Roberto Carlos – the Real… interview
I’m assuming that RMTV ran out of Madrid players who speak Spanish well enough to be interviewed (though Real… Karanka should be a viable possibility, no?) so they saw an opportunity in Roberto Carlos’ visit to Madrid and made him the next person to sit down to speak with Óscar. The interview was nice enough, though I wish there were more reminiscing and anecdotes about RC’s 11 years in Madrid, since he must have some fantastic stories.
[“Usted se me llevó la vida” by Alexandre Pires plays.]
On Feb. 12, 2012, the Bernabéu got up and gave Roberto Carlos one more standing ovation.
Good evening, and welcome to Real Madrid TV.
Thank you very much.
Your hair stood up on end, no? [Figuratively speaking, of course.]
It was great, no? An important day in my life, a different day because each time I’ve been in the locker room, it was to go out and play. The tribute that Florentino gave me was magnificent, as were the fans, and I’m very content with the way the players, Mourinho, my friends such as Chendo, Manolín, Manolo or Jorge, all my friends from that time, treated me. From 10 in the morning until 23:30 at night, it was a very important day for me.
When one climbs up those stairs in the tunnel from the locker room, and hears the people chanting “Roberto Carlos, Roberto Carlos,” what does one feel? Are there words to describe it, the feeling one gets when he steps on the field that has been his home for 11 seasons, the entire stadium on its feet, because it’s a true affection, an affection of admiration, of respect for the best leftback in the history of football.
No, there’s also been Camacho and other fantastic fullbacks. In the time that I was here, I tried to make the public enjoy themselves with my football, I tried to win as many titles as I could with Real Madrid. In my time, it was very fun to play with Beckham, Raúl, Zidane, Karembeu, Makélélé, Bodo Illgner, Clarence Seedorf… it was easy to play with players like them. And when you notice the affection the people have towards you… it’s because we marked an era. We experienced marvelous moments in the Bernabéu, and every time I put on the shirt of Real Madrid, I knew that I had to do something good. Sometimes it didn’t work out for you, such as during some clásicos against Barcelona. In the 11 years that I wore the shirt of Real Madrid, I believe I brought more joy than sadness to the fans.
You were looking shy the other day, for someone who’s always so sure of himself. What were you thinking while you walked from the tunnel to the field?
That I had gotten out of the habit of doing this. Because each time that I climbed up the stairs, it was to play, and now this time it was for a tribute. And at the same time, you’re left with the sensation that everything is ending. My career has been for 22, 23 years, since 1988 when I began with União São João in Araras, passing through Inter Milan until now with Anzhi Makhachkala. And the feeling is that of course I hoped the next time I came back to the Bernabéu, it would be to play. I had hoped to play the Trofeo Bernabéu game with my club. This time, it felt like a goodbye, and that made me feel a bit strange. Knowing that after five years, I had returned to the Bernabéu again and feeling the public close with you again… you’re used to playing football and they go and give you an award and you salute the public, the same one you celebrated many goals with. And now they were applauding me for my history with Madrid. These were the strange things that went through my head that I can’t really express.
It was impressive to see 80,000 people on their feet applauding you, but it was also impressive to see how the 22 players on the field, including world famous Real Madrid players, admired you.
I had spent the morning in the Ciudad Deportiva and all the players, all of them, were looking at me and saying, “he’s here, a player who played here for so many years and who participated in so many important titles, he’s here next to us.” I went to greet Mourinho and the players. In my career, I’ve always believed I was very lucky to play football, I was always happy to play, and when you arrive for a training session or at the hotel for the concentración, you’re only bringing good things – luck, having fun, the public wanting you to win. And you end up including yourself among the 22, 23 players there, and it seems to you like you’re going to play! You’ve spent so many moments like this, concentrating on the upcoming game, and so you feel like one more player… everyone treated me really well.
Imagine if Florentino Pérez had proposed to you to play for four more years. The headline would be, “Roberto Carlos, Real Madrid player until 2017.”
It was a pity, when I left here it was to go to Fenerbahçe, a pity that I couldn’t sign for two more years, but the two or three years that I was with Fenerbahçe were also good. The Roberto Carlos that is playing at Anzhi Makhachkala now is the Roberto Carlos that played in Real Madrid, and for me, that’s something to be proud of. I’m happy with everything that happened to me in my life, and life always goes on.
Because this name, which is not just any name, is the name of Roberto Carlos, which we have here on this Real Madrid shirt. It’s been signed by the entire team. Look at the messages. Pepe wrote, “simply the best fullback of all time.” All of the players admire you, and these players are also very good.
I believe that was Karanka. Why did Zizou write, “where are you?”
“Where are you? Tontín (idiot)…” For me, he’s top, along with Ronnie. They’re incredible. Thank you very much [I can’t imagine Zidane saying “tontín”!].
The team knew we were going to have this interview, and they said, we’re going to give him a shirt with his “3,” and Pepe said he was proud to wear the same number as you. You said you dreamed about how you would be sent off, but you can never say goodbye to Real Madrid, and Real Madrid can never say goodbye to Roberto Carlos.
You know what amuses me? Many Brazilians come here to Madrid, and they go to the museum. They look at many of the photos there. Many people in Brazil have forgotten about our past, they think more about the criticism, or about how we lost a game in the World Cup. They have forgotten about all that we did, representing our country. And the people always tell me, there are a lot of photos of you there, and they always take many photos with mine. They also talk to me about the galácticos, and in football right now, there are many Real Madrid fans. Many. And the games, those clásicos against our big rival, the entire world stops to watch them. It’s fun to know that right now, Madrid has Pepe, Cristiano, Kaká, Özil, Benzema, Higuaín, Sergio, Casillas… during my time, there were also great players. That’s the greatness that Real Madrid has, and I hope this group of players and coaching staff manage to win important titles so that Madrid can continue being the best club in the world.
You may think that this Madrid is a group with a “top” míster, but the team of your time was also top. That’s what Real Madrid has, no? It’s a club that’s always the reference for the world for everything. [Seriously, Óscar?]
Of course. When the team doesn’t win, it’s always the same old story: there’s a crisis, players don’t get along, the coach and the players don’t get along… but it’s not like that. Madrid has always been a family. And when you talk about Real Madrid, even though there is a lot of talk about Cristiano, the majority of the people talk about the family. In other clubs, they talk about one or two of the star players. But with Madrid, they talk about the family. And that’s why Real Madrid is great. It’s not just a club, it’s also the players, the president, the fans, everyone who is a fan. Everyone is a family. That’s why, in my opinion, Real Madrid will always be the best club in the world, no matter if they win or lose, because it has such a long history.
I remember a photo we took of you in the museum with all the trophies you won, you remember that? It’s a great photo. You won many titles here, but you also left with many friends.
Friends are more important than titles. That’s the way I am.
What are you like? What is Roberto Carlos like?
I’m happy in everything I do. I’m happy to take a photo with fans, whether they support Madrid or another team. I’ll stop eating to go take a photo with someone, I make friends with everyone. I think I have more friends here than in Brazil, for all the years I was here. I’m very tranquil. People say I’m a phenomenon, but I’ve never been that. I’m just a person who had the luck of playing here and of winning many titles. I’m a normal person who will always have a lot of affection for those who admire me, from the children to the older generation.
One time you signed a photo for a fan as Ronaldo…
It’s a good story. We were having dinner at a restaurant near the Bernabéu, and the poor woman, I don’t think she was wearing her glasses that day. She came up to me and said, “madre mía, I can’t believe it’s you” and I said “yes, yes.” She told me that her grandson was a big fan of mine, and “Ronaldo, sign this for my grandson.” Ronaldo was with me, and I asked him if I should sign as him. I don’t think I look anything at all like Ronnie. That wasn’t a nice thing to do, but… I asked her, what is your grandson’s name? It was… let’s say Miguel. So I wrote, “for Miguel, affectionately yours, Ronaldo, R9.” Two days later, I received a phone call from someone in the police, I don’t know who it was, and I had to make a declaration. I said, don’t get confused, I’m Roberto Carlos and Ronaldo lives in another country. And he apologized. I don’t like it when his appearance is compared to mine, because we don’t look anything alike.
You still have many friends here, many true friends, such as Junior and Guina. Do you have many true friends like those two?
No. There aren’t many. In the world of football, I had to choose my true friends, and I can count them on one hand, or two at the most. When you don’t have your family with you, you need your friends. That’s what I told Junior and Guina, we’re always together. They’re my true friends, although sometimes they ask for too much. But they’ll always be my friends and I’ll never forget them no matter where I am, in Russia, Japan or Brazil. If I’m in Brazil, I call Guina. If I’m in Russia, it’s Guina, come here. Junior can’t come anymore because he has a young daughter, he can’t travel because if he does, his wife… We’ll always be friends because we’ve lived through both good and bad moments together.
What does a person need to be a true friend of yours?
First, sincerity. You don’t have to be handsome or rich, you have to be very honest and very sincere. For me, that’s enough.
Has anyone ever betrayed you?
It’s a very long story. I’ve lived with two persons who betrayed me. But that’s part of the past. I don’t know how they are now, because we haven’t spoken. But if they ever need my help, they’ll have it.
Eleven seasons with Real Madrid. How do you see that time? Fernando Morientes told me that he realized what he achieved at Madrid after he left.
It’s easier to see things from the outside. I played in Turkey for three years and I saw Madrid in a different way. The fans weren’t happy during that time. I valued a lot everything that was said about the club. When you’re on the inside, you have a contract with the club and you experience everything intensely. When you’re on the outside, you have to share all the joys and difficulties with all the fans. And when you watch games on TV, you suffer a lot. I’ve played with Zidane, with Beckham, I assisted on Raúl and Ronnie’s goals, and now I’m just one more fan, even though I’m still an active player. You feel it a lot more now. If the ball goes to Benzema, you say “shoot!” but Benzema is thinking about something else. The same thing happens with Cristiano, with Higuaín. With Iker, you say, “stop that ball so we won’t suffer!” You have to enter into that dynamic of being just a fan and view the greatness of the club from the outside.
Would it still be possible to sign you to a five-year contract?
Óscar, I hope to one day return to this club. I have a person in Russia named Suleyman Kerimov. He gave me the possibility to… in addition to being the owner of Anzhi Makhachkala, he’s also given me the confidence that a person needs after so much time with the club. Look at Zidane with Real Madrid, Figo with Inter Milan, players who have made football history. And when a person like Moratti or Florentino Pérez, someone who knows what you meant to the club, that your image is very important to the club, he opens the doors to you and tells you that the club is yours. Do what you want. And that’s what Suleyman Kerimov has done. I always call him “papá” and he’s also my brother and my friend. He’s very sincere and very honest towards me. He doesn’t consider me as an employee, he considers me as a brother, he calls me “son.” That’s the most important thing for me, this upfront confidence in me to handle this huge project for the future. He has a huge heart. He’s very sincere and upfront with me.
Did you always want to be a footballer?
From the time you were small?
And did you think you would make it?
When you begin to play football, you never think about where you’re going to get. There are a lot of factors, including luck and quality. My mother always told me that I had a light, which sent good things my way. I started playing in 1981, when I was very small. Then I went to União São João. When I started there, I told myself, the dream you had has become a reality, to wear the shirt of a first division team. What will I do now? Train every day, play every weekend, try and play well. I thought, if God wants, then a big team from the capital will appear. And Palmeiras appeared, a team that had won titles with fantastic players. After the two years at Palmeiras, Inter Milan appeared, Massimo Moratti. I went to Italy for one year. There were some small problems, and Fabio Capello appeared, and Lorenzo Sanz brought me to Madrid. From there, the history started. I grew as a man here, my entire history has been here, my development as a person and as a player, all of it was here. When you want to become someone, when you have a dream, I think many times it comes true.
[The following is my favorite section. Watch the video for the full effect, it’s hilarious! It’s around the 20 minute mark.]
But it wasn’t easy in the beginning. You worked in a factory when you were 12 years old.
I enjoyed it.
What did you do?
It was a yarn factory. I was lucky because at that time, I went to work happy, because the women who worked in the factory were gorgeous. I enjoyed it. Everything that I’ve done in my life, I’ve enjoyed doing. Then I went to work with my father in a factory that made… you know, where they put dead people.
A funeral home?
No, not that.
No, where they put the persons like this… [20:42 mark, jajaja!!!!!].
Madre mía, where hey put the persons like what?
Yes, coffins. It was a factory that made those things. And I also enjoyed it, because I was with my father, I made many friends. But then I started with football.
Did you ever go hungry as a child?
No, my father never let us want for anything at home. We always had rice, meat, vegetables at home. We always had very simple meals at home, we were never more than what we could be. We would have a barbecue every weekend. It was a very simple and tranquil life.
What was your room like as a child?
I don’t remember. I remember the house was made of wood, but I don’t remember my room well because that was a long time ago. I’ve been away from Brazil for 18 years. I don’t have many photos from my childhood. It was a very simple house, made of wood, and when it would rain and there was a lot of wind, the house would sway back and forth. It was a time for learning.
Do you have any photos or cards of players you admired?
My father is “santista” [supporter of Santos] and I am as well. I played for Palmeira and Corinthians. But from the time I was small, I always had photos of Pelé, a photo of the Santos team from that time. Those were great players. I’ve always been santista.
What is the best advice your father gave you to help you get to where you got?
My father is very annoying, he always gives me advice. My father is the person who gave me the strength to become a player. I owe a lot to my father, he’s given me a lot of confidence.
Is he the most important person in your life?
Yes. My father. He’s the person who taught me how to live and how to be happy.
And what is the biggest joy you’ve given to your father?
The biggest joy? There have been many things.
I always say, they’ve given you so much, and the only way to pay back all of that is to give them something to be happy about.
Perhaps it’s being a person who is well-mannered with everyone else. Whenever someone talks about Roberto, they always refer to him as the son of Óscar, the son of Dona Vera. So, if I do something bad, my mother will be insulted, but if I do something good, I’ll be mentioned as Roberto, the son of Dona Vera and Óscar. That’s the most important thing for them, a reason for them to be happy.
And when you told them that you had to leave Brazil for Europe?
My father wasn’t nervous because he knew of my quality. He knew that no matter where I went, I would adapt quickly. In the beginning, he was a bit worried, but everything went perfectly. They’re proud that I left home and went to live in São Paulo, a huge city, and later on in Italy, here, Turkey.
Was the worst time in your sporting career when you were at Inter, when suddenly you were no longer a starter…
No. There were two moments that were complicated for me. Do you remember that game against Bayern Munich when we lost 2-1? When the ball came from the midfield, I can’t remember if it was Mijatovic or someone else who passed it to me, I went to control it. There was only one minute left in the game. If we won, we would have qualified. That moment was complicated for me, in relation to Real Madrid, because we wanted to win La Décima [then it couldn’t have been Mijatovic]. And then during the 2006 World Cup, I was blamed for Thierry Henry’s goal. A lot was said and I had to change what people thought. Those are the two moments that I remember now, the game against Bayern Munich and the Brazil-France game in the 2006 World Cup.
What do you remember from your first day as a Real Madrid player? Everyone who has sat there has said it was an unforgettable day.
I remember that I had longer hair (starts laughing)…
With hair a bit like Marcelo’s, no?
A bit less. I had pants that went up to here, and I went to Cibeles with some journalists. They didn’t know me well, but they asked me if I wanted to go where Madrid celebrates its titles. I said, of course. So we went and they took photos of me at Cibeles, on La Castellana, and I had to go through all the traffic to get to the middle of the plaza. I put on a very colorful shirt. Every time I look at the photos, I can’t believe it.
You said before that Madrid made you a man. You were a captain, an important person inside the locker room. Now the two captains are Casillas and Sergio Ramos. The two of them adore you, and they’re the apples of your eye. Is it difficult being the captain of Real Madrid?
No. It’s not difficult at all.
I thought it would be.
To be the captain of Madrid, the first thing a player needs to have is to be proud of it, and that’s very easy. You have to assume responsibility when things go badly, you have be there when the team wins titles, when it’s needed to speak with the president, when the public needs to be calmed, when there’s a penalty in the 91st minute, you have to step up and take the shot and score a goal. It’s really easy to be captain of Real Madrid. It’s also very fun to be the captain. The best thing for any player is to be the captain of a great club like Real Madrid. That doesn’t give you pressure, it makes you proud.
One of your best friends on the team was Clarence Seedorf.
Yes, without a doubt.
What was that about ringing the entry phones of apartment buildings?
That was Seedorf, not me. He was such a kid!
He liked that, didn’t he, ringing the entry phones and saying he was there to deliver pizzas.
Back then, we stayed in the same room during the concentraciones. We would get to the hotel around 20h, we had dinner around 20:30h, 20:45h, and by 21:30h we’d be in our rooms. I remember Seedorf had these creams. He had long hair, and it took him two and a half hours, three hours to do it. I wasn’t allowed to enter the bathroom during that time. And the creams smelled really bad! I always said to him, Seedorf, look at how I am. You should shave your head, get a haircut. I also lived with Clarence Seedorf, I lived more with him than with my own family at that time.
Zidane speaks of his admiration for you, he says you have an innate talent that’s not normal for a footballer. He said he will never forget one of your goals. The famous “guided bomb” goal [France vs. Brazil, Tournoi de France, 1997]. He was part of the wall that tried to defend it, and he remembers, “I saw him kick the ball. And when it went that way, with the goal being in the other direction, I told myself that it was wide. Then I heard shouts of ‘goal!’ And I said, how was that possible?” How did you do that?
I have no idea. Many people ask me how that goal went in, how I could have kicked the ball like that, and I have no idea. It’s one of those things that you can’t explain. Sometimes on the street people will stop me and congratulate me for the goal, saying it’s the most beautiful goal of my career. And I ask them, did you see it? And they tell me, yes I did. And I tell them, well, you’ll never see anything like that again. Because I have no idea how I did it.
Not even Casillas could stop that goal. No goalkeeper could stop that.
Sometimes I joke with him about how I took two days to kick it.
Speaking of Casillas, he said there’s something that he’ll never forget. He says, “when we won La Novena, I started crying as soon as I walked into the locker room and so I went into a stall and cried. And the person that came to be with me was Roberto Carlos.”
Each one has his “feeling.” In that moment, I wanted to thank Iker for his saves, it was his first important game with the shirt of Real Madrid [what about La Octava?]. I wanted to enjoy the moment with him and I thought he had no reason to be crying, and I didn’t want to see him crying. I wanted to see him celebrating the trophy, enjoying the moment with us, with Hierro, with all the players and the champagne. He was a young player, and I had gone through the same situation of having to assume responsibility in important games to win titles. And in those important moments, you can’t forget to enjoy yourself, and if you cry, it should be tears of happiness to relieve the pressure. He seemed to me to be very tense after the game. So I said to him, we have just become champions, winning a very important title for the club, enjoy it, let’s go celebrate with the others. I made that gesture without even thinking about it.
What was your happiest day with Real Madrid?
Every single day. From the time when the Ciudad Deportiva was next to La Paz until it moved to Valdebebas. The trips around Spain, around the world. The pre-seasons we did in the U.S., China, Japan. Every single day that I was here, and every single day that I’ve been a footballer have been important and happy days.
Can you see yourself playing for this current Real Madrid squad?
Yes, I always think about everything. Sometimes when I watch a game on TV, I ask myself why I’m not there? I could be playing with so many phenomena there, receiving the long passes that I like. I like kicking the ball from one side to another, like I used to do with Beckham. I would receive a ball and boom! It went to the other side, and he would control it and pass it to Zidane and boom! To the other side. That’s what Xabi Alonso does now. And the goals that Cristiano is scoring… why not give a pass to Cristiano or receive an assist from Benzema? Why not enjoy things with Sergio Ramos, play with Khedira, Özil, Kaká, Marcelo… many things go through my head.
It seemed like Cristiano was paying tribute to you the other day with his goal.
I think so. I spoke with him in the locker room afterward. He said something to me that was funny and a reality at the same time. He said not all players know how to kick the ball like he does, and a goal like that, only he and I know how to do it. I began laughing. And then after I went home, I started thinking about it, and it’s true. Beckham also had a way of kicking the ball that was very special and with so much power.
Cristiano is a phenomenon, no?
There are some players that you don’t have to talk a lot about, Óscar. There are players that you have to watch and applaud. You just have to watch them on TV or on the football field and wait until the game ends before applauding. You don’t have to say anything about if they’re phenomenal or not, if they’re handsome or not, watching them play is enough because they’re unique.
Özil is a bit like Zidane, no? You can’t ever compare anyone with Zidane, because he’s Zidane and he’s unique, but there are special and different players.
It was the same with Fernando Redondo, if you remember when he played. These are players with a lot of class, players who know how to handle the ball, when to pass the ball and how to pass it. Here’s another amusing thing. I spoke about this with Guina as well. Against Levante, I was sitting in the palco with the presidents. And when Özil received the ball and kicked the ball at the central defender of Levante, I got up on my feet and started applauding. The protocol said you couldn’t get up, so when I looked over at everyone else, they were all looking at me. And I apologized to the presidents, and I said, when there’s a player like that, you have to get up and applaud, or get out and go into the stands.
When you went to Valdebebas, one of the first persons to come up to you was Mourinho [yes, once again Óscar has to turn the conversation to how wonderful Mou is].
When I’m asked about the best coach in the world, I think Mourinho has a fantastic history, with regards to the clubs. And I’ve had coaches such as Capello or Del Bosque. Any team in the world would like to have Mourinho as the coach. Any player in the world would like to have Mourinho as his coach. Any player. That’s why for me, greeting him… I spoke with him two or three years ago, when he was with Chelsea I think, I don’t remember. My impression of him was that he was an incredible person. And now that I know him, he’s phenomenal.
Would you like to have had him as a coach at one point in your career?
I would like him to be the coach of the club where I’m working now. He’s a fantastic professional. He has his style, his way of assuming responsibility when the club loses a clásico, for example. He gets up there and says leave the players alone, speak with me. This is great for the players. Many people criticize him but this attitude that he has, not many coaches have it.
How do you see Real Madrid this season?
They’re doing well, they’re the current Copa del Rey holder, and doing well in the Liga. They’ll only lose the Liga if they want to. In Europe, they have everything in place to get to the semifinal, the final and win the title. Madrid already has the Copa. Until the final is played, they’re the current champions. In the Liga, they have a 10-point advantage and in the Champions they’re playing CSKA, which is a club that I know. I believe Madrid, since they are playing the second leg at home, will have no problems in qualifying.
How do you think the games against CSKA will be like?
CSKA allowed a great player, Vágner Love, to leave. He and Doumbia made a great pair, with a lot of speed and quality. All teams have their problems, Makhachkala beat CSKA 2-1. I believe the first leg game will be more complicated because Madrid will be playing in Moscow before a full stadium. But with the second leg game at home, there won’t be any problems.
What should Madrid do to prepare for the cold? You said you think it’s colder in Madrid than in Moscow.
I think so.
How is that possible?
The thermal sensation is different. When it’s -19 or -24 degrees, it’s not as cold as people say. We played in Kiev at -11, -12 degrees and it was incredibly cold. In Moscow, the temperature is different. It’s not going to be that cold. Madrid will also have some other issues, such as the artificial surface in the Luzhniki. But with regards to the cold, there’s nothing to worry about.
Do you see the team celebrating at Cibeles this year?
Without a doubt. I’m not going to talk too much, or else people will start believing me. Let’s wait and see. But I have no doubts.
We usually end these interviews by having all the players sign this desk. I’m going to give you this felt tip pen so that you can leave us a souvenir of your visit.
Yes, wherever you want.
I believe there’s no other interview like this in the world…
In what language should I write? [Thank you RC, for interrupting Óscar’s grand speech.]
In whatever language you want. It’s unique in the entire world, so that people can get to know Roberto Carlos a bit more, so that they can know that no matter how many other clubs you’ve played for, you continue to be the heart of Real Madrid, the escudo of Real Madrid, the emblem of Real Madrid. I’ll probably never know what it is that you felt when you stood on Cibeles and celebrated a title, but I do know the pride I feel at having interviewed the best leftback in the history of football and one of the best persons that I’ve ever met.
Thank you very much.
Thank you for coming, and good luck.