Lucio: 'ISL harder than last time'

Lucio, the former Bayern Munich and Inter Milan defender spoke on how the ISL has changed, on defending, on Brazilian football and on Jose Mourinho.

Lucio has found it hard to withstand the gruels of the ISL this season.   -  V. Sreenivasa Murthy

"Mourinho is the best. He knows how to organise his team tactically," said Lucio of his former manager.   -  Getty Images

The inaugural season of the Indian Super League (ISL) was built on the strength of its marquee players. It was the likes of Robert Pires, Alessandro Del Piero and David Trezeguet who attracted much of the eyeballs. However, in the days since, this sheen has reduced considerably with teams gradually shifting towards acquiring players who are more effective on the pitch rather than off it.

Perhaps no one knows it better than FC Goa’s Lucio. The Brazilian World Cup winner started in 14 of his team’s 17 matches in the run to the final last year and wasn’t substituted even once. This year, though, he has seen his playing time cut in Goa’s insipid start to the League and age seems to be finally catching up with the 38-year-old.

The former Bayern Munich and Inter Milan defender spoke to Sportstar on how the ISL has changed, on defending, on Brazilian football and on Jose Mourinho.

Excerpts:

Question: This is your second year in the ISL. How has it been?

Answer: So far it’s been harder than last time. Last year we were winning more games. The team was happier. As a team we are much better than the current level at which we are. But the tournament is much stronger too. The teams have strengthened their squads well. So we can see new players, good quality players and I would say that the level of play is higher.

Through this, has any Indian player caught your eye?

Last year we [FC Goa] had Prannoy Halder and Bikramjit Singh who were good young players. And I like Romeo Fernandes’ and Mandar Rao Dessai’s styles of playing.

From the days when you were playing at the top level, how has world football changed?

Many things have. Formations are different. Game is faster. We can get better supplements, we can prepare much better. So the opportunities for a player to develop faster are more.

How has the art of defending changed?

I can’t say it has changed drastically. But there are changes and the biggest is in the technique. As a defender, nowadays you need to know how to start the play, how to give good passes. That’s the difference.

Is it a change for the good? Because a defender’s main job was to first clear the ball…

I feel it’s a good change. Football gets more traction, it’s more attractive and we see a lot of different kind of players and most of them are very good. A lot of teams are playing this way and it’s good for football.

Brazil hasn’t had success internationally for long. But it won the gold medal at the Olympics. Will that do any good?

It has indeed changed certain things. Whatever said, it’s still a title. It’s also something which Brazil didn’t have before. So it gives a lot of confidence. And you can see that in the World Cup qualifiers since. Brazil has been playing very well and is at the top of the table.

Before that where was the problem? Is it because of the fact that most good Brazilians play outside the country?

It’s normal [the movement of players out of Brazil]. This has always happened. The biggest players always wanted to play in the biggest clubs. And the biggest clubs are in Europe. So it’s a normal course of life.

Has it helped Brazilian football? There has been some criticism that it has affected Brazil’s own style of play.

I think it helps. I left Brazil in 2000 to play in Germany. I still won many titles with Brazil. I think it’s a good thing for players to go out. If you just get stuck in your own country, you might never get the worldwide recognition.

You have played under some of the best coaches and managers. How has the role of managers changed from then to now?

It’s changed a bit. The coach is no longer just the coach. He has to be skilled to deal with the club management, know how to manage people. It’s not just about the training. And also research more about the game, tactics etc.

You were one of the first players sold by Louis Van Gaal after he joined Bayern Munich. How was he as a manager?

I worked with him just for two days. Very serious guy. I just spoke to him once. They said farewell and I went to Inter [Milan]! I was preparing for the Confederations Cup. He chose the team as he wanted and I had no role in it. So I went my way.

You then had great success under Jose Mourinho at Inter…

Mourinho is the best. He knows how to organise his team tactically. He knows how to deal with players. Psychologically he is strong. And above all he is a winner. He won two Champions League titles with teams that were given no chance.

Is he better than the likes of Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp? He doesn’t seem to be having much success now.

For me he is the best.

There is a view that Mourinho is defensive…

It's just a way of play. It depends on the team which you have at hand. With Chelsea he didn’t play this way but with Porto and Inter it was this way because of the teams he had. He is a very smart guy.

Can you pick some of the best moments of your career?

The years 2009 and 2010 were the best. In the 2009 Confederations Cup I scored the winning goal in the final. Then in 2010, I won everything with Inter. I was one of the best defenders in the world. These two years were fantastic. I did enjoy all my time in Europe. But these two years were special.

(As appeared in sportstar.thehindu.com on November 2, 2016)

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