“Falcao is the man who conducts the orchestra on the pitch. All I do sometimes is write the music for him, or prepare the score based on certain ideas.”
They say that back in the early '70s, Falcao considered becoming a psychologist because making it as a footballer seemed to be too difficult. The budding superstar changed his mind in 1972 when he went to play in a junior football tournament in Cannes.
Nonetheless Paulo Roberto Falcao remained a psychologist throughout his football career. He knew when a team-mate needed a word in his ear and what to say to get the team motivated.
His psychological masterpiece, as it were, came on TV programme Mixer after Roma lost to Juventus in 1982-83. The Brazilian knew the city and his team-mates were hurting and he realised that somebody had to send out a message to restore confidence. He did just that, then the following Sunday he scored against Pisa to complete the job: Roma were back on track and they went on to cap a marvellous campaign with title glory.
So Falcao was a leader. But he was much more besides. Fulvio Stinchelli, one of the greatest Roman journalists of all time, used to say that Il Divino's greatness lay in his uncanny ability to see into the future: “Falcao always knew three passes beforehand where the ball would end up.”
That gives you an idea of the player but to complete the picture, for those who never saw him play, we have to mention the incredible touch he was blessed with. One of the first things you noticed was that he really could place the ball anywhere he wanted. After seeing him in action for the first time, journalist Roberto Chiodi said: “It's impossible that anyone can play the way he does. He has two hands in place of his feet.”
The other thing about him was his knack of being everywhere on the pitch. Fulvio Bernardini wrote: “Falcao appears wherever the team need his feet, his ideas and his brain. He's not a showy player and he's only spectacular for brief moments. He controls the ball with long legs and doesn't have blistering pace, yet he is everywhere. He shows for the ball, makes it easy for his team-mates to find him and so often slips away from his marker.”
Paulo Roberto Falcao, inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2012, is one of those players who defines AS Roma history. Il Divino will never be forgotten.
“I feel a sense of eternal love for Roma and the Giallorossi fans. Nothing can make an athlete, a sportsman, feel more proud than being included in the greatest XI of all time. Roma and their fans will remain forever in my heart.”
Paulo Roberto Falcao