Football interviews you won't find in any magazine
Who were your heroes? Did you model your game on anyone in particular?
I really like Ronaldinho Gaúcho’s game, and I hope he find his better days at Milan. He’s an outstanding player, I admire his ability to get past the opponents. I’m not inspired by no athlete in particular, but I admire many others, like Romário and Ronaldo “The Phenomenon” by their scoring’ killing instinct, and Reinaldo, a former Atlético Mineiro striker who I only saw on DVD. He was a genious with the ball.
How come you took such an unusual route to the top?
My story is similar to many other footballers who go abroad given the lack of opportunity in their home country. In my case, Brazil is the greatest football barn in the world, and I played only six first-team matches for Atletico Mineiro, where I’d been for 10 years.
Before I went to Sweden, I played the 2000 Minas Gerais State Championship for Valeriodoce [a small side from Itabira, who don’t play at national level]. It was there that I scored my only goal as a professional athlete in Brazil.
After learning Swedish and Dutch, the English language became easy?
Speaking fluently in a language is only possible after a complete immersion. So soon I’ll be mastering the English language too!
Does it help that lots of other Brazilians are now playing in England? Are you friends with any of them?
Sure. It’s always nice to have some countrymen around. I’m closer to Robinho, who is arriving at Manchester City. I’m sure he’ll be one of the stars of the tournament.
You made your Brazil debut at Wembley in May last year: how was that for a first cap?
It was fantastic to play in the stadium that is like a monument, a cathedral of world football. To premiere with the Seleção shirt in Wembley was an indescribable emotion. I almost netted a header! I’ll never forget that day.
How did you handle the mistrust of a good share of the Brazilian press, who questioned and criticised coach Dunga for calling you to the National Team?
I guess it was natural, it didn’t make me mad. Journalists pay more attention to what happens in England, Italy, Spain and Portugal. Outside of this four countries, most of them don’t even know the name of the players.
Having won eight caps, you were left out of the squad for the recent World Cup games. How disappointed were you with that? What are your ambitions with Brazil?
Dunga is a fair coach. When I scored 34 goals at the Dutch League, he called me up. In the next season, I had some trouble with the SC Heerenveen board before the move to Middlesbrough, and it affected my performance. I play half a season in Holland, half in England.
I couldn’t engage in the pre-season training. It all prevented me to repeat the good form of the 2006/07 campaign. And the competition is too strong in Brazil, you have at least 10 first-rate players to each position. If I repeat in England the success I had in Sweden and Holland, I’m sure I’ll be back on the national team track.
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