The Best: Garrincha

Born: Pau Grande 28 October 1933

Position: Forward

Club(s): Botafogo, Corinthians, Portuguesa, Atletico Junior, Flamengo, Olaria

Country: Brazil

International Caps: 50

International Goals: 12

Short, stocky and slightly bow legged Manuel Francisco Dos Santos from the Municipality of Rio de Janeiro was one of the most gifted footballers ever to grace the game.

Tricky, a showman, an out and out winger and a player who could beat his man from a standing start is the king of the dribble and one of the first recognised footballers to enjoy tormenting his opponent. Often his skills would leave to cheers of ‘ole’ and laughter in the crowd, a real entertainer that played the game with a willingness to amuse, with the ball at his feet his close control often mesmerising as he would endlessly beat a player and whip in a cross from the right flank.

Garrincha was 19 when he made his debut for Botafogo and played over 600 times in his 12 year spell scoring well over 200 goals but more importantly assisting just as many winning three state championships along the way.

For Brazil the little bird played his first World Cup in 1958 and was one of the key players in his countries first ever global success alongside the likes of Pele & Vava as they beat hosts Sweden in the final.

Four years later, this time without Pele who was injured in the early stages of the competition, Garrincha led Brazil to a second consecutive tournament win scoring four goals en-route including the famous banana shot against England in the quarter finals. It was Garrincha’s double in the semi-finals against Chile that saw Brazil through and despite playing with a fever in the final against Czechoslavakia he ended up as player of the tournament thanks to some utterly outrageous performances of skill, technique and showmanship.

His last cap for Brazil came in the 1966 world cup in the same year joining Corinthians before joining Portuguesa a year later. He moved to Atletico Junior of Columbia in 1968 and Flamengo shortly after before ending his career at Olaria

Off the pitch things didn’t always go smoothly for Garrincha and his life wasn’t without controversy, his mother-in-law was killed during a road accident in which he hit a lorry in 1969 and by the time he played his last game in 1973 aged 40 he was already a grandfather. Rumour has it by the time of his death he had fathered 14 children with 5 different women.

Sadly Garrincha died aged 49 an alcoholic following financial and marital problems. For one that when performing entertained us so much, ever ensuring a smile to those that watched him and likened to a Picasso of the football pitch for his artful displays, the sad story of his life off the pitch.

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