106. Didi

106. Didi

Rated as one of the game’s greatest midfield players, Brazilian Valdir Pereira, better known simply as Didi, came close to losing any chance of a football career at all when an infection almost led him to lose his right leg as a teenager. After beginning his professional career with Americano and Madureira, his breakthrough came with Fluminense where he won the Rio State Championship in 1951 and broke into the Brazilian national team the following year.
 
After helping Brazil to the final of the Copa América in 1953 and the World Cup the following year, it was the Copa América of 1957 that really brought him to global attention with seven goals in six games as Brazil again reached the final. Having moved to Botafogo, another Rio State title followed before Didi was player of the tournament as Brazil won the World Cup for the first time in Sweden in 1958.
 
In 1959, Didi moved to Spain to join European Champions Real Madrid, but failed to settle and returned to Botafogo the following year. Two more state titles followed in 1961 and 1962, with 1962 also bringing a second world title as Brazil retained the World Cup in Chile. With his playing career winding down, Didi spent short spells with Sporting Cristal in Peru, back in Brazil with São Paulo and in Mexico with Tiburones Rojos de Veracruz.
 
After ending his playing career, he returned to Sporting Cristal as coach before being named as coach of the Peruvian national team in 1969. Leading Peru at the 1970 World Cup in Mexico, Didi took the team through to the quarter finals where they came up against his compatriots from Brazil, and after a brave performance were beaten 4-2. After moving on from Peru, Didi spent a short time in Argentina with River Plate before making the long move to Turkey to take charge of Fenerbahçe.
 
His time in Turkey brought the greatest success of his coaching career, with a league and cup double being won in 1974 and a second league title the following year. Leaving Fenerbahçe in 1975, Didi returned to South America and went on to coach former clubs Fluminense and Botafogo as well as Cruzeiro and Alianza Lima in Peru. In later years he suffered from cancer, and died in May 2001 at the age of 71.
106. Didi
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