As a 19-year-old in 1948. Djalma Santos had a frustrating start to his professional career in the sense that he had to start his career as a midfielder, due to his strong technical qualities. The purchase of the then Brazilian rising star, Brandaozinho, forced him into the role that would cement him as of the defensive icons of the game. It was decided that with his all-round ability he needed the scope to surge forward, so he was finally switched to the right-flank role in which he was to flourish and make his own.
During the era in which Djalma played full-backs were expected to be very static, hardly making it past the halfway line. Djalma Santos took advantage of his grounding as a box to box midfielder and combined physical strength with technical adeptness to become a pioneer alongside his compatriot Nilton Santos in establishing the idea of a swash-buckling attacking full back. It is important to remember that by modern standards, both of these players were still too defensive for the likes of Guardiola or Klopp from a tactical perspective but for their era they were certainly ahead of their time and Djalma's technical skills in particular stand the test of time.After being re-positioned to right-back Djalma quickly became renowned for his clever passing out from the back and thrilled the crowd with his composed ball-carrying even in tight situations inside his own area. Even his throw-ins became a devastating weapon inspite of the long standing injury to his right hand.. His ability to catapult from range, allowed him to turn final third throw in situations into genuinely dangerous attacking set piece scenarios. The change to right back also yielded immediate tangible success as he helped his side win the Rio-Sao Paulo tournament in 1952 (a traditional Brazilian football competition contested between São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro teams from 1933 to 1966, in 1993 and from 1997 to 2002). That year, Santos made his first appearance for Brazil, striking up a polished full-back partnership with his eminent and slightly older namesake Nilton Santos – to whom he was not related – which would last for a decade.
Built like a super-heavyweight with the nimbleness of a middleweight, Djalma Santos was a formidable defender who had the muscular athleticism of a Thuram with the intelligence and litheness of a Maldini - which allowed him to read the game effortlessly, and win the ball time and time again through a mixture of power and flawless defensive technique.
Djalma possessed an unheralded two-way game which was superior to his more famous and glamorous compatriot and namesake Nilton Santos. The first responsibility of a full-back is to defend, and he fulfilled that impeccably with his strength, durability and resolution. He was unyielding in the tackle, effective in the air, quick to cover the ground with his distinctive scuttling run and perceptive in his distribution, usually preferring a simple pass to one of his more extravagantly talented team-mates.
Santos could be a thrilling attacker, too, capable of rampaging down his touchline on swashbuckling overlaps and joining in with flowing team moves, occasionally displaying flair with the ball worthy of the most artistic midfield general. He was also a dead-ball specialist, taking penalties in the early part of his career, and he was blessed with an even temperament, retaining his composure in the most hectic of situations and never being sent off in more than 1,000 games as a professional.
He has a joint record where he is only 1 of 3 men that has been selected for three consecutive World Cup Teams of the Tournament, also known as X1’s – which feature the best players of that respective World Cup. He was chosen for this for the 1954, 1958 and 1962 teams of those World Cups. The other two men who share this golden distinction with Santos are: German legend Franz Beckenbauer and fellow German Phillip Lahm. In short he was the most complete defensive full back of all time.
I only knew two days before the final to play. The news surprised me a bit, I spoke to De Sordi who told me he could not play. Being included in the training of the best of the tournament was a big surprise. Who chose was a friend of mine
I have always lived perfectly normally, I have always respected the opponent, respected the public who came to see the matches, and thank God I have never been excluded from a football field. that I had respect, I played in the rules, "he answered in 2010 when FIFA.com asked him what the title of world champion in 1958 and the fact of being elected best right side that year in Sweden had changed to his career. "Logically, it opened up a few doors, I can not say the opposite, I could have the career I had thanks to these titles of world champion with Brazil, I respect that and I am grateful to football for giving it to me. "
I was 37 years old, the body no longer responded as before. There were probably players who could have done more