Former England striker Emile Heskey has revealed that Brazilian legend Rivaldo once told him that he could have played for Brazil’s World Cup-winning team ahead of legends like David Beckham and Michael Owen.
Brazil beat England in the quarter-finals and then went on to stomp Germany 2-0 in the 2002 final to lift their fifth historic World Cup title in Yokohama.
And while speaking to talkSPORT, Heskey recalled his experience of playing against Brazil and said that Rivaldo picked him for the Brazil national team over other England stars from the so-called ‘Golden Generation.’
The ex-Leicester City and Liverpool striker explained, “We played against Brazil in the 2002 World Cup and Rivaldo did a piece, who out of the England team would get in the Brazil side? He picked me… I was fine with that! I knew I could [fit into that Brazil team well], but I was ridiculed for it.”
On being asked why the Brazilian legend named him ahead of David Beckham, Michael Owen, Paul Scholes, Steven Gerrard, Frank Lampard and Rio Ferdinand, Heskey responded, “Because he played against me.”
He continued, “I think it was all-round play I bring to a team, and he’d seen that. I played against him for Liverpool against Barcelona. We drew away and beat them at home, so he has seen everything I brought to a team.”
In the past, Rivaldo himself had given an interview to Liverpool’s official website praising Heskey as he said, “Heskey may be heavily criticised by some English fans but I don’t see it like that.”
He continued, “I played against him a couple of times for Barcelona against Liverpool in the Champions League and realised what a quality player he is. It wasn’t long before I began thinking what weight of character and strength Heskey possessed. I told the other players [in Brazil] how dangerous he was.”
Rivaldo concluded, “I admire the way he attacks the Premiership. So when you ask me which Englishman I think would be able to cope with playing in my team, Brazil, I say Heskey.”