I had no idea what life would be like after soccer. I was a professional by the age of 16 and a member of the national team. My father, a soccer player too, had always told me, "Prepare for the future." But soccer was my life. My father also said, "Stop playing at the top of your career." I didn't get it. Why I should stop when I'm at my best? "They will never forget that great player," he said. "If you stop when you are playing poorly, people will remember that bad player." That's why I retired--for the first time--in 1974 after winning the 1970 World Cup for the third time with Brazil. I was 34 years old.
I thought, "Now I have to look after my interests." I had invested in a few things while I was playing, through a businessman who didn't use my money wisely. A construction company I had went bankrupt. So did a store that sold construction materials. I was very sentimental; I did everything with my heart, and lost a lot of money.
Then all the European teams--Real Madrid, Milan, Benefica and others--came to me with proposals to start playing again. But I thought that would be like returning to the field in Brazil. Another proposal came from the presidents of Warner Brothers and Warner Records [now, like TIME, part of AOL Time Warner] in the States: "We're trying to get soccer going in the U.S., and we're going to start a big team, the New York Cosmos. Why don't you come and play with us?" That, I thought, would be a new experience. The Cosmos were giving me $7 million for three years; Europe was offering $10 million to $15 million, but the U.S. season was only going to be six months a year. That left another six months to learn English, learn about business, learn about international trade. My family said, "Don't do it." I said, "I'm going to do it, because I need to prepare myself for the rest of my life."
The U.S. received me with open arms. And I learned about business. The Americans taught me that you can't let your emotions get in the way. You can't make a decision with your heart. You can't do business to help someone. You can't do business with members of your family. You can't appoint someone to be president of your company because he is a friend or your brother. You have to appoint the most capable person. Business is business. You have to be tough.
Another thing I learned is to invest in real estate. Around the time I went to the U.S., I had invested in cattle in Brazil. The cattle died. With land, apartments, houses, no one can take it away. So today, my investment base is real estate.
But soccer gives me more pleasure. I train kids and give soccer clinics because I miss playing. My wife will say, "What were you shouting about last night in your sleep?" I'll say, "About scoring a goal." At 60, I still dream about playing.
I've received offers from Europe to be a manager, and there have been offers to coach the Brazilian national team, but there's no way I can stand on the side of the field. One of the biggest disappointments I ever had in sport was when I was a commentator for TV Globo during the 1998 World Cup, and Brazil lost. I had to be honest: Brazil was not playing well.