Brazil ace said he was 33 but Premier League teammates worked out he was 45

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A Brazilian World Cup winner with a left foot like a traction engine was considerably older than he claimed, according to teammates.

Branco, who lifted the Jules Rimet trophy at USA 1994, arrived at Middlesbrough in 1996.

A set piece specialist, the left back scored a memorable long range free-kick to knock out the Netherlands in the quarter-finals. He also hammered home a penalty in their shootout victory over Italy in the final.

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When Bryan Robson brought him to the Premier League club, where he already had a couple of popular samba boys in Juninho and Emerson, fans and players had cause for excitement.

But after seeing Branco close up, his teammates were apparently suspicious about his age.

Craig Hignett, who was at Boro at the time, told the Undr The Cosh podcast: "Branco came and he was 45.

"He came and we said, ‘How old are you?’ He said, ‘I’m 33.’ We’d seen him on a video of the World Cup where he was 33 in that video and it was 12 years before. He was 45 and just come for a laugh.

"He couldn’t run. He could tonk a ball, by the way – I’ve never seen anyone tonk a ball like him – but he used to line the valve up with the ball and smash the valve and the ball would go all over the place and do all kinds of weird things.

"I think he played one game against Everton. He hit a free kick from halfway inside our half that flashed past the near post but nothing else. He ended up leaving with about half a million quid after six months.

"He just used to come and smoke. He was frightening."

While Branco might have had a 'mature' appearance, Hignett's numbers don't quite add up.

According to Branco's Wikipedia page and other online databases, he was born in Bage, Brazil, on April 4, 1964.

Twelve years prior to 1996 was 1984, which wasn't a World Cup year.

Branco made his debut for Brazil in 1985. He played at the World Cup in Mexico in 1986, making three appearances. At the time, he was reported to be 22. He also played at the Italia 90 tournament, when he was said to be 26.

His time on Teesside was blighted by weight problems and he played just nine times for Boro, scoring two goals, including one direct from a corner, against Hereford in the League Cup.

The club paid up his contract at Christmas in 1996 and sent him on his way.

He hung up his boots a couple of years later. In 2006 and from 2007 to 2009, he had spells as general manager of the Brazil and Fluminense youth teams respectively.

In 2020, he was reportedly left fighting for his life in intensive care after being admitted with 'Covid complications'. He recovered and returned home after three weeks in hospital.

On his release, he said: "While I was in hospital I thought a lot about getting out on the other side and living a better life.

"Tomorrow I will celebrate my birthday. The message I have for Brazil and for the world is that everything is possible. We can beat Covid. Thanks for the support and a happy Easter to all."

  • Premier League
  • World Cup

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