Cafu started playing for his hometown club, São Paulo FC, in 1988, and with them he won the Copa Libertadores in 1992 and 1993. In 1995 he moved to Spanish side Real Zaragoza, and won the Cup Winners’ Cup that year.
After a brief return to Brazil, moving to Palmeiras in 1996, Cafu joined Italian side AS Roma in 1997, and won the Serie A title in 2001. Cafu was firm favourite of the home crowd, earning the nickname Il Pendolino (‘the express train’). He moved to Milan in 2003, after turning down a move to Yokohama F. Marinos.
Cafu had played sparingly for the Brazilian national side in the early 1990s, but only went to the 1994 World Cup as a squad player. After an injury to Jorginho in the final against Italy, Cafu came on as a substitute in the 22nd minute, forming part of the Brazilian defense in what was a turgid final. Brazil won 3-2 on a penalty shootout after the match finished goalless.
After that, Cafu became a regular in the Brazil team, winning the Copa América in 1997 and 1999, and taking the team to the final of the 1998 World Cup Final, which they lost to France. After a rocky qualification tournament, Cafu captained Brazil in the 2002 World Cup after an injury to regular captain Emerson, and helped his side triumph 2-0 over Germany. As he raised the cup, he said "Regina, eu te amo" ("Regina, I love you!") and immortalized the love to his wife.
He is one of only 2 two-time World Cup champions remaining in the National Team, where he played at the final, unlike Ronaldo, who never left the bench. Although Cafu was rested for the 2004 Copa América, he fully intends to help Brazil defend their title in the 2006 World Cup, even though he is now 36.
He was named by Pelé as one of the top 125 greatest living footballers in March 2004.
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