Creator and destroyer, Marcelinho relishes India experience

Marcelinho credits coach Ranko Popovic for Pune City’s maiden semi-final appearance.

Marcelinho goals vs mumbai city fc

Marcelinho has been in a great goal-scoring form this ISL season for FC Pune City.

Multi-lingual and multi-talented, Marcelo Pereira (Marcelinho to Indian Super League followers) expresses himself eloquently via the language of football. Fluent in five languages (Greek, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish and English), he picked up the utility value of ‘Bhai’ (brother in Hindi) to make people see his point of view. FC Pune City captain in ISL season four is an upgraded version of the ace finisher seen in action for Delhi Dynamos FC last season.

Eight goals and seven assists in the league phase for FCPC underlines value as team leader, creator and goal-scorer. Winner of the Golden Boot last season, the pacy Brazilian relishes responsibility, credits coach Ranko Popovic for Pune City’s maiden semi-final appearance and picks out Bengaluru FC’s Gurpreet Singh as the best  goalkeeper in the competition.

Read: Marcelinho consolidates Pune City's knockout chances

Excerpts from a chat on phone with the widely-travelled pro:

During your first ISL experience with Delhi Dynamos, Florent Malouda pulled the strings as a creative player and you were the finisher. This season as FC Pune city captain, the role demands you to do both. Do the team results match with what you had in mind?

Yes sure this season my role demands to do both, to play more like midfield and do the same job that Malouda did. We don’t have any player like him in our team but have a finisher in (Emiliano) Alfaro.

As team leader, name the most satisfying performance and most improved player in Pune City during the league phase?  Do you feel the team has quality to get better in the semifinals for the first time in four seasons?

The most satisfying performance for me personally was against ATK. It was the start of our season, our team wasn’t the most consistent side then and we weren’t connected well then, as we had a lot of young players in the squad. The situation has changed and now these same young guys are becoming the talk of the town.

It is said that a coach is only as good as his team. Your thoughts on Ranko Popovic’s influence on team performance, taking into account that a major part of his work was with players already contracted before he took charge?

He is very intelligent and experienced. He knows how to manage the situations. If we are in semis, a great deal of credit goes to him.

ISL season four has seen so many stunning goals scored from different angles and by different players. Among the goalkeepers at the receiving end, any ‘keeper caught your eye as being difficult to beat? Explain.

The Bengaluru FC keeper (Gurpreet Singh) is the best.

You picked up languages playing in different parts of the world as a pro. It proves that you go beyond sport and try to get a feel of places and people. Can you describe the ISL experience here, getting to know the language of Indian football?

This has to be the most amazing experience of my life so far. I am learning so much in interactions with Indian people. I am finding happiness and good energy from the people here.

Among the Brazilians coming to play the ISL, you are successful in doing what you are paid for, over two seasons back-to-back (Delhi Dynamos and Pune City). Has the ISL changed you in any way, as a player and as person?

For sure, here I am getting better every day. The fans and the team want something different from me and I also want to share whatever I can with the younger players. As a person, since I am far away from home and all this experience here is making me strong emotionally My family cannot be here, since my daughter has school to attend. I am not only becoming stronger as a person but also finding happiness and comfort in an amazing country like India.

Footballers from Brazil are expected to somehow make things happen on the pitch and win matches, at every level of competition. Do you enjoy the extra responsibility? In your career so far, which club brought out the best in you and why?

I enjoy that bit lot and love this responsibility too. It challenges me and makes me stronger. My Italian club (Catania) brought out the best in me, because y you need to be perfect tactically playing in Italy otherwise you can lose the game in no time.

Attacking football is the theme of big clubs, looking to win by huge margins and entertain at the same time. The way Barcelona, PSG, Manchester City are humiliating rivals, do you feel that in the near future, convincing kids to take up goalkeeping or defence will become a problem?

Attack is the best defense. I don’t like to play defensive always, that’s my personal thought. I think it (convincing kids to take up goalkeeping or defending) will not be a problem because it depends on the talent of an individual.

Masterstroke

Born in Rio de Janeiro, Marcelinho’s career got a kickstart at Flamengo U-20, he then got drafted into Atletico Madrid and Getafe B squads in Spain, the football journey took him to Greece (Xanthi FC), Italy (Catania), United Arab Emirates (Baniyas Club )and Brazil (Avai Fc). FC Pune City pulled off a masterstroke by signing the Brazilian, beating back challenges from ISL franchises chasing the Golden Boot winner

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