Brazil is known as the country with the best football players in the world from their strikers, midfielders, defenders and even goalkeepers.
Talking about Goalkeepers, Brazil becomes a strong warehouse for goalkeepers. The current generation might know the figure of Alison Becker who performed brilliantly under the Liverpool crossbar and succeeded in bringing samba out as the 2019 Copa America champions.
Five years ago, during his appearance in the 2014 World Cup, Julio Cesar was still the first choice under the crossbar of Brazil. But Julio Cesar’s brilliant performance was destroyed by a humiliating 1-7 defeat by the German Panzer team in the Semifinals.
Before the Julio Cesar era, Brazil also had a tough goalkeeper named Nelson Dida.
Indeed, the football-lovers from the 90s to the 2000s may still remember how Dida as a goalkeeper was able to make a variety of brilliant rescue. If you mention the five best goalkeepers in the new Millennium era, the name Nelson Dida might deserve to be included in the list.
He was born on October 7, 1973, in the state of Bahia, Brazil. In his heyday, Nélson de Jesus Silva was one of the best goalkeepers in the world. The name ‘Dida’ itself is taken from the name of the legendary Flamengo striker, the club he supported.
Dida started his professional career at a Brazilian club in the early 1990s by playing with Vitoria. After two years of strengthening Vitoria, he continued his career with Cruzeiro.
Together with Cruzeiro, Dida has played 120 times in the Brazilian league for about five years. Copa do Brasil and Copa Libertadores are titles that he won with Cruzeiro. Besides, he also twice received an award as the best goalkeeper according to the famous Brazilian magazine.
In 1993, he brought the samba team to dominate the world when embracing the U-20 World Cup trophy.
In 1995. Dida made his debut for the Selecao precisely in the Copa América event against Ecuador. He managed to do this after the number one goalkeeper Cláudio Taffarel was banned from playing.
Dida also competed in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, but he embarrassed himself when he was defeated Japan by a score of 1-0. At the 1998 World Cup, Dida was chosen as the third-choice goalkeeper. Then in January 1999, he expressed his desire to continue his career in Europe.
At the end of the 20th century, the only European club that interested him was Ac Milan. Dida completed the transfer with Milan in May 1999. Early in his career with I Rossoneri, Dida became the third-choice goalkeeper of coach Alberto Zaccheroni behind Christian Abbiati and veteran goalkeeper Sebastiano Rossi for the 1999/00 Serie A season.
Dida finally returned to Brazil when he was loaned out to a club based in São Paulo, Corinthians, to receive more playing time. The same while still defending Cruzeiro, along with Corinthians Dida also became a penalty shooter specialist.
This Brazilian finally made his debut for AC Milan in a 4-1 win over Beşiktaş in the Champions League in early September 2000. A few days later, he traveled with the team to Elland Road to face Leeds United. But in that match, he failed to dispel Lee Bowyer’s long-range kick so that Milan were defeated 1-0.
The 2001 fake passport scandal that rocked Italian football ended his first season. He was banned by UEFA from playing in the European league for a season and was eventually loaned back to Corinthians.
Dida finally became AC Milan’s first choice in the 2002/03 season. Milan coach at the time, Carlo Ancelotti was impressed with Dida’s performance in the victory against Ceska Rep’s club, Slovan Liberec. Since then, Nelson was trusted as AC Milan’s main goalkeeper.
In his first season with the Rossoneri, he only conceded 30 goals, helping Milan win the Coppa Italia and Champions League.
In the 2003 Champions League final, Dida was able to prove his quality. AC Milan dominated the match against Juventus, although the score remained 0-0 and went on penalties.
Dida’s appearance on penalties was brilliant. He prevented David Trezeguet’s penalty kicks, Marcelo Zalayeta and Paolo Montero. Milan also won 3-2 and won its sixth European title. After the match, Juventus coach Marcello Lippi admitted that his star’s reputation did frighten his team as four players refusing to take penalties.
In the 2003/04 season, Dida led AC Milan to win the Serie A title. This Brazilian player became the first foreigner to win the Serie A best goalkeeper award, having conceded only 20 goals throughout the season.
Together with AC Milan, he was transformed into a great goalkeeper and was anticipated by the opponent’s attackers. However, in the 2005 champions league final, Dida had to be amazed when goals created three times by the Reds players in the second round.
Milan, which had a 3 goal lead in the first half, was finally repaid with three goals. The match was evenly drawn and continued on penalties. Unlike two years ago, Dida was only able to dismiss one penalty kick. Beyond that, the brilliant performance of Liverpool goalkeeper Jerzy Dudek was the one who finally led the Reds to appear as champion.
Apart from the defeat in Istanbul, Dida ended 2005 by being selected as a goalkeeper in FIFA’s best team. He was also placed second in the IFFHS nomination of the best goalkeeper after Petr Cech. Other than that, he was re-nominated for the Ballon d’Or Award.
His neat appearance with the Rossoneri made him selected as the main goalkeeper of the Samba team when competing at the 2006 World Cup which took place in Germany. But they had to lose to France in the quarter-finals.
The defeat of Les Bleus was seen as a failure considering the players owned by Brazil were so good, but Dida was one of the few players who escaped the criticism. He only conceded two goals in five matches and became the first goalkeeper to be the Selecao captain in 28 years.
In October 2006, after playing 91 matches with the Brazilian national team, Dida announced his retirement from the international level. His decision has paved the way for a new generation of Brazilian goalkeepers, such as Julio Cesar, Alisson, and Ederson who all followed in his footsteps to succeed in Europe.
In 2007 Dida returned to the Champions League Final for the third time, again facing Rafael Benites’ men. For this opportunity, he was able to keep the net by only let Liverpool’s ball in for once. Filipo Inzaghi’s two goals also helped AC Milan win 2-1 and lifted the big ear trophy.
After almost 9 seasons defending the greatness of the Rossoneri banner, and often being hit by injuries in 2009, finally in the summer of 2010 Dida decided to continue his adventure to other clubs after his contract had expired. During with AC Milan, he had performed 302 matches.
Dida finally hung up his shoes in 2015 with the Brazilian club, International. Dida’s last appearance came at age 41 in April 2015, making him the oldest Internacional player.
Dida’s glory was able to deliver him to be the best Brazilian goalkeeper in the 21st-century version of the International Football Federation of History & Statistics (IFFHS). Dida was ranked seventh in the list of 10 best goalkeepers in the world. He was above compatriot Julio Cesar, who was ranked eighth and Rogerio Ceni in 14th.
So that’s the story of Nelson Dida, one of the best goalkeepers of his generation. The world of football, especially Rossoneri fans and the Brazilian national team might always remember one of their stars.