The first Brazilian striker to play for Barcelona scored more goals than Ronaldo and Romario combined, had a better goal ratio than Neymar or Rivaldo and scored the goal that knocked Real out of the European Champions Cup for the first time – before overcoming that bitter divide two years later.
For Brazil, he holds the record for most goals scored, something Pele has never been able to do since he was banned for the 1958 World Cup. As a manager, he led 16 different teams, including in Iraq, where he worked with Saddam Hussein’s son.
At the age of 87, Evaristo de Macedo Filho remembers a remarkable football career – and an extraordinary goal that, despite everything that has happened since, still defines him as a Barca legend.
Evaristo was born in 1933 and grew up in northern Rio de Janeiro, far from the city’s famous beaches and postcards. He used to play just for fun on the streets, but that changed after he joined a friend at the local Madureira club to play football in 1950.
The coaches asked him to find the numbers and gave him a pair of old boots. Despite the fact that the shoes were so tight that his toes were twisted, the 17-year-old made a good impression and was asked to come back the next day.
In two years Evaristo scored 18 goals in 35 games for Madureiro, including one against national team goalkeeper Castillo Fluminense at the Maracana – the same legendary stadium where he attended the 1950 World Cup final along with 200,000 others.
His amateur exploits led Madureira to a call-up to the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, where Brazil scored nine goals in three games before losing to an experienced German team in the quarter-finals.
A small group of Brazilians, including two-time world champions Wawa and Zozimo, have returned home with growing reputations and offers of contracts from clubs around the country. Evaristo, a longtime Flamengo fan, got his favorite call. Over the next three years, he helped his boys club win three consecutive state championships in Rio de Janeiro.
Flamengo has always been the team of my heart, says Evaristo Sport from his home in Rio de Janeiro. I grew up with my uncle, so there was only one team for me. I’ve had offers from Vasco da Gama and Fluminense, but Flamengo has given me so much and I’m immensely grateful.
Evaristo is a legend of the Flamengo club.
Remembered as a physical and relentless striker, many of Evaristo’s goal scoring records remain valid today.
Among the 103 goals scored in 191 games for Flamengo was a quintet of goals in the 12-2 victory over San Cristovao, the biggest win in the history of the Maracana. In the 1957 South American Championship, he scored five goals alongside the legendary Garrincha and Nilton Santos in the 9-0 win over Colombia, a feat unmatched even by Pele.
It was during the 1958 World Cup games, when Evaristo played for Brazil, that his path diverged from that of Flamengo.
Barcelona were rebuilding and the club’s technical secretary, Josep Samitier, flew to South America in search of a striker. Knowing that the Italian teams were also on the lookout, he made Evaristo’s father an offer that the player later declared impossible to refuse. According to the Spanish media, it amounted to ESP 700 000, or GBP 6 000 per year (now about GBP 140 000).
Life in Barcelona was normal, super quiet and never hectic – it was then very similar to life in Rio de Janeiro, recalls Evaristo, who briefly returned to Brazil three months later to marry his childhood friend Norma.
Every player had a fan club, so we were very popular, but not as much as today because there were no cell phones. The club gave me everything: the house, the Mercedes, the premises. They also trusted us completely, allowing us to go out to eat paella and drink Spanish wines. It was beautiful.
Evaristo stayed at Barca until 1962, when he joined his arch-rivals Real Madrid.
Off the field, Evaristo quickly acclimated to life on the field. He played and scored in his first official match at Camp Nou in September 1957. Six months later, he became the first player to score a hat-trick there. He repeated the feat the following season, scoring three goals against European champions Real Madrid on his way to Barcelona’s first La Liga title in six years.
In the match report published in the Joja del Lunes de Barcelona, he is described as a ram who played as if the ball was glued to his feet.
On the club’s official website, Evaristo is described as one of the best foreign players Barca have signed. He is a typically skilful Brazilian, with a killer instinct in front of goal, a fantastic shot from both feet, a powerful header and the kind of pace and courage that made him unbeatable in Barca’s first team for five years.
In a team led by Elenio Herrera and playing alongside Laszlo Kubala and Luis Suárez, Evaristo has won the league title twice, the Copa del Rey and the Fairs Cup, the precursor to the UEFA Cup. FC Barcelona’s statistics department has sent an email saying he has scored 105 goals in 151 official matches, while the club’s official website says he has scored 181 goals in 237 games.
Evaristo has more goals in Barcelona than I do. But I also have more official goals because he has scored many goals in friendly matches, he told Sport Rivaldo, who scored 129 goals in 235 matches between 1997 and 2002.
He is very well known in Barcelona, there are pictures of him in the dressing room. He was a great player who did a lot for Brazilian football and in Barcelona I recognized this greatness because many people talked about him.
Regardless of the inclusion of friendlies, Evaristo has the best record of any Brazilian to date, playing over 50 games for Barcelona. And one thing is certain: his most important contribution.
In an interview with La Vanguardia in 2002, Evaristo mentioned his famous flying head.
The 23rd. In November 1960, in the second leg of the European Cup second leg against Real Madrid in front of 120,000 spectators at the Camp Nou, Evaristo scored with a brilliant header to take the lead after eight minutes. The goal, immortalized in a grainy black-and-white photograph still on display at the stadium 60 years later, eliminated Barcelona’s fiercest rivals for the first time in the competition and ended their hopes of a sixth consecutive title.
There is a great rivalry between the two cities because Madrid is the capital and Barcelona has always fought for its independence, Evaristo explained.
Many people thought Madrid was General Franco’s team, so there was also a lot of political rivalry – although I never felt any political interference. That goal broke Madrid’s dominance. It was similar to Barcelona’s title because of the rivalry and the fact that it eliminated Madrid.
It was crazy. We celebrated a lot about the outcome of this game …..
The real Madrid is less. In the excellent book Fear and Loathing in La Liga, author Sid Lowe writes that during the post-match banquet Madrid tried to hit the English referee and his assistants, who refused four goals, and that the Barcelona players intervened to defuse the situation.
Evaristo is diplomatic. I don’t know. No, he says. Madrid complained a lot, but I never saw any threats of violence. The players actually played pretty quietly.
For the first time in the club’s history, Barcelona reached the final thanks to a goal from Evaristo on six occasions, including two in the semi-finals. They lost 3-2 to Benfica at Bern’s Wankdorf Stadium in what is now known as the Square Post Final.
It was a very sad day for Barcelona because we had everything we needed to become European champions, Evaristo said. Anything but luck. The goalposts were square and we hit them four or five times. If they had been at the ball, they would have gone in. But Benfica had a great team.
Evaristo is still known in Barcelona and Real Madrid
In the 12 months following the 1961 final, Evaristo did the unthinkable and joined Real Madrid after a naturalization dispute with Barcelona. But unlike Luis Figo’s infamous transfer 38 years later, the club’s fans directed their anger not at the player but at the board of directors.
Barcelona wanted me to be Spanish and open the door for them to bring in another foreign player and that’s not what I wanted, he said.
This was not the case in Madrid. That’s why I moved there, otherwise I would have stayed in Barcelona, which I liked better.
This is not the first time that the Barcelona Board’s action against Evaristo has been called into question. When he signed in 1957, there was an agreement that if Barcelona represented Brazil at the World Cup the following summer, it would not stand in his way.
After playing every minute of World Cup qualifying against Peru and scoring a total of eight goals in 14 games, Evaristo looked to be in the starting eleven for his country. However, because Spain failed to qualify, the Spanish Cup was held at the same time as the tournament in Sweden and Barcelona kept their promise to release them.
Brazil won their first World Cup with a hat-trick from 17-year-old Pele in the semi-final and two more goals in the final. Evaristo, who crossed paths with the boy two years later during a European tour in Santos, never wore the famous yellow jersey again.
I was really disappointed not to be there, but I did watch the games on the radio, he says.
I was at the training camp on the day of the final because there was a game the next day in Barcelona and my dad called me to tell me the news. I was very happy when I heard that Brazil had won because it was my friends who played – and because I played the games that helped us qualify, I also feel like a bit of a champion, you know?
Evaristo, photographed as Brazilian manager in 1985 He led Iraq to the 1986 World Cup.
Ultimately, Evaristo’s absence in 1958 and the fact that his success in Barcelona went largely unnoticed in his homeland meant that his position in Brazil was somewhat underestimated.
Brazilian journalist Milton Neves wrote about Evaristo: If you had television in the 1960s, you’d think it was Ronaldo. Mario Zagallo, who won the World Cup twice as a player (1958 and 1962) and again as a manager (1970), describes him as the kind of player who would take his place in the team of his choice.
adds Rivaldo: There is no doubt that football has changed a lot. Today, it is easier for a player to get noticed through television, the internet and social media. Of course, if Evaristo had played at a different time, his reputation would have been completely different than in the 50s and 60s. He was a special player.
When Evaristo left Barcelona, he received offers from Italy and France, but chose to stay in Spain, where he continued to collect trophies at home and add two titles in two seasons, despite a serious knee injury that limited him to just 19 appearances and six goals for Madrid.
Like FC Barcelona, Madrid’s official website considers him a football legend, along with other former stars of the club such as Alfredo Di Stefano, Ferenc Puskas and Raul.
Evaristo always intended to return to Flamengo, which he did in 1965. He added another championship title before retiring a year later at the age of 33.
During his 36-year managerial career, he has won several trophies in Brazil with clubs such as Santa Cruz, Gremio and Bahia, gave Dani Alves his professional debut and fought with Romario when in charge at Flamengo.
In April 1985, Evaristo was appointed Brazilian manager in charge of preparations for the World Cup to be held in Mexico the following year. But he was sacked after just one month, following three defeats in six games and a stubborn refusal to select foreign players. He will always have the greatest football performance, which is unlikely.
Evaristo in the picture meets Lionel Messi of Barca in 2015.
I was not going to let the Brazilian FA interfere with my team’s selection, so I left, Evaristo says.
I had an offer to coach Qatar anyway, so I went, and when Iraq needed a coach for the World Cup, I was asked.
I worked directly with Saddam Hussein’s son, but I was never in the village. We met in Europe and went straight to Mexico because there was a war in Iraq at the time.
Iraq, the only World Cup participant so far, lost all three of their group matches and were dismantled by several players called up to serve in the country’s conflict with Iran.
Since retiring in 2005, Evaristo has spent most of his time watching Flamengo and spending time with his family – he became a great-grandfather earlier this year.
However, when you make a phone call from his apartment in Ipanema, surrounded by trophies, photos and other memorabilia, you can assume that Evaristo’s three children best represent his playing career: Evaristo Junior was born in Catalonia, Luis Augusto in Rio and Maria Mercedes in Madrid.
I am very proud to have been in football for 56 years and to have achieved such success, he says.
Football, Flamengo, family and friends. This is my life now.
Evaristo photographed with his wife and granddaughter at home