Dida (goalkeeper)

Personal information
Full name Nélson de Jesus Silva
Date of birth 7 October 1973 (1973-10-07) (age 38)
Place of birth Irará, Bahia, Brazil
Height 1.96 m (6 ft 5 in)
Playing position Goalkeeper
Youth career
1990–1991 Cruzeiro de Arapiraca
1992–1993 Vitória
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1993 Vitória 24 (0)
1994–1998 Cruzeiro 120 (0)
1998–1999 Lugano 0 (0)
1999–2000 Corinthians 24 (0)
2000–2010 Milan 206 (0)
2001–2002 Corinthians (loan) 8 (0)
Total 382 (0)
National team
1995–2006 Brazil 91 (0)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only.
† Appearances (Goals).

Nélson de Jesus Silva (born 7 October 1973), better known simply as Dida (Portuguese pronunciation: [ˈdʒidɐ]), is a Brazilian former footballer who played as goalkeeper. He first rose to prominence in Brazilian club football in the 1990s with Vitória, Cruzeiro EC and SC Corinthians, where he gained a reputation as a penalty-saving specialist. However, Dida is probably best remembered for his successful and often tumultuous ten-year stint with Italian Serie A club A.C. Milan from 2000 to 2010. During his tenure with the Rossoneri, he became equally known for mistakes as well as excellent gameplay, from a notorious error during a UEFA Champions League match against Leeds United in September 2000, to suffering a lengthy decline in form after being hit with a lit flare in a Champions League quarter-final match against crosstown rival Inter Milan in April 2005, and being assaulted by an opposing fan during an October 2007 match with Celtic.

One of only two goalkeepers in Milan history to make over 200 Serie A appearances, Dida won the Champions League twice in 2003 and 2007, with the former coming after he saved three penalties in a shoot-out against Juventus F.C. He is also the first two-time winner of the FIFA Club World Cup, the inaugural winner of the FIFPro Goalkeeper of the Year award, and a five-time nominee of the IFFHS World's Best Goalkeeper award. In 2003, Dida became the first Brazilian keeper to be shortlisted for the Ballon d'Or, with a second nomination in 2005.

On the international level, Dida earned 91 caps in eleven years for the Brazilian national team, including the most appearances in FIFA Confederations Cup history (22). He notably broke a color barrier by becoming the first Afro-Brazilian goalkeeper to start for the Seleção since Moacyr Barbosa in the 1950 FIFA World Cup following his international debut in July 1995. Dida won the 2002 World Cup with Brazil without playing a game, and was the starter in 2006, conceding only twice in five matches. He retired from international play after Brazil were eliminated in the quarterfinals.


Early life and club career

Though he was born in Irará, Bahia, Dida was raised in the smaller northern state of Alagoas. His footballing role models were goalkeepers Valdir Peres and Rinat Dasayev, whom he watched on television during the 1982 World Cup.[1] A Flamengo fan,[2] he helped form an amateur team called Flamenguinho ("Little Flamengo") at thirteen, which was composed of other boys from his neighborhood.[3] His professional club career began in 1990 with Alagoas team Cruzeiro de Arapiraca (not to be confused with Cruzeiro EC). Two years later, he signed with hometown club Vitória and won the Bahia state championship in his first season. In 1993, Dida made 24 starts for Vitória after winning the Under-21 FIFA World Youth Championship as Brazil's first-choice.

Dida was acquired by Cruzeiro EC in 1994, where, in a span of five seasons, he won three Minas Gerais state titles, the 1996 Copa do Brasil, and the 1997 Copa Libertadores, along with a pair of Placar Bola de Prata awards as the top goalkeeper in the Campeonato Brasileiro Série A. But with this success soon came a desire to ply his trade in Europe, and in January 1999, he decided to leave Cruzeiro in order to sign with A.C. Milan.[1][4]



Dida's request to opt out of the remainder of his contract with Cruzeiro in order to sign with Milan kicked off a dispute with the club that lasted for five months, during which he suited up for Switzerland club FC Lugano to keep in game shape.[1] But when the issue was finally resolved and Dida formally joined the Rossoneri, he was third on coach Alberto Zaccheroni's depth chart behind Christian Abbiati and Sebastiano Rossi, and Milan therefore loaned Dida to SC Corinthians in an attempt to get him some regular playing time.

His reputation as a penalty saver first came to the fore after he saved two spot kicks – both taken by Raí – in Corinthians' 3–2 victory over intrastate rivals São Paulo FC in the 1999 Campeonato Brasileiro semifinal resulted in the headline "Dida is God" from sports publication Lance!.[5] In the inaugural FIFA World Club Championship (today the FIFA Club World Cup) in 2000, Dida saved a Nicolas Anelka penalty in a 2–2 draw with Real Madrid,[6] and in the final against Vasco da Gama, Corinthians won the title in a 4–3 penalty shoot-out after Edmundo's shot went wide.[7]

Milan recalled Dida for the 2000–01 season, and he leapfrogged past Rossi into the starting eleven since Abbiati was away with Italy at the 2000 Summer Olympics. A 4–1 Champions League group stage win over Beşiktaş on 13 September 2000 marked his official debut for the club, but on 19 September, in the 89th minute against Leeds United at a rain-soaked Elland Road, he accidentally dropped a Lee Bowyer shot into his own goal, causing Milan to lose the match 1–0.[8] His explanation afterward was that since the ball was slippery from the rain, he attempted to absorb the force of the shot then catch hold of it, but it dropped into a puddle and bounced into goal.[9] Despite keeping a clean sheet in Milan's 2–0 win over FC Barcelona one week later, he was promptly benched following Abbiati's return. He made his first and only Serie A start that season as well, a 2–0 November loss to Parma in which Patrick Mboma scored both goals.

Meanwhile, Dida was among nearly a dozen Serie A players who were implicated in a scandal involving fraudulent European passports. In October 2000, it was reported that he had registered in Italy as an EU player with a Portuguese passport, which was discovered to be false following a routine check by Milan, who then promptly re-registered him as a non-EU player.[10] UEFA declined to take any action and instead handed the case over to FIGC, who fined Milan £314,000, and banned Dida from the league for one year, in addition to a FIFA-imposed year-long suspension from national team play. On 3 April 2003, following a court appearance in Milan, he was given a seven-month suspended prison sentence.[11] Milan sent Dida back to Corinthians for 2001–02 following the passport flap, then recalled him for the next season, which he began on the bench until Abbiati limped off with a hip injury at halftime of a Champions League qualifying stage match against FC Slovan Liberec on 14 August 2002. Dida took his place for the second half and turned in a solid performance that would result in a new first-choice keeper for Milan.


Dida soon wrote his name into Milan history after the 2003 Champions League final at Old Trafford against league rivals Juventus, which had ended goalless after extra time. He saved penalties from David Trezeguet, Marcelo Zalayeta, and Paolo Montero as Milan won the shoot-out 3–2, and the ensuing praise poured in from his home country in addition to the Italian media; he was labeled "Saint Dida" by the Brazilian press, while Folha de São Paulo chipped in with the headline "Dida pushes Milan to the top of Europe."[12] In 2003, he became the first Brazilian keeper to be nominated for the Ballon d'Or, which was won by Juventus rival Pavel Nedvěd.[13]

Dida was nominated for the Serie A Goalkeeper of the Year award after conceding only 20 goals in 32 appearances during Milan's 2003–04 Scudetto-winning season.[14] Though Milan were eliminated in the quarterfinals, one highlight of their 2003–04 Champions League run was during a group stage match against AFC Ajax on 16 September 2003, in which Dida blocked a Rafael van der Vaart point blank-range shot with less than a minute remaining in extra time to preserve Milan's 1–0 victory.[15]

On 12 April 2005, with Milan leading 1–0 in the second leg of the Champions League quarterfinal derby against crosstown rival Internazionale, a second-half Esteban Cambiasso goal was nullified by referee Markus Merk, due to the fact that he had just whistled Inter forward Julio Cruz for a foul on Dida in the six-yard box. Bottles and various debris were subsequently thrown by Inter ultras onto the pitch, and the projectiles soon escalated to lit flares. As Dida attempted to clear bottles from his penalty area in order to take a goal kick, a flare hurled from the upper deck struck him on his right shoulder, and Merk halted the match in the 74th minute.[16] After a thirty-minute delay in which firefighters were called in to remove the burning flares from the pitch, the match was restarted. Dida, however, was unable to continue, and was substituted by Abbiati. Less than a minute later, Merk permanently abandoned the match after more flares and debris rained down. The match was awarded as a 3–0 victory, totaling a 5–0 aggregate, to Milan.[17] Dida suffered bruising and first-degree burns to his shoulder, but did not miss any game time, as he was back between the posts for Milan's Serie A match on 17 April against Siena. Meanwhile, Inter were fined just over €200,000 – the largest fine ever imposed by UEFA – and were ordered to play their first four 2005–06 Champions League home matches behind closed doors as punishment.[18]

Dida's form began to decline thereafter, as he struggled in the semifinals against PSV Eindhoven and in the 2005 CL final loss to Liverpool, in which Milan blew a 3–0 halftime lead in a span of six minutes early in the second half and the match ended 3–3 after extra time. Dida was only able to save John Arne Riise's penalty as Liverpool triumphed 3–2 in the ensuing shoot-out. He had set a CL record for consecutive clean sheets with seven, which was surpassed by Arsenal's Jens Lehmann (ten) the next season.

Dida's rough patch continued as he slogged through a mistake-riddled 2005–06 season, leading to Brazil coach Carlos Alberto Parreira declaring that his starting position for the upcoming World Cup was not secure.[19] Though Milan's drive to return to the 2006 Champions League Final fell short after a 1–0 semifinal aggregate loss to Barcelona, that series began a revival of his form with stops against Ronaldinho, Samuel Eto'o and Henrik Larsson over the course of both legs.


Dida in a home match against
ACF Fiorentina on 6 May 2007

Dida got off to a strong start in 2006–07; following a strike by Lazio's Stephen Makinwa in Milan's 2–1 season-opener victory on 10 September, he did not allow a Serie A goal for the next 446 minutes of play,[20] and he conceded only two goals in five of Milan's six Champions League group stage matches. He made his 200th appearance for Milan in a 1–0 defeat of Ascoli Calcio on 20 September, and on 28 January 2007, he played his 150th career Serie A match in a 1–0 win over Parma. On 10 March, Dida also signed a three-year contract extension that kept him at Milan until June 2010.[21]

However, 2006–07 represented the first injury-plagued season of his career, and he missed eleven Serie A matches due to knee and shoulder problems; he had missed ten league games in the previous three seasons combined. His play had consequently suffered again by the start of 2007 and he was racked with inconsistency throughout the second half of the season. Dida was heavily criticized after conceding twice from Daniel van Buyten in the Champions League quarterfinal first leg against Bayern Munich, which ended in a 2–2 tie. He then turned in a man-of-the-match performance in the second leg as Milan shut out Bayern 2–0 and advanced to the semifinals against Manchester United, where he again received criticism after blunders on Cristiano Ronaldo and Wayne Rooney goals in Milan's 3–2 loss. Once again, Dida bounced back in the second leg, keeping another clean sheet in Milan's 3–0 second leg victory. He maintained his second-leg form into the CL final rematch with Liverpool on 23 May, where he exorcised his Istanbul ghosts with three saves from Jermaine Pennant, Steven Gerrard, and Peter Crouch as Milan won 2–1 and raised its seventh Champions League trophy.[22]

On 3 October 2007, during Milan's CL group stage match against Celtic F.C. in Glasgow, Celtic striker Scott McDonald scored the match-winner in the 90th minute to seal a 2–1 victory. As McDonald and his teammates celebrated near the corner flag, 27-year-old Celtic fan Robert McHendry entered the pitch and tapped Dida on the shoulder as he ran past the Milan penalty area. Dida attempted to give chase but after a few steps he suddenly collapsed to the ground, holding the side of his face; he was stretchered off the pitch and substituted.[23] Although McHendry later turned himself in to police and was given a lifetime ban from Celtic Park, Dida was charged by UEFA with breaching rules upholding "loyalty, integrity and sportsmanship," as it was deemed that his injury was feigned. He was consequently punished with a two-match suspension,[24] which Milan promptly appealed.[25] Dida never publicly commented on the incident or its consequences to the media, but prior to Milan's first home game since the Celtic match, against Empoli on 21 October, he offered a gesture of apology to the fans by pausing to bow to each section of the crowd during warmups, and received a round of applause in response.[26] The next day, UEFA reduced his ban to one match, and he sat out Milan's 4–1 victory over FC Shakhtar Donetsk on 24 October.[27]

On 19 November, Dida joined teammates Cafu, Kaká, Ronaldo and Paolo Maldini for the fifth annual Match Against Poverty in Málaga, Spain, but he missed Milan's group stage rematch against Celtic on 4 December due to illness.[28] That same month, he became the first two-time winner of the FIFA Club World Cup after Milan defeated Boca Juniors.[29] With his participation, he had also set a Club World Cup record with six appearances, a mark that lasted until the next year when Al-Ahly players Wael Gomaa and Mohamed Aboutrika both earned their seventh caps in a 1–0 loss to Adelaide United on 18 December 2008.[30]

Ongoing injury problems and sustained poor form limited Dida to just thirteen league matches in 2007–08. The death knell of his campaign came in the first derby of the year against Internazionale on 23 December, in which he inexplicably dived in the opposite direction of an Esteban Cambiasso goal that gave the Nerazzurri a 2–1 victory. The error earned him a hailstorm of criticism from the fans and media, and Cambiasso commented to reporters after the match, "'I am not going to make jokes about Dida. We are professionals. It happened that he made a mistake. These things are part of football."[31] His last game was in a 5–2 defeat of Napoli on 13 January 2008, after which he aggravated a knee injury during a training session and was dropped for the next match by Ancelotti in favor of Željko Kalac, whose own solid form (which included a gamewinning save in a 1–0 win over Fiorentina on 2 February)[32] kept Dida benched for the remainder of the season. His appearance in the Goal4Africa charity match on 12 July marked his first on-pitch action in six months.[33]


With the return of Abbiati as Milan's first choice for the 2008–09 Serie A season, Dida was the starter for Milan's UEFA Cup campaign, which ended with their elimination by Werder Bremen on 27 February 2009. He made his season Serie A debut on 15 March against Siena after Abbiati was carted off with a serious knee injury in the 13th minute.[34] With Abbiati out for the rest of the year, Ancelotti kept Dida in the starting lineup over Kalac, whose poor outing in a 5–0 Russian Railways Cup thrashing by Chelsea had demoted him to third choice. He made a career-low total of ten league appearances, though six of them ended in clean sheets.

Dida was unable to compete for the 2009–10 starting spot after missing the entire preseason due to injury, and therefore was benched in favor of Marco Storari, who was serving a second stint with Milan following a loan spell with Fiorentina. However, he would again make his seasonal league debut as an injury substitute, this time on 18 October 2009 in a 2–1 home win over Roma, after Storari was a late scratch due to suffering a thigh strain from a botched attempt of René Higuita's famed scorpion kick at the end of Milan's last training session before the game.[35] On 21 October, after catching an Esteban Granero shot during his first Champions League appearance of the season against Real Madrid, Dida hurried to move the ball upfield without having complete control of it, causing him to accidentally bounce it off his knee, and Raúl immediately pounced on the loose ball and put it into an empty net. His mistake ultimately did not prove costly as Madrid keeper Iker Casillas erred himself on two goals that allowed Milan to take the lead and win 3–2.[36] However, on the back of strong league performances thereafter, such as a point-blank stoppage-time save from a Pablo Granoche header in a 2–1 victory over Chievo Verona on 25 October,[37] and a man-of-the-match effort three days later in a 2–2 draw with Napoli that included double and triple saves minutes apart from each other,[38] Dida remained in the starting lineup despite Storari's full recovery and his own excellent form prior to his injury. Storari was consequently loaned to Sampdoria on 15 January.[39]

However, after Abbiati was cleared to resume playing, he and Dida were juggled in and out of the starting lineup by coach Leonardo, who was consequently unable to establish a clear favorite for the No.1 jersey due to both keepers alternating high runs of form. On 31 January, Dida missed Milan's 1–1 draw with Livorno after suffering a back strain during pregame warmups, and despite his recovery had been demoted to backup following Abbiati's heroics in a 2–0 win over AS Bari on 21 February, though Leonardo denied reports that Dida had been outright dropped as a starter. "Nelson has had a great season, and now he's available and a resource. Abbiati's selection is not a given, because I've learned this year that nothing is a given."[40] Milan vice president Adriano Galliani insisted that a "duel" between the keepers did not exist, and that it was Leonardo's choice whom to play.[41] He was substituted by Abbiati in the 88th minutes on his last match of 2009–10 season. His contract with Milan expired on 30 June 2010, which made him a free agent.[42]

International career

Olympic medal record
Competitor for  Brazil
Men's Football
Bronze 1996 Atlanta Team Competition

With 91 appearances in 11 years,[43] Dida is Brazil's third-highest capped goalie, behind Cláudio Taffarel (101), and Gilmar (94). The only Brazilian keeper to be known by a nickname, he made his Canarinho debut at the 1993 Under-21 FIFA World Youth Championship, where Brazil won the championship for a third time. His first cap for the Seleção came in a 1–0 defeat of Ecuador on 7 July 1995.

Dida was the starting keeper for Brazil at the 1996 Summer Olympics, but an error-laden campaign – which included a penalty-area collision involving Dida and teammate Aldair – resulted in defeats to Nigeria and Japan and left them with the bronze medal.[1] He did his part in Brazil's 1999 Copa América victory by conceding only twice in six matches, in addition to saving a Roberto Ayala penalty that preserved a 2–1 win over arch rivals Argentina in the quarterfinals.[44]

Dida played four out of five matches in the 2005 FIFA Confederations Cup (Marcos made one appearance due to squad rotation), conceding four goals and ranking second in total saves behind Mexico's Oswaldo Sánchez. One memorable moment of the competition was during Brazil's 1–0 group-stage loss to Mexico, when he saved a Jared Borgetti spot kick that had to be retaken twice due to repeated player encroachment into the penalty area, which also marked the only penalty save of the competition.[45]

Overall, Dida is the most successful player in the history of the Confederations Cup. In addition to being a two-time winner in 1997 and 2005, he is the competition's all-time leader in caps (22) as well as the only player to participate in five consecutive tournaments (1997 to 2005).[46]

FIFA World Cup

For the 1998 World Cup in France, Zagallo lured 1994 World Cup hero Taffarel out of international retirement and back into the No.1 jersey, while Dida was called up as the third-choice keeper behind Taffarel and Carlos Germano. Despite his run of good form with Corinthians at the time of the 2002 World Cup in Korea and Japan, Luiz Felipe Scolari, who had replaced Wanderley Luxemburgo as coach following Brazil's lackluster qualification, named Marcos his number one. Dida and third-choice keeper Rogério Ceni never played a minute in Brazil's winning campaign.

Despite never playing a match during his brief tenure at Lugano, Dida received a warm reception from the local supporters during Brazil's training sessions in Weggis, Switzerland prior to the start of the 2006 World Cup. Following fourteen straight matches on the bench in the past two World Cups, he was chosen as the starting keeper by coach Carlos Alberto Parreira for the finals, which in turn made him the first black keeper to start for Brazil in a World Cup final since Barbosa in 1950, for which he was hailed by Brazilian sports daily Globo Esporte as Dida, o homem que quebrou o tabu ("Dida, the man who broke the taboo").[47] He conceded only two goals in five matches as Brazil defeated Croatia, Australia, Japan, and Ghana before being eliminated by France in the quarterfinals, a match which saw the Verdeamarela manage only one shot on goal in the entire contest. Due to his consistent play in goal, Dida was one of few players to avoid the wrath of the Brazilian media and fans after the team's elimination.

In addition to his historical World Cup start, he became the first Seleção goalie to wear the captain's armband since Émerson Leão in the 1978 World Cup, when incumbent skipper Cafu was rested for Brazil's 4–1 win over Japan on 22 June,[48] a match in which Dida was substituted by Ceni late in the second half as part of Parreira's plan to play mainly reserves.

Brazil's defeat by France ultimately became Dida's swan song. On 1 October 2006, new Brazil coach Dunga announced during a television interview, "Dida told me that the Seleção is no longer a priority in his career."[49] Despite his World Cup heroics, he has not been called up for national team play since the July 2006 inception of Dunga, who had eschewed many of the veterans in favor of a predominantly younger squad for Brazil's post-World Cup matches. He faced a total of eight penalties in his international career, saving six of them.[50]

Club career statistics

Club Season League Cup Continental Other Total
Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
Vitória 1992 0 0 - - - - - - 0 0
1993 24 0 - - - - - - 24 0
Cruzeiro 1993 23 0 - - 6 0 - - 29 0
1995 20 0 3 0 8 0 - - 31 0
1996 22 0 9 0 ? ? - - 31 0
1997 25 0 2 0 20 0 1 0 48 0
1998 30 0 5 0 14 0 - - 49 0
Lugano 1998–99 0 0 - - - - - - 0 0
Corinthians 1999 25 0 - - - - - - 25 0
2000 0 0 - - 11 0 4 0 15 0
Milan 2000–01 1 0 0 0 6 0 - - 7 0
Corinthians 2001 8 0 - - - - - - 8 0
2002 0 0 9 0 0 0 18 0 27 0
Milan 2002–03 30 0 - - 14 0 - - 44 0
2003–04 32 0 2 0 10 0 1 0 45 0
2004–05 36 0 0 0 13 0 1 0 50 0
2005–06 36 0 0 0 12 0 - - 48 0
2006–07 25 0 3 0 13 0 - - 41 0
2007–08 13 0 0 0 5 0 2 0 20 0
2008–09 10 0 1 0 8 0 - - 19 0
2009–10 23 0 0 0 5 0 - - 28 0
Total for Milan 206 0 6 0 86 0 4 0 302 0
Career totals 383 0 34 0 145 0 27 0 589 0

International career statistics


Brazil national team
Year Apps Goals
1995 3 0
1996 6 0
1997 6 0
1998 0 0
1999 17 0
2000 10 0
2001 6 0
2002 5 0
2003 11 0
2004 9 0
2005 12 0
2006 6 0
Total 91 0









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Preceded by
FIFPro Goalkeeper of the Year
Succeeded by
Gianluigi Buffon

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