Cristiano Ronaldo and Costinha, two Portuguese footballers, had very different paths in their careers. However, on February 24, 2001, they both played in an Under-15 match for Portugal against South Africa and stopped at the same station. Ronaldo, from Madeira, scored a goal in the 2-1 victory, which was a sign of his future success. Costinha, a young midfielder from Vitoria, was representing his country for the first time.
Ronaldo went on to become Portugal’s greatest-ever player and one of the best players to ever play the game. Even at 38 years old, he captains his country and continues to break international records. On the other hand, Costinha quit football at the age of 25 and launched a dream career in aviation.
In an interview with Maisfutebol in October, Costinha revealed that football in the lower divisions was very physical and started to bring him problems. He was constantly injured and realized that he was no longer going to reach a high level. Many people let themselves be dragged along too late, but Costinha made the conscious decision to leave.
Costinha failed to break into Vitoria’s first-team, making only two senior appearances, although he was part of the squad which won the Portuguese Cup in 2005. He made 13 international appearances for Portugal’s various youth teams, working his way up to the Under-20s, but quickly fell into the country’s lower leagues at club level. After stints at Rio Maior, Uniao Montemor, Juventude Evora, Operario Lagoa, and a season in the fourth division of Spain, Costinha called it quits in 2011.
After leaving football, Costinha worked for another insurance company, MAPFRE, for four years in the field of travel assistance. During this time, Marco Lanca, also a former player, challenged him to something that had always piqued his interest: aviation. Costinha loves to travel and discover contrasting realities like Sao Tome and Principe or New York, where he was recently, and then return to Portugal. It is a career that excites him, although he was away from the company for two years before returning permanently.
Aviation isn’t Costinha’s only professional passion. He is also a real estate enthusiast and briefly switched paths during the pandemic. He had occasional contracts, which used to become permanent, but for the first time, at the time of COVID-19, that did not happen, and his contract ended. It was at that time that he discovered real estate, which was a breath of fresh air. He always liked dealing with people and did it for two years. He will continue to do it from time to time, but he never stopped missing aviation. So, when they invited him back, now joining the ranks, he immediately said yes.
Despite sharing the same stage as Ronaldo, Costinha admits that he is barely recognized these days. And he likes to keep it that way. He brought Mario Rui from Italy to Portugal a couple of weeks ago when he was called up to the national team. And before COVID, he brought Jose Mourinho, who is even from his area. But he is no longer recognized as he used to be in the early years and is reserved in that respect. He never says he was a football player.
Reflecting on his football career, Costinha remains filled with pride over that fated day he shared with Ronaldo. And rather than considering himself a failed footballer, the former midfielder feels like a lucky man. He thinks that the most emblematic moment of Ronaldo’s career was really the first game for the national team in the under-15s. Even today, he gets goosebumps when he hears the anthem. At the time, Ronaldo was a much more virtuous player and was already on a much higher level than the others.
Deep down, Costinha feels privileged. He had the opportunity to play football, and we have to be aware that it is not for everyone. It is not easy to make a career in football. He prefers to see the glass half full. Nowadays, he is privileged, lucky because he has another dream profession.