Former World Cup finalist and Luis Figo’s discoverer, Marinho Peres Ulibarri passed away at 76 after a battle with pneumonia

Marinho Peres Ulibarri, renowned for his tenure with Barça and Santos, leaves an indelible mark on soccer, including spotting Portuguese talent Figo.

Marinho Peres Ulibarri, the former central defender for Barça from 1974 to 1976, passed away at 76 due to complications from pneumonia in his hometown of Sorocaba, located in the interior region of Sao Paulo. His wife revealed on social media that he had been hospitalized for a month, spending his final eight days intubated. Since suffering a stroke in July 2019, his health has declined.

Peres joined Barça at the pinnacle of his career, exhibiting exquisite ball control and a remarkable leadership capacity. At 27, he represented Brazil in the 1974 World Cup in Germany as the captain of the Seleçao, the defending champions at the time. However, they fell short of the title, losing 2-0 in a fierce semi-final match against the Dutch “Clockwork Orange” team led by Rinus Michels and Johan Cruyff, a game that went down in history as the ‘Battle of Dortmund.’

Before his Barça days, Peres played for Santos FC alongside iconic figures like Pelé, approaching the end of his illustrious career before moving to New York Cosmos, and other legendary footballers such as Carlos Alberto Torres, Edú, and Pepe.

Dual heritage and Barça achievements

Barça could sign Peres without utilizing a foreign player spot due to his dual Spanish-Brazilian nationality due to his Spanish mother. He played 29 official matches for the Blaugrana over the 1974-75 and 1975-76 seasons, scoring four goals. Additionally, he featured in 10 friendly matches, netting twice.

During his time at Camp Nou, he played under the guidance of Rinus Michels and alongside Johan Cruyff. This placed Peres in the unique position of teaming up with two of the game’s greatest legends: ‘O Rei’ Pelé and the Dutch maestro Cruyff.

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Upon returning to Brazil, Peres joined Internacional of Porto Alegre, one of the most memorable teams in history, winning the Brasileirao in 1976. He formed a central duo with Chilean Figueroa and played alongside renowned names such as Falcao, Batista, and Dadá Maravilha. Later, he had stints with Palmeiras, playing professionally until 1980.

Coaching career and discovering Luis Figo

After hanging up his boots, Peres embarked on a long coaching journey. Mentored by the legendary Telé Santana, he initially served as an assistant coach. Over the years, Peres managed teams in Brazil and Angola and spent twelve years in Portugal, coaching clubs like Belenenses, Marítimo, Sporting Lisbon, and Vitoria de Guimares.

While at Sporting, Peres is credited with promoting a young Luis Figo from the youth ranks to the first team, positioning him on the right wing. As Figo’s reputation began to soar across Europe, Johan Cruyff, then coaching Barça, reached out to his former teammate Peres to inquire about the young talent. Shortly after, Figo transferred to the Blaugrana.

In Brazil, Marinho Peres remains an enduring figure. Celebrated as a legendary defender of exceptional quality, he captained the Seleçao with distinction. He earned the respect and admiration of some of the best players he played with, including Pelé, Rivellino, and Cruyff.