Kicking off a series of interviews, today’s feature is midfielder Alex (Alexsandro de Souza) – in Turkey since 2003 defending Fenerbahçe. Alex is one, if not the most cherished former Palmeiras player in activity today. In an exclusive interview for Anything Palmeiras carried out in late November, he gives his view on his development as a player, the Turkish league, and his experiences playing for Palmeiras. The interview was conducted in Portuguese and then translated into English.
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Anything Palmeiras: Alex, in 2003 you were living an extraordinary moment in your career, having won the State Championship, the Brazilian Cup and the Brazilian Championship – all three playing for Cruzeiro. You were also elected Brazilian player of the year. Today, in comparison to that year: do you feel that you have been able to maintain the same level or have you improved even further as a player?
Alex: One should not compare, and for a simple reason: I today play in another team, with other players, and I have a different role. But what I can say is that I maintain a high standard of play, as I did in 2003. I have developed a lot: today, I do things I did not do before. Experience helps a player in his development.
AP: More precisely, how is this improvement visible? And would you say it is the result of a purely personal development, or does the interaction with Turkish football play a role here?
Alex: You can see it in my positioning on the pitch, my mobility, the way I find “shortcuts”, and in my greater tranquility when executing any kind of play on the pitch. I believe my positioning on the pitch is the main quality that I’ve brought to Fenerbahçe.
AP: Is there any player today that, in your opinion, has a similar playing style to your own?
Alex: No. There are players that have small similarities, but no one is close to a 100 per cent match.
AP: Adapting to the Turkish society, how was it for you and for your family?
Alex: Easy, without any bigger problems. My wife and I decided that first and foremost we needed to respect the differences (between the Brazilian and the Turkish societies), and then adapt to these. This approach made the process easy. The Turkish people also made our life easier by their welcoming way.
AP: From 1 (terrible) to 10 (perfect), how would you grade your Turkish?
Alex: 5! And I think I might be pushing it a bit… The Turkish language is very difficult.
AP: Alex, what’s your opinion on the Turkish League, the teams, and the quality of the referees? The fans?
Alex: Well, the League is very, very well organised. The same goes for the larger teams, while the medium and smaller teams still struggle a bit. In regard to the referees, my policy is never to talk about that subject. And the fans… They are always very passionate about their team.
AP: During these years in Turkey, have there been moments – marked by something either in your professional or your private life – that seriously made you consider returning to Brazil?
AP: What recommendations would you pass on to a Brazilian player who’s about to sign for a Turkish club?
Alex: One must always pay attention to the contract as such. In addition, I would recommend the player to talk to people (who know the club and Turkish football in general), as the positioning on the pitch is very different over here.
AP: What do you miss the most from Brazil? How frequent do you visit your homeland?
Alex: I spend eleven months in Turkey and one month in Brazil. I miss the most simple things, like having breakfast in the padaria (bakery/coffee shop), meeting with friends for a good samba session, having the feijoada (traditional Brazilian black beans stew) on a Saturday, or strolling around in a book shop.
AP: Reading some previous interviews, one can notice that you much like to analyse the game of football, the tactics and so on. Do you pretend giving coaching a try sometime in the future?
Alex: It would be one way to go, but I haven’t yet decided on what to do (when I retire as a player).
AP: In your opinion, who’s the best coach in Brazil today? And in the world?
Alex: In the world, Mourinho! And I like Luxemburgo a lot.
Alex: The Libertadores title of 1999 was the best. The worst was losing to Boca Juniors (in the Libertadores final) in 2000 in the Morumbi stadium. We were the better team but very unfavoured by the referee on that night.
AP: How would you describe S.E. Palmeiras in relation to other clubs where you’ve played?
Alex: It’s the most difficult club I’ve played for. There’s pressure every day, coming from every direction. Playing in and winning for Palmeiras is very difficult.
AP: And finally, already entering stoppage time…
· what’s on your mp3? – samba
· last book you read? – Nosso lar (The Astral City) by Chico Xavier
· your favourite movie? – The Godfather
· feijoada, sushi or pizza? – feijoada
· cat, dog or canarian? – dog
· blue, green or red? – blue
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