Growth type: Early/Lasting
If Pele was the culmination of fifty years of Brazilian football, one of his most illustrious predecessor was surely Leonidas da Silva.
Playing at inside- or centre-forward, Leonidas was a magician who possessed all of the great virtues. He had speed, excellent technique and an incomparable elasticity. He was the player who patented, if not invented the bicycle kick, and was known in Brazil as O Homen Borracha (the rubber man). He was the top scorer of the 1938 World Cup.
Leonidas was something of a pioneer and acutely aware of his own worth. One of his earliest clubs secured his services only after supplying him with two suits, two pairs of shoes and two pairs of gloves as part of his signing on fee. He was also the first Brazilian footballer to endorse a product a chocolate bar named Diamante Negro was produced in his honour, which to this day remains one of the most popular in Brazil. His image was also featured on packets of cigarillos. He became one of Botafogo's first black players at a time when Brazilian football was barely integrated he was later manager of the club and his style of play and popularity saw him held up as an example of racial integration in Brazil and helped football become firmly embedded in the culture of the nation.
In 1938, he was voted the World Cup's best player and top scorer with 7 goals, scoring hat-trick in the 6-5 extra time win over Poland. Brazil manager Ademar Pimenta decided to rest him for the semi-final against Italy. The Italians won the game 2-1. Nelson Rodrigues who was playwright mentioned “He was a rigorously Brazilian player. Had the fantasy, childhoodness, improvisation and the sensuality from the best Brazilian players"
An Expert from the Guardian Obituary:
"Leonidas was the more phenomenal for being so small a center forward, though he began as an inside right. Of him, it was said by Jerry Wienstein, "He was as fast as a greyhound, as agile as a cat, and seemed not to be made of flesh and bones at all, but entirely of rubber. He was tireless in pursuit of the ball, fearless, and constantly on the move. He never conceded defeat. He shot from any angle and any position, and compensated for his small height with exceptionally supple, unbelievable contortions, and impossible acrobatics."
8 Times Brazil State Championships
19 Caps 21 Goals
1938 FIFA World Cup Golden Ball
1938 FIFA World Cup Golden Shoe
Brazil Football Museum Hall of Fame
http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/2004/jan ... s.football