The former Dempo SC midfielder explained how he managed to bring several South American to Indian football.
Roberto Mendes Silva or Beto as he is popularly known, is a household name in Indian football. The Brazilian endeared himself to fans around the country, mainly due to his exceptional vision to facilitate strikers and sometimes score goals all on his own. The midfielder dazzled on Indian shores for a long time after joining Mohun Bagan in 2004. He then enjoyed his best spell at Dempo SC, followed by a stint Churchill Brothers.
Beto as a player was one of the icons of the sport during his time in the erstwhile National Football League and its successor the I-League. His combination play with Ranti Martins donning the Dempo shirt gave nightmares to most opposition defenders.
However, not many people know that after his footballing days in India, he worked as an agent and brought some of the biggest names in the world game to the Indian Super League. Starting from former Manchester United man Diego Forlan to former FC Goa head coach Zico, Beto has maintained his reputation for pulling the strings even as a player representative.
During Khel Now’s Beyond The Scores podcast, he was asked about his list of high-profile clients. “The players that I brought have done very well in the ISL, starting from Leo Moura to FC Goa, (Gustavo) Marmentini to Delhi (Dynamos), Roberto Carlos, Zico, Diego Forlan, Bruno Pelissari.. its many, then Reinaldo, Lucio,” he began.
“I think most of the Brazilian players that came, I helped them. It is hard when you talk about India in the first year or the second year, people are not certain about what they would face. I think it was a very good move for me to make them understand that it is a very good experience to come to India. So, most of the Brazilian and also Diego Forlan deal was done by me.”
Reminiscing about his days as a football agent, Beto spoke about the hardships and time he spent with each of his clients before they were convinced to come to India to play in the Indian Super League. “You have to explain and make every player understand the culture and to receive them the best way possible.
“But, for me, the three toughest deals have to be Roberto Carlos, Diego Forlan and Zico. I had to spend 15 days in Madrid with him (Roberto Carlos), for Diego Forlan I had to spend one week and 10 days with him in Montevideo, Uruguay. I was speaking to them every day showing them pictures and videos.”
“But, when I came to Brazil, Zico was the toughest. He was a global name in football and when I spoke about the possibility of bringing him, people laughed, they did not believe. I thought let me go to Brazil and bring him. There is a lot of understanding and trying to make them see that it would be a very good experience. Everyone did very well starting from Zico to Forlan and Roberto Carlos.”
Lastly, the former Dempo midfielder asserted that his players, despite being past their prime, did very well in India and also played big roles at the top level even after departing. “One thing I want to add which is very important. Those names are not names who have not made any mark after leaving India,” he said.
“Zico, after that, went to Kashima (Antlers), he was a Director there and they went to the FIFA Club World Cup finals. Roberto Carlos is a director at Real Madrid currently and Forlan is currently coaching in the Uruguayan top tier. So, you can see how it opened the market for icons of the game to Indian football and it proves how difficult it was to convince them to come to India,” explained Beto.
He brought a lot of star players and coaches to the ISL, but among the ones whom he missed out on was Argentine legend, Diego Maradona. “Maradona came very close to joining ISL,” he revealed. “I think he was the biggest name which I missed. I don’t remember which clubs were interested, but there were two clubs. However, I spoke with Maradona first as I knew once he is willing to join, all the clubs will be after him,” he signed off.
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