“I thank my fans with all my heart, they’ve really given me a boost in this time of my life. It means I must have done something good in a Giallorossi shirt. I’m proud you still think fondly of me.”- Toninho Cerezo
Toninho Cerezo, better known as Antonio Carlos Cerezo, was born in 1955 in Belo Horizonte. In his young ages, as a 17 years old young boy, he began an eleven year spell at Atletico Mineiro that brought seven Campeonato Mineiro titles, as well as two Golden and one Silver Ball trophies. Toninho has his first contact with Tele Santana, who was to be influential throughout his career.
His skills- excellent. He was known for his tireless style of play. A fine defensive midfielder, energetic, tactically aware and with a fine range of passing. Don’t talk about his performance absolute gorgeous. Well known for his tireless work-rate, energetic style of play, and tactical awareness. Toninho was also known for his vision and passing range as a deep-lying playmaker. Then, in 1977, Toninho earned 57 caps for Brazil, only in eight years and appeared in two World Cups. He won five major titles in Japan, three league championships and two Emperor’s Cup and one league cup.
But this wasn’t enough. He move to Blucerchiati and got more success. Playing for his hometown’s team Clube Atletico Mineiro, he became the honor as one of the finest Brazilian defensive midfielders of all time.
Midfield was his position
However in which team he played, Toninho was always the midfield player, throughout his career. Cerezo played as a defensive midfielder with Atletico Mineiro, Roma, Sampdoria, São Paulo and the Brazilian national team.
During his career, the midfielder won the Bola de Ouro and the Bola de Prata in 1976. Furthermore, in Italy, Cerezo won the Coppa Italia four times and the Serie A. With São Paulo he was a two-time winner of the Intercontinental Cup, and also won the Copa Libertadores once. His achievements- numerous!
So, finally Cerezo was justifiably named the best player of the 1993 Intercontinental Cup final. After his retirement, in 1997, he returned to Brazil, and start a career as a manager at Vitoria, with also huge success.
Injuries changed his career
The Brazilian former football legend played a few games over the next few years, but injuries and the age though continued to catch up. Now, he became father of four children and lived in a calm life.
A football player with a big heart
Cerezo was the kind of maverick character that few football fans can resist falling in love with. During a game, at the final of the Amsterdam Tournament, in 1983, in a moment of a penalty shootout, in order to have the chance to win together with his team, he was unable to take a spot-kick, having already donated his jersey to a young child in the crowd.
This kind of movements, made it clear to all that Roma’s new Brazilian was something special. He was loveable and adorable. The connection between him and his fans was enormous. The favorite player for the Giallorossi fans, Cerezo stood out especially for his unique style with the ball, his seemingly inexorable energy, the moments of footballing genius, and his striking humility. A special banner – written in Portuguese – to him, in 1984 read: “Come on Toninho! We fans are your strength”.
“I wasn’t the best player ever to play for Roma, but I think I might have been the one the fans loved the most. I’m proud you still think fondly of me” Cerezo once remarked. He may well be right. Today, after becoming an idol for the fans, he earn his introduction in the AS Roma Hall of Fame.
About his fans, he explained: “They were always spectacular. Passionate and noisy like the supporters of Atletico Mineiro, my home team. They really were our 12th man on the pitch, that’s not just a throwaway phrase.”
About his team he said: “An incredible team that always stepped onto the pitch to win and take control of the game. I was lucky to be a part of it. And my coach. Nils Liedholm. He was a fantastic person and a wonderful coach. Publicly he always defended me in front of the press, even when I had put in terrible performances, but then in private he’d say: “I’ll see you tomorrow at training to improve on today.”
Impressive technical attributes and incredible athleticism, qualities matched only by his knack for forging warm relationships with all around him. The Brazilian midfielder had sublime technique and elegant movement as a player, while as an individual he was cheerful and extrovert. He taught us that any kind of sport is more than that. Football is more than a game. Is the connection, the communication, the love between people. A positive thinking man, who always look at the glass half-full.
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