When it comes to the most underrated players in the English-speaking world, you could certainly make a case for Brazil's Rivellino — a fantasy footballer with pioneering dribbling skills, an outrageous free kick arsenal and a left foot like a field howitzer. Rivellino was hugely admired by Pelé and inspired both Diego Maradona and Ronaldinho, but these names have largely superseded Rivellino's own in football lore.
Apart from a three-year stint with Al-Hilal in Saudi Arabia at the end of his career, Rivellino was a force in Brazil with Corinthians and Flumninense over a 13-year period that coincided with his time on the national team. The attacking midfielder collected 92 caps and scored 26 goals for Brazil, including three at the 1970 World Cup in Mexico that was won by the Seleção.
Mexican spectators dubbed him "Patada Atómica" ("Atomic Kick") because of the way he laced one beyond Czechoslovakia keeper Ivo Viktor (voted 24th in the IFFHS' Keeper of the Century award) in Brazil's opening match.
Rivellino also used the tournament to introduce the elástico to a global audience. Many young ballers attribute the move to Ronaldinho, but that's heresy.
Itay's resident hard man Mario Bertini wanted to break Rivellino's leg after but still couldn't touch him.
But perhaps the most interesting anecdote of Rivellino's storied career is his claim to having scored the fastest goal in soccer history. The moment occurred in 1974 and no film exists to precisely time it, but legend says it took all of three seconds.
It's also one hell of a story.
Rivellino was playing for Corinthians at the time in a league match against Rio Preto at Bahia Stadium. The imaginative Rivellino was apparently aware of the routine of Rio Preto goalkeeper Isadore Irandir, who would kneel in his area and say a prayer for keeping a clean sheet before kick off.
Well, the referee blew his whistle to begin play and with Irandir still offering up his invocation, Rivellino launched a left-footed effort that whistled by the keeper's ear and straight into the net.
According to an account of the incident in Great Sporting Eccentrics, while Rivellino and Corinthians celebrated the goal, Irandir's brother ran onto the pitch holding a revolver. However, he wasn't angry with Rivellino or his sibling but instead with God and promptly unloaded six shots directly into the ball.
"Most of the crowd was distracted," reported the Folha de S.Paulo newspaper. "When the ball went into the opposite corner of the net to goalkeeper Pirangi, there was delirium, along with a few second's worth of admiring glances from his fellow Corinthians players and the crowd. The goalkeeper took longer than everyone else at the stadium to understand that he had conceded a goal."
Corinthians manager Sylvio Pirillo, who was one of Brazil's greatest strikers in his own day, said: "I never thought I'd see a goal as fast as that. Only a player like Rivellino could do that."
Bonus Rivelino content: Six seconds of staring down his marker and an elástico, followed by bursting through two defenders on the edge of the area, scoring and popping the top. Genius.