Former Manchester United defender Rafael da Silva believes compatriot Anderson “could have been the best in the world” were it not for his unhealthy eating habits.
Anderson, 33, joined Sir Alex Ferguson’s side in 2007 as a precocious talent from Porto, but the Brazilian ultimately failed to live up to the potential that saw him win the 2008 Golden Boy for best player under the age of 21 in Europe, an award won by the likes of Lionel Messi, Wayne Rooney, Kylian Mbappe and most recently Erling Haaland.
Anderson’s career trajectory nosedived from his maiden campaign at Old Trafford, in which he won a Premier League and Champions League double, making 38 appearances across all competitions in 2007/08, the most he would make for Man Utd in a single season during his eight-year stay.
In September last year a then 32-year-old Anderson called time on his playing career, hanging up his boots with a glittering trophy cabinet that includes a Copa America with Brazil, as well as four Premier League titles and that aforementioned Champions League medal, but there will always be a lingering feeling of ‘what if’.
According to Rafael da Silva, who made 170 appearances for Man Utd, Anderson had the ability to be one of the greatest footballers in the world, but ill-luck with injuries and a penchant for cheeseburgers cost the Brazilian that pathway to Ballon d’Or glory.
In an extract from his new joint-autobiography with twin brother Fabio — The Sunshine Kids — Rafael commented: “We could be on the team coach and pass the services on the motorway and Anderson would jump up impulsively and yell ‘McDonald’s, McDonald’s.’
“The guy was crazy, but I love him.
“Give him a football and he would just play with freedom and sometimes, if he got a good run of games, he could play as well as any player in the league.
“Not only that, but when he was playing well, we were playing brilliant football. He picked up a lot of big injuries and then his problems with eating the way he did started to affect him.
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“It was no coincidence that his best form came when he had a lot of games because that was when he couldn’t eat so much. I will say something about Anderson – if he had been a professional football player, he could have been the best in the world.
“I’m saying this with all seriousness. I don’t know if he ever took anything seriously. He just loved life in such an easy and casual way.
“In some ways that was a quality. It was what made him so popular and one of the most popular players at the club.
“But he would just eat whatever was put in front of him.”
ON THIS DAY: 2008:
☑️ Tevez ☑️ Ballack
☑️ Carrick ☑️ Belletti
❌ Ronaldo ☑️ Lampard
☑️ Hargreaves ☑️ Cole
☑️ Nani ❌ Terry
☑️ Anderson ☑️ Kalou
☑️ Giggs ❌ Anelka
Man Utd won their third Champions League title. pic.twitter.com/tJELoFLufS
— Squawka Football (@Squawka) May 21, 2018
“I played through injuries for him”
Anderson’s time in the north-west of England was certainly beset by persistent injury problems, but the once midfield maestro admitted that he would battle through those agitations for Ferguson, who he once described as “the god of football”.
“He’s the god of football,” Anderson told ESPN of Ferguson in 2018.
“I played through injuries for him, stayed on the pitch when my legs were cut. He looked after players so well. I felt that he cared for me.
“I can’t thank that man enough for what he did for me. He trusted me in big games when I was 18.”
Following his time at Old Trafford, Anderson would take up a bird-of-passage existence, experiencing spells at Fiorentina (on loan from Man Utd), Internacional in his hometown of Porto Alegre, Coritiba and Adana Demirspor in Turkey, before retiring in September 2020.