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The best footballer you've probably never heard about

Words by Nathan Irvine

Remember the name

Ricardo Filipe da Silva Braga is a phenom. The Portuguese futsal player, otherwise known as Ricardinho, is a legend in the sport. As the recent Guardian profile suggests, the diminutive star is a mix of Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi - albeit on a smaller football pitch.

O Mágico (read: the magician) is a human highlight reel. Tap his name into YouTube and you'll find hundreds of clips dedicated to the magic he's capable of conjuring up.

From unbelievable goals to tricks that can twist an opponent's blood, Ricardinho is a joy to watch.

Football purists may turn their noses up at futsal, but it's a sport that's on the rise. At 5ft 6", Ricardinho was deemed too small to play for his beloved Porto, but he found his calling in futsal and is now the poster boy of the entire show.

He currently plays for Real Madrid's Inter Movistar futsal team in Spain’s Liga Nacional de Fútbol Sala. But before that he was making a fortune plying his trade in Russia, Japan and further afield.

It's easy to see why when you watch replays of his moves like the below.

Futsal foundations

The blink and you'll miss him skills of Ricardinho dragged his Portugal side to the 2018 European Futsal Championship title. He's also won the sport's equivalent of the Ballon D'or for five consecutive years. Ricardinho is untouchable.

As the popularity of futsal continues to spread globally, it's often forgotten that the likes of Neymar, Messi and Ronaldo all started within futsal.

You need to be quick of mind and fleet footed to prevail - traits that can be translated to 11-a-side and everything in between. It's one of the reasons more countries are using futsal to create the next generation of superstar footballers.

As a blueprint for success over adversity, Ricardinho is proving to the youth of today that you can make a successful career in football through futsal. And with every dubstep backed highlight reel, Ricardinho cements himself as one of the best footballers you'll never forget.

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