Palhinha started his football career in Cruzeiro in 1969 and had played for them until 1976. In the last season that he played for Cruzeiro, he was the top scorer of Copa Libertadores and helped the club to win the trophy for the first time. In 1977, he transferred to Corinthians and played there until 1980. In 1980, he transferred to Atlético Mineiro, the main rival of his former club Cruzeiro in the state of Minas Gerais. In the following years, he transferred to various club frequently. In 1982, he played for Santos FC, while he transferred to Vasco da Gama in the same year. In 1983, he was back to Cruzeiro, but only played for the club for two years. In 1985, he played for América in the Campeonato Mineiro and then retired after that year.
Palhinha represented Brazilian national football team sixteen times during his peak era from 1973 to 1979, including leading the national team to the second runners-up in Copa América 1979. He scored three goals for his country in all his national team appearances.