The fatal flaw of genius is its temperamentality. So often extraordinarily talented people exhibit an inherent bipolarity, a tendency towards excess and a capacity for self-destruction. There is no better footballing example of these characteristic symptoms than that of Djalma Feitosa Dias, better known as Djalminha.
Born in the Brazilian municipality of Santos in the winter of 1970, the talented young midfielder had been scouted and taken on by Flamengo of Rio de Janeiro by the age of 16, making his first team debut in 1989. Blessed with prodigious technical skill and remarkable accuracy from dead-ball situations, it was not long before Djalminha came to be recognised within Brazil as one of the foremost talents of his generation.
The playmaker left Flamengo in 1993, moving to Guarani in São Paulo before being briefly shipped out on loan to Japanese club Shimizu S-Pulse a year later. In 1996 Djalminha joined Brazilian giants Palmeiras, and it was to be with the Alviverde that his talents would gain continental recognition. Despite only playing 22 league games for Palmeiras, Djalminha played some of the best football of his career as he notched up 12 goals and was awarded the 1996 Bola de Ouro (given to the Brazilian championship’s best player) as well as being handed his first cap for the national team.
A big-money move to Europe was inevitable, and it materialised in 1997 as Deportivo La Coruña’s Brazilian manager, Carlos Alberto Silva, lured his compatriot to north-west Spain for around €10m to strengthen a rapidly improving Depor side. While Silva didn’t last much longer, replaced by Javier Irureta in 1998, Djalminha proceeded to play some scintillating football in the blue and white stripes of Os Turcos. His off-the-ball movement, turn of pace and peerless control thrilled audiences up and down the Iberian peninsula, the Brazilian being a central component of Depor’s 1999/2000 title-winning side as he scored 10 goals in 31 games from midfield.
However, things started to go wrong for Djalminha shortly afterwards as his infamous outbursts and petty squabbles became increasingly frequent. The major flashpoint came in 2002 when Djalminha clashed with Irureta on the training ground and ended up head-butting his coach, an act which all but ended his career with the Spanish club. The Brazilian was promptly loaned out to Austria Wien before being released from his contract and missing out on a place in Luis Felipe Scolari’s triumphant 2002 World Cup squad.
Having returned from Austria, Djalminha left Spain for good in 2004 to join Mexican side Club América. After making just five appearances for the Mexico City outfit, Djalminha called time on his mercurial career at the end of the 2004 Apertura at the age of 34. He has since moved back to Spain and plays indoor football for Depor, nostalgically rekindling the ‘Depor miracle’ alongside his former team mates Fran and Naybet.
While Djalminha will go down in history as a player who let his tumultuous personality get in the way of his substantial talents, the Brazilian demonstrated enough brilliance during his career to be considered one of the best of his generation. A superlative technician and a player capable of producing a moment of magic out of nothing, Djalminha was – at the peak of his powers – at a similar level to Rivaldo and Ronaldinho.
The Brazilian’s legacy will always be tainted by his bellicose behaviour, but maybe that’s the price you have to pay for the unpredictability of genius.