Rio Times sports editor Robbie Blakeley pays his respects to a retiring schemer.
One of Europe’s finest playmakers of the past fifteen years, Deco, called time on his illustrious career this week, bringing the curtain down on surely one of the most imaginative players to be overlooked by his native Brazil.
But whilst Deco can point to various successes at club level in Europe, his most recent side – Fluminense – only ever caught glimpses of the talent the 36-year-old possesses, as increasingly frequent injuries hampered his time at the current Brazilian champions.
Having joined the club three years ago recent months have followed a similar pattern. Last Wednesday, in a Copa do Brasil tie against Goiás, Deco felt a strain in his left thigh.
With Fluminense having made their three substitutions he was forced to play on until the final whistle. He was almost reduced to tears on the field and you have to wonder if it was at that moment that the Portugal international decided enough was enough.
The date of his announced retirement was symbolic; the eve of his 36th birthday. As Deco reached that particular milestone, perhaps it marked a point in his mind of no return.
In a note divulged by his PR Deco said, “My muscles can no longer support me. I would like to continue, but I cannot manage it. I want to thank Fluminense, I would like to help the club more but my body won’t allow it,” highlighting the main hindrance to his spell in Rio.
But his accomplishments in what Brazilians term “The Old Continent” should not be forgotten. He was twice a European champion, with Porto and Barcelona, and the 2004 triumph with José Mourinho still ranks as one of the outstanding stories in the recent history of the competition.
He was also capped 75 times by his adopted Portugal, playing in two World Cups and finishing runner-up at Euro 2004. Despite never having made a name for himself at home, he had been regarded as one of the world’s best in his position abroad.
When it was announced he had signed with Fluminense the city stood up and took notice.
He arrived amidst much fanfare and despite earning a salary of Champions League standards – reportedly R$700,000 per month – it soon became evident time had taken its toll on his body.
When fit, which was rarely for a sustained period of time, his performances were inconsistent. He participated sparsely in Fluminense’s 2010 Campeonato Brasileiro title win, his best moments with the club coming in the 2012 Camepeonato Carioca, the Rio de Janeiro state championship, where he was voted player of the tournament.
But over the last year he has spent more and more time on the treatment table. This calendar year alone Deco has suffered five separate injuries. Fans have become frustrated as their high expectations of a two-time European champion have been repeatedly let down.
Since Deco’s arrival at Fluminense the club has played 201 official matches; he has managed to participate in just 91. The last of them, that cup game against Goiás on Wednesday and a recurrence of a thigh complaint, was the incentive for the player to call time on his career.
It remains a tremendous shame his homeland was never able to witness the real Deco, either in club football or international colours.