On the day former Giallorossi hero Aldair celebrates his 50th birthday, we present 13 facts about the club’s Brazilian legend...
1. Aldair Nascimento Santos, better known as simply Aldair, was born on 30 November 1965 in Ilheus, Brazil.
2. After graduating from the Flamengo youth academy, Aldair went on to win the Brazilian championship before moving to Portugal to join Benfica.
3. Aldair actually started out playing as a striker but grew tired of getting knocked around by other defenders. “As a striker I used to get kicked too much,” he later revealed when quizzed about switching positions.
4. Roma have former Giallorossi coach Sven-Goran Eriksson to thank for the signing of the Brazilian. The Swede was Aldair’s manager at Benfica and after losing the 1990 European Cup final to Milan, Eriksson personally convinced president Dino Viola that Roma should buy his defender.
5. Despite only joining the club in 1990, Aldair was so impressive during his first seven years at the club that he was named one of the club’s greatest ever 11 players by legendary Giallorossi coach Nils Liedholm in 1997.
6. Aldair earned the nickname ‘Pluto’, due to his apparent likeness to the Disney character.
7. Before Totti made the captain’s armband his own, it belonged to Aldair. The defender was handed the club captaincy in 1998 by Abel Balbo, but when Roma played Udinese on October 31, 1999, the Brazilian decided the time was right to hand it over. It was 22-year-old Totti’s time to lead the team.
8. The classy defender was part of the Brazil team which won the World Cup in 1994 – the pinnacle of his international career. However, it wasn’t the only trophy he won with his national side – Aldair also won the Confederations Cup in 1997, the Copa America in 1989 and 1997 and an Olympic bronze medal in 1996.
9. Aldair has played more Serie A games for Roma than any other non-Italian player – 330 in total. In all competitions, spanning 13 years, the Brazilian pulled on the Roma shirt 436 times.
10. Aldair’s final game for Roma ended in defeat – a 2-1 loss to Atalanta on May 24, 2003. "It was a very emotional game for me but I’m disappointed that it ended in a 2-1 defeat," claimed the Brazilian after the final whistle. "I know that the match really didn’t matter too much for us but I didn’t want to leave in this way."
11. An emotional Francesco Totti took to his own website before the match to pay his own personal tribute to the departing hero. "A piece of Roma will be missing in our defence when you finally leave us," Totti wrote. "I don’t want to sound too sentimental but I’m writing to you to thank you first of all as a player but more importantly as a man. We will all miss you here but no one more than me. We’ve spent 13 years together in which we have shared joy, pain and indescribable emotions. You’ve seen me mature in that time and you’ve been a role model to follow. You will always be welcome at Roma. Thank you for everything."
12. When Aldair left Roma in 2003, the club decided to retire the No.6 shirt that the Brazilian had worn with such distinction for over a decade. It was only when Kevin Strootman arrived at the Olimpico and personally asked for the No.6 shirt, that it returned to the field – a decision that Aldair fully supported. “I want to thank Aldair,” declared Strootman upon his arrival. “I know he was one of the best players ever to play for Roma. It’s an extremely tall order to emulate what he achieved at this club and I hope the fans will give me all the support I need.”
13. In the Eternal City, Aldair won the Coppa Italia in 1991, the Scudetto in 2001 and the Italian Super Cup in the same year. Just days before Roma’s last title win, Aldair was interviewed by the local media and demonstrated why the Giallorossi fans considered him one of their own. “I can feel the anxiousness of the fans, the wait, their burning desire to explode into celebration," he said. "We have to wait a little longer, though I understand they can barely manage it. I feel like one of them right now. We have to give one more push – us and them – and then everything will be wonderful."