Profile It is impossible to speak of Brazilian football without conjuring up images of this ball artist defender: total ball control, perfect vision, unerring passing ability combined to make Djalma Santos one of the greatest full backs of all-time.
He played in four World Cup finals, between 1954 and 1966 and was twice in the winning team: in 1958 in Stockholm and 1962 in Santiago. At 39, he retired though not to the kind of sybaritic leisure life today’s “stars” enjoy.
His entire career tied him to the city of São Paulo, Brazil’s largest city and deadly rival of Rio, the former capital. Djalma Santos’s career began at the Portuguese de Desportes and after a few seasons was snapped up by the more glamorous and successful Palmeiras.
He was at right full back in the Brazilian team at the 1958 and 1962 World Cup finals, in Sweden and in Chile, winning two gold medals. He returned for the 1966 team, in England but by now an ageing Brazilian team, with veterans like Djalma Santos, Gilmar, Garrincha, Bellini and an injured Pelé, were no match for a talented Portugal and Hungary and failed to go on from the group stages.
Earlier in his career he was Brazil’s standard penalty taker, usually slamming the ball into either corner, depending on the movement of the goalkeeper. However, his main weapon was his incredibly well timed tackles as well as superb positioning.
For many years he was a regular fixture in the Brazil team together with the “other” Santos, Nilton, with whom he had established not just a great partnership but also deep friendship. Although both of them were African-Brazilians, they were not related.