Deco is one of the few players to have won the UEFA Champions League with two clubs – FC Porto in 2004 and FC Barcelona in 2006. He was named UEFA Club Footballer of the Year and UEFA Best Midfielder in Porto's Champions League-winning season and was named Man of the Match in the 2003–04 Champions League final. Deco was the first player to win the UEFA Best Midfielder Award with two clubs, Porto and Barcelona. He was awarded the 2006 FIFA Club World Cup Golden Ball and the Man of the Match award in the final despite losing to Internacional.
Born and raised in Brazil, Deco received Portuguese citizenship in 2002 having completed five years of Portuguese residence, and subsequently opted to play internationally for the Portugal national football team. He earned 75 caps for them, playing at two European Championships and two World Cups.
Deco announced his retirement on 26 August 2013, following a hamstring injury.
Born in São Bernardo do Campo, Deco spent time at Corinthians as a youngster, competing in the Copa São Paulo de Futebol Júnior for them. In the 1997 edition, Benfica sent Toni to scout the tournament, and he soon noticed Deco, recommending his signing. In June 1997, Benfica bought his rights from CSA and immediately loan him, along with fellow Brazilian player Caju, to their farm team, Alverca. After helping them win promotion to the top tier in 1997–98 season by scoring 13 goals in 32 appearances, he returned to Benfica in July 1998. However, he left for Salgueiros in exchange for Nandinho, who went in the opposite direction. When asked by Nuno Gomes in an interview for FourFourTwo, why he did not stay and became a legend at Benfica, Deco said: "Benfica decided, it wasn't my decision. They didn't want me. The coach was Graeme Souness at the time. I was young and Benfica needed some players." At Salgueiros, he was plagued by injuries and only made a few appearances, until Porto, bought him in March 1999, in time to win the league title. His release from Benfica and subsequent success with Porto, was considered by António Simões as an "historical mistake", while Toni stated he saw in Deco, a successor for Rui Costa that the club needed since his departure.
Under the guidance of José Mourinho, Deco was given the role of leading an ambitious Porto team. A key figure in the 2002–03 season, he scored 10 goals in 30 games and received 17 yellow cards and one red card. Deco was one of the key players in Porto's UEFA Cup final 3–2 win over Celtic that year. In the 2003–04 season, Deco helped Porto recapture the national title and led the team to the 2004 UEFA Champions League Final, in which Porto won 3–0 over AS Monaco, scoring the second goal of the match. He was the Champions League's top assist provider and also suffered the most fouls in the Champions League that season. That season, Deco won the UEFA Club Footballer of the Year as well as the award for the best midfielder in the competition.
On 17 June 2004, Deco told a Portuguese radio station that he would almost certainly join English side Chelsea (then coached by José Mourinho) following UEFA Euro 2004. He said that a transfer deal between Porto and Chelsea had been all but finalised, and that the only remaining steps were passing a physical examination and signing a formal contract with Chelsea.
On 26 June 2004, however, he told the Portuguese sports daily O Jogo that he would rather move to FC Barcelona than follow Mourinho to Chelsea. While Bayern Munich gave up on Deco after the Chelsea deal seemed to have been concluded, it was still uncertain whether the German side would make a new bid. The best offer at that time was a €21 million bid from Barça, but this figure was still €4 million short of the request by Porto's board. Portuguese newspapers then reported that Barça would try to offer Portuguese winger Ricardo Quaresma as part of the exchange in order to ease the deal.
Finally, a deal was achieved between Porto and Barcelona the day after the Euro 2004 final. Barça agreed on a €15 million fee in cash, plus the complete rights of Quaresma to Porto, which tagged Quaresma for €6 million. Deco signed a four-year deal with the Catalan side on 6 July 2004.
In Barcelona, some suggested Deco would be completely eclipsed by Brazilian star Ronaldinho (a duo that according to Luiz Felipe Scolari "can make rain fall"). Indeed, many Barcelona fans met the transfer with raised eyebrows, as Deco was considered an attacking midfielder, a department which was already well covered. Instead, coach Frank Rijkaard used him in a three-man midfield, where his tactical knowledge, passing abilities, and enormous work rate surprised many. In December 2004, he came second in France Football's Ballon d'Or 2004 award, losing to Andriy Shevchenko and beating teammate Ronaldinho by six votes.
Deco scored twice in the Spanish Supercup 2006–07, which Barça won. Deco won the UEFA Best Midfielder Award yet again for his performance in Barça's Champions League-winning season, enabling him to join the exclusive group of players that have won the same award more than once with different teams, having won the Champions League previously with Porto. He was also awarded the Golden Ball at the FIFA Club World Cup and the Man of the Match award, despite losing the final to Internacional.
On 30 June 2008, Chelsea signed Deco from FC Barcelona on a three-year contract for €10 million (£8 million). He was the first signing of new Chelsea coach Luiz Felipe Scolari, who was formerly the national coach of Portugal.
Deco scored on his Chelsea debut and his Premier League debut, with a 30-yard goal, in a 4–0 victory over Portsmouth. Deco followed up his performance by scoring in his second game for Chelsea, a curling free kick against Wigan Athletic. These performances led to him winning the Premier League Player of the Month award for August. Deco made his Champions League debut for Chelsea on 16 September. Deco injured himself during a training session, but he returned from the thigh injury on 19 October and came on as a substitute against Middlesbrough. He was sent off in the 3–1 defeat by Roma on 4 November 2008. He then scored a bicycle kick against Bolton Wanderers on 6 December.
Deco eventually lost his place in the 2008–09 starting line up, due in part to some poor performances, but also to the sacking of Scolari. In a June interview, Deco stated, "I do not want to stay. I have not liked my experience at Chelsea." This was soon followed by Internazionale, managed by former Chelsea manager José Mourinho, declaring that they were attempting to sign Deco along with fellow countryman Ricardo Carvalho, who had also declared his desire to leave and like Deco desired to link up with Mourinho again. Both players were under Mourinho at FC Porto. Inter President Massimo Moratti, however, later ruled out signing either of the Portuguese internationals on the basis of their age, telling Gazzetta dello Sport, "Deco and Carvalho? They are two champions but at this time I don't feel there's a need to buy them." Soon after this, Deco said that he would be willing to stay at Chelsea for at least the rest of his contract, but he said that things must change from his first season there.
After talks with new Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti, Deco said he was very happy at the club and wanted to show everyone what he could do, he started on the bench in the 2009 FA Community Shield against Manchester United. Deco himself stepped up to take the winning penalty for Chelsea, but was not allowed as Salomon Kalou was placed before him on the list handed to the referee. Deco had an excellent start to the new campaign. He came on as a second-half substitute in the first game of the new season for Chelsea against Hull City, and assisted Didier Drogba who scored in injury time. He scored in the next match with a 3–1 win over Sunderland A.F.C with a powerful right-footed shot which came off the inside of the post from outside of the penalty area. He made his 100th Champions League appearance against Atlético Madrid, joining only 13 other players to have achieved as many appearances. Deco scored his second goal of the season in a League Cup tie against Bolton with a shot from 16 yards into the bottom right hand corner of the goal. He added to his goal tally the very next game, again against Bolton, with a curling left footer from inside the penalty box. Deco was a consistent player for Chelsea throughout the autumn period but injuries halted his season throughout the Christmas period. He returned in games against Preston North End, Hull City, and Birmingham City and played well, but then injury caught him again.
Deco made his first start after injury in the 5–0 win away at Portsmouth, and his header forward (even though through an error from Portsmouth goalkeeper David James) set up Didier Drogba for Chelsea's first goal. Deco was sensational in Chelsea's 7–1 win over Aston Villa, creating chances for his teammates and helping Chelsea's midfield flow. He provided a key pass for Chelsea's third goal of the game, skilfully working past a Villa defender and playing a clever ball with the outside of his right foot to Yuri Zhirkov whose cross fell to Florent Malouda who scored. Deco started in Chelsea's potential title decider against Manchester United at Old Trafford alongside fellow midfielders Frank Lampard and John Obi Mikel. Deco made several accurate passes to advancing teammates and also provided a key delivery to Florent Malouda, who set up Joe Cole for the opening goal in Chelsea's 2–1 win. He played an instrumental role in helping Chelsea win the Double in 2009-10, winning his first Premier League Title, and his successive FA Cup winners' medal.
On 26 August 2013, Deco retired, ending a 17-year career. The decision came on the day before his 36th birthday. His final game was four days prior, against Goiás. Playing for Fluminense, Deco won the Campeonato Brasileiro in 2010 and 2012.
Deco was never called up to the Brazilian national team, as the Brazil squad for the 2002 FIFA World Cup included other attacking midfielders such as Ronaldinho, Rivaldo, and Juninho. After completing six years of residence in Portugal, he was able to gain Portuguese citizenship and play for their national team. As none of his great-grandparents, grandparents or parents were Portuguese, under FIFA's player eligibility rules his citizenship was the only factor to allow him to play for Portugal. He was subsequently mentioned several times in the media as an option for the Portuguese national team.
After many months of public discussion which split Portuguese public opinion, and despite the opposition of a large number of Porto rivals' supporters, he was called up for his first international – coincidentally against Brazil. He came on as a substitute for Sérgio Conceição and scored the free-kick which won the game 2-1. This was Portugal's first win over Brazil since the 1966 World Cup. Since that game, he was a regular in the national team. Before the 2004 European championship Luís Figo, criticised Deco's inclusion and said "If you're born Chinese, well, you have to play for China." However, Deco commented saying "I was born in Brazil and it would be a lie to say that I'm Portuguese now and not Brazilian. But I love Portugal and I love playing for the national team." Despite the early criticism, Deco was one of the highlights of the Portuguese national team. He scored five goals in 75 caps for Portugal by June 2010, when his international career ended after the second-round defeat to Spain at the 2010 World Cup.
2006 World Cup
In the 2006 World Cup, Deco scored the first goal in Portugal's second Group D match against Iran in the 63rd minute prior to Cristiano Ronaldo's 80th-minute penalty. During the first knockout stage of the competition, Deco received two yellow cards in the game against Netherlands with the first given for a rash tackle on John Heitinga, suspending him from the quarterfinal win against England, as he already picked up a caution in the match with Iran. The win against England in the quarterfinal stage led to Portugal's defeat in the semifinal, which Deco was able to participate in.
On 11 June, Deco scored the opening goal in Portugal's second match of Euro 2008, a Group A clash with the Czech Republic. The game ended 3–1 to Portugal, with Deco aiding his team in their passage to the quarter-finals where Portugal's campaign came to an end against Germany, the eventual runners-up of the tournament.
2010 World Cup
Deco played for Portugal in their opening game against Côte d'Ivoire. During the game he was injured and was ruled out of the remaining two group games, against North Korea and Brazil. He was fit again for the Last 16 game against Spain but Portugal coach Carlos Queiroz chose Tiago over Deco.
Deco retired from international football with 75 caps and 5 goals.
|1.||29 March 2003||Estádio das Antas, Porto, Portugal||Brazil||2–1||2–1||Friendly|
|2.||13 October 2004||Estádio José Alvalade, Lisboa, Portugal||Russia||3–0||7–1||2006 FIFA World Cup Qualifying|
|3.||17 June 2006||Commerzbank-Arena, Frankfurt, Germany||Iran||1–0||2–0||2006 FIFA World Cup|
|4.||11 June 2008||Stade de Genève, Geneva, Switzerland||Czech Republic||1–0||3–1||UEFA Euro 2008|
|5.||10 September 2008||Estádio José Alvalade, Lisbon, Portugal||Denmark||2–1||2–3||FIFA World Cup 2010 Qualifying|
- As of 1 August 2013
- Primeira Liga: 1998–99, 2002–03, 2003–04
- Taça de Portugal: 2000, 2001, 2003
- Supertaça Cândido de Oliveira: 1999, 2001, 2003
- UEFA Champions League: 2004
- UEFA Cup: 2003
- Ballon D'or Silver Ball: 2004
- UEFA Club Footballer of the Year: 2003–04
- UEFA Club Midfielder of the Year: 2003–04, 2005–06
- 2004 UEFA Champions League Final: Man of the Match
- UEFA Champions League Top Assists: 2003-04
- ESM Team of the Year: 2004–05
- FIFA Club World Cup Golden Ball: 2006
- Portuguese League Footballer of the Year: 2003–04
- Campeonato Carioca Best Player: 2012
- Campeonato Carioca Best Midfielder: 2012
- Globe Soccer Awards Player Career Award: 2013
Style of play
Deco was a versatile, tactically intelligent, and creative midfielder, with excellent vision and technical ability. A generous team-player, he was capable of playing in several midfield positions; he was initially deployed as a central midfielder under manager José Mourinho, during his time with Porto, although he was also capable of playing as an attacking midfielder, as a deep-lying playmaker, or as a winger on either flank. Although he lacked pace, as well as notable physical, defensive, and athletic attributes, he possessed excellent ball control, dribbling, passing, and crossing ability, which allowed him to beat players, find space, and create chances for team-mates. As he lost his acceleration, agility, and mobility in later years, he also underwent a physical development, which, along with his balance, enabled him to protect the ball against larger opponents. In addition to his creative duties, Deco was also capable of contributing offensively with occasional goals, due to his accurate shooting ability, and his adeptness at free-kicks. Despite his talent, Deco was also known to be injury-prone and inconsistent at times; furthermore, his work-rate and fitness were often brought into question. Deco was also notorious for his tendency to commit tactical fouls, and he was accused of diving throughout his career.
When Deco started his European career in 1997, his first wife Cila, whom he had met three years earlier, moved to Portugal with him. Deco and Cila have two sons, João Henrique and Pedro Gabriel, who now live in Brazil with their mother. A few years later, Deco met Jaciara at a party in Salvador (Brazil) and divorced Cila to live with Jaciara in Porto. They married in April 2005 and now have a son, David, and a daughter, Yasmin. They announced their divorce in March 2008. In 2009 his ex-girlfriend gave birth to his fifth child, a daughter, Sofia.
Deco is the brother-in-law of fellow footballer Alecsandro, who plays for Atlético Mineiro and Brazil international Richarlyson. Deco is an ambassador for the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation. He has a charitable organisation, Deco Institute, in the Brazilian city of Indaiatuba, near São Paulo, where he grew up.