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Aldair: mind of a defender, feet of a wizard
The Brazilian central back is a legend for AS Roma's supporters. In 1998 he took off its own captain's armband and gave it to Francesco Totti
by Andrea Marcovecchio
What to say about this football legend? Everybody knows his talent, his skills, his class. Somebody, somebody young of course, may think “strange description for a central defender”. Not for Aldair Nascimento Dos Santos.

Born in Ilheus, Brazil, 1965, he played for Flamengo until 1988/1989. Sven Goran Eriksson’s Benfica bought him in the season 1989/1990, and they reached the Champion’s Cup final (losing to AC Milan). During the season 1990/1991, the career of Aldair reaches a turning point. President Dino Viola falls in love with this curly, shy and apparently clumsy defender and decides to bring him to AS Roma, on the advice of Eriksson.

Three hundred and thirty caps with AS Roma with the number 6 on his shoulders. UEFA Cup final in 1990/1991 (lost to FC Inter), Italian Cup won in 1991, Italian League and Italian Supercup won in 2001. Meanwhile, in 1994, he even found time to bring the FIFA World Cup back to Brazil after 24 years. In these years in Rome, Aldair impressed the Serie A fans with his immeasurable elegance, his perfect sense of positioning, his inexorable anticipation.

It’s difficult for strikers to touch the ball when Aldair’s around. Croatian striker Alen Boksic knows it. It’s a derby 11 April 1999. Lazio is losing 2-1 and Boksic replaces Marcelo Salas, still 30 minutes to play. Aldair has the ball, Boksic presses him. He dribbles Boksic once, twice, the ball disappears. After the third dribble Aldair kicks the ball against the legs of Boksic. Goal kick for Roma. But what happens? Everybody watches Aldair take the ball in his hands, runs after Boksic and in the jubilation of Roma fans, places it in the hands of Boksic: “Alen, here is the ball”. It will be the only ball touched by the Croatian striker during the match.

Great history surrounds Aldair’s 13 year stay with Roma. Let’s pick one of them: Season 1998/1999, Aldair is the Captain of AS Roma. It’s 31 October and AS Roma plays against Udinese, but the captain’s armband is not worn by Aldair. Roma fans wonder what has happened. It’s easy. The armband is on the arm of a young Roman striker, who has just turned 22. His name is Francesco Totti.


Aldair explained after the match he had taken the decision to give the armband to Totti because it was the time for Totti to take his responsibilities within the team. Totti scored two goals on that day, and the Captain’s armband (yes, Captain with a capital ‘C’) still around his arm.

Aldair hung up his boots in 2003. His season with Genoa CFC in 2003/2004 does not exist for an AS Roma fan. The theatre of his football farewell is the Stadio Olimpico of Rome and 70,000 fans are there. Everybody is sad.

Pluto (Aldair’s nickname due his resemblance with the Walt Disney character) leaves his position in the centre of AS Roma’s defence forever, replaced by Walter Samuel. But nobody can replace him in the heart of AS Roma’s fans.

His jersey, the legendary number 6, has been retired as a gesture of honour and respect for this fantastic player who wore it for 13 years.

Just few weeks ago, this immense champion agreed to the return of jersey number 6 to the pitch of AS Roma . “I am happy for the young generation, because they can see the number 6 again” Aldair said. Kevin Strootman has to be aware: he is wearing the legend.

Thanks to our reviewer Caroline Vondy

Monday, October 14 th, 2013
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