduous working and he fulfils numerous features throughout the sport which assist his supervisor rather a lot.
“Bernardo is a participant who weighs little or no, however he performs the sport like a tune, and no matter how his supervisor units up tactically, he can match into any a part of the midfield or assault and assist his workforce an enormous quantity wherever he performs.”
Maybe he sees one thing of himself in Bernardo Silva however in reality there will not be many like the person who stored taking part in, and stored successful, till the age of 43. Ze Roberto’s profession holds classes for all gamers – simply do not anticipate many to duplicate his achievements.
- Stuttgart vs Borussia Monchengladbach, Saturday, dwell on Sky Sports activities Soccer; kick-off 5.30pm
- Mainz vs Borussia Dortmund, Sunday, dwell on Sky Sports activities Soccer; kick-off 2.30pm
- Cologne vs Hoffenheim, Sunday, dwell on Sky Sports activities Soccer; kick-off 4.30pm