Nice's new five-goal hero Carlos Eduardo has Riquelme in his sights
France have been waiting for it for more that 30 years.
1983-84 was a remarkable season in Ligue 1, with three players scoring five goals in single games. First it was Jean-Francois Beltramini who did it for Rouen versus Nancy, then Philippe Anziani netted five for Sochaux in a 8-2 win against Toulon on April Fools' Day, and just four weeks later the great Slovenian Toni Kurbos scored six goals for Metz in a 7-3 triumph at Nimes.
Ever since, nobody managed to make it, until a little known Brazilian loanee Carlos Eduardo de Oliveira Alves stunned the country on Sunday with a phenomenal performance for Nice, leading The Eaglets to a 7-2 win at Guingamp. First he sent a free kick of rare beauty into the top corner after 12 minutes. Before the first half was over, he was in the right place at the right time to score twice more with one-touch finishes. The new star added another two strikes after the break, the last one especially sublime at the end of the move he started himself.
It was a unique achievement, and the press responded accordingly. Carlos Eduardo became the first ever Ligue 1 player to get a perfect 10 mark from L'Equipe, and rest of the newspapers followed the suit. Only Guingamp were left desperately disappointed. Danish keeper Jonas Lossl was so disgusted with teammates and his own dismal performance that he threw his gloves into a dustbin right after the final whistle.
The feat is especially astonishing given the fact that Carlos Eduardo isn't even a striker. He is a playmaker who prefers passing to shooting. Somewhat unusually for a Brazilian, he is obsessed with Juan Roman Riquelme, spending long hours watching the Argentinian maestro on YouTube. Such is the level of admiration that when his wife Danielly became pregnant, the midfielder wanted to name the son Riquelme. Those plans were shelved for now because a daughter, Isabella, was born, but they can still be implemented in the near future.
Brazilian fans naturally don't compare their favourites to Boca Juniors stars, but find local associations, and Carlos Eduardo was quite bizarrely likened to Socrates, because he is a thin, lanky and elegant schemer -- even though at 184 centimetres he is much shorter than the great late doctor, and never played for Corinthians.
In fact, he didn't really make his mark in Brazilian football at all before starting his European adventure. Carlos Eduardo grew at Desportivo Brasil, a small club owned by Traffic, an event management company that makes good business selling promising footballing talents. Traffic also own Estoril Praia in Portugal, and the midfielder was transferred across the Atlantic in January 2011.
Estoril were in the second division back then, and the new signing didn't get a lot of playing time in the tough and physically demanding competition. Carlos Eduardo's luck changed in 2012-13, after the team was promoted and injuries forced coach Marco Silva to change tactics and use two attacking midfielders. Estoril finished fifth to qualify for Europa League, while the Brazilian flourished with his vision, pinpoint passing and masterful free kicks. He did enough to impress Porto who signed him for almost 1 million euros last summer. Needless to say, Traffic were very pleased with the deal.
A move to the big club was a huge step forward in Carlos Eduardo's career, even though coach Paulo Fonseca didn't believe in him at first and sent him to the reserves. When given a chance to prove himself with the first team, the took it with both hands, and the performance in a 4-0 win over Olhanense -- which included this brilliant goal -- made the fans absolutely ecstatic. All of a sudden, the playmaker was labelled "the new Deco" -- only a bit faster than his predecessor.
Expectations rose too high, and when Porto lost a crucial game at Benfica in January the attitude changed. Carlos Eduardo was quite inconsistent, and Porto's direct style didn't always suit his silky skills. Paulo Fonseca was sacked in March, and the season ended with The Dragons languishing in third place, 13 points off the top. The disappointment was huge, and a massive overhaul followed in the summer.
Newly signed Spanish coach Julen Lopetegui was given free hand to bring in 17 new players, while those who became associated with the previous regime were discarded. Carlos Eduardo knew that his chances of getting playing time were slim and started to look for a solution. Just before the transfer window closed, he was loaned out to Nice who needed to add creativity to their squad.
Nice have been following the Brazilian since his days at Estoril, but, prior to getting his man, coach Claude Puel made enquiries in Portugal and consulted with Costinha, a former Porto star who used to play under him at Monaco. Costinha recommended Carlos Eduardo very highly, and that was enough. "I really wanted to come here because this is a club where I can develop", the player himself said.
As the fans at French Riviera knew next to nothing about their new Brazilian, they didn't put any pressure on him and were pleasantly surprised. They were especially happy when Carlos Eduardo scored a winner in a local derby at Monaco with a free kick that took goalkeeper Danijel Subasic by surprise. He completely outplayed former France star Jeremy Toulalan in midfield, and Nice president Jean-Pierre Rivere purred: "We have been criticized for recruiting players at the last minute, but that's worth it with guys like him."
Then came the spectacle at Guingamp. The previous Nice star to score five goals in a game was the legendary Just Fontaine back in January 1954. You have to go a decade back to even find a Nice player who scored a hat-trick, the Nigerian striker Victor Agali in 2004. The Brazilian, who celebrated his 25th birthday this month, never expected such a show -- he only scored 17 goals previously in his entire career.
Could this be the turning point that helps Eduardo to become a real star? Vincent Menichini, a journalist from Nice Matin newspaper, certainly believes so, saying: "Carlos is a very technically sound and elegant player, and we are lucky to have him in Ligue 1. He has a potential to play for a top club."
Unfortunately for Nice, a buy-out clause is not included in the loan contract, and the player is supposed to return to Porto in the summer. In the meantime, he hopes to keep up the momentum, and fans of pure Brazilian football must wish him good luck, but even if things don't work out according to plan in the end, Carlos Eduardo has already written his name in history books. He has earned a right to name his son Riquelme.
Michael Yokhin is ESPN FC's European football writer. Follow him on Twitter: @Yokhin