Former Manchester United defender and fans’ favourite Rafael Da Silva has claimed that ex-teammate Anderson could have been one of the best players in the world if it weren’t for his love of McDonald’s fast food.
Sir Alex Ferguson signed Anderson from FC Porto in 2007 when the Brazilian midfielder was regarded as one of the brightest young talents around.
With hindsight, that may seem absurd, but at the time it made total sense for Ferguson to target the young showman. Anderson had already won the Golden Ball at the U17 World Cup and became a sensation for Gremio.
After moving to Europe in 2006, he was given the No.10 shirt and quickly began to show why he was so highly rated. But when he broke his leg, Ferguson sent his brother to watch him once fully recovered.
“When his recovery was over, I sent Martin over to watch him in every game for four or five weeks,” Fergie wrote in My Autobiography. “Martin said, ‘Alex, he’s better than Rooney!’
“’For Christ’s sake, don’t say that’, I told him. ‘He’ll need to be good to be better than Rooney.’”
But Ferguson’s brother was adamant he was after discovering the next gem to come out of South American football.
Anderson showed early signs of promise at United and quickly became a fans’ favourite after mighty performances against Liverpool and Arsenal – showing up the likes of Steven Gerrard and Cesc Fabregas.
At 20-years-old, Anderson came off the bench in Moscow and scored his penalty against Chelsea in the 2008 Champions League final, in what was without question his best moment in a United shirt.
Anderson spent seven years at Old Trafford – playing 181 matches, scoring nine goals and assisting a further 21 – lifting 10 major trophies, including four Premier League titles and one Champions League.
However, there is no denying that Anderson lacked a bit of professionalism throughout his career, with Rafael Da Silva revealing the sky was the limit for his former teammate.
Writing in his joint autobiography, alongside twin brother Fabio, the former full-back said (cited by The Mirror): “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.
“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 was 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.”