He lived the myth of the decisive goal in additional time, the electric ambiances of Dortmund and Schalke, the sorrow of a lost Champions League final and the Jürgen Klopp method from the inside. The Brazilian defender tells.
“Dortmund-Malaga 2013, Marco Reus equalizes at 2-2 but you are still eliminated on the away goal. We are playing the 93rd minute ...
It's a great memory, not only for me but for all the people of Dortmund. Because beyond this qualification and this goal (Felipe Santana scores in the 93rd and qualifies the BVB, note), we really did a very very very big European campaign. It was an extremely exhilarating moment, a big victory. You have to do everything you can to qualify the team and when the ball reaches me, I just push it to the bottom. So it's more of a big collective satisfaction, a big job for the guys. And then I was not alone fighting for this ball! It was a very hard time for us. There was no other solution than to try to score, to strip, the qualification escaped us.
What do we feel, a touch of madness?
It is a dream. This is the most special moment of my career in all of my football experience. When you are a child, even in your wildest dreams you do not imagine yourself living these things and reaching the final of the Champions League. We did something great. And the journey, from the group sentence, has helped build something in terms of confidence. This is what allows you to face big teams and believe in them. But yes, for me, it was special, this goal. And even today, I have no words to describe exactly what I experienced at that time.
For a defender, moreover, it is rather rare to score.
It's certain ! I had already scored against Shakhtar Donetsk during the group stage, and it was also an important goal that made us feel more relaxed. But this goal against Malaga ... (he breathes) It is very different. I told the guys, when I got on the free kick, put the ball on my head. We had all the qualities for ground play, with players like Marco Reus or Robert Lewandowski, but a lot of trouble in the air. Malaga had good leading players and solid players. I thought I could help on this. Finally, I recover after a mess, it is Robert who centers and I score. Well, today, with the VAR, it would be refused for offside ... Besides, my first reflex was to run fast outwards to avoid being signaled. It was a really special night.
The post-match must have been extraordinary!
Completely crazy, even. We went back to the locker room and we actually organized a party in there. We jumped, sang, danced, drank ... We did everything that came to mind. Many were drinking, it was really crazy. My phone kept ringing, but I couldn't speak to everyone. The only person was my dad. Then I didn't sleep for two nights. It was just impossible. I was trying to close my eyes and the only thing I saw was that goal.
Do people keep telling you about it?
Oh yes ! Especially Borussia fans. Each April 9 is a special time. It's the anniversary of the goal. And every year, they remember that moment. I am happy and proud to have been the one who qualifies the team.
What is your oldest memory from the Champions League?
It is first of all a dream for all the children who imagine playing football. It was not really different for me. I come from a rather complicated social context, it was not always easy, but I always tried to do my best to get out of it and especially to succeed in football. Obviously, we see everything on television and we think of our idols. My highlight is Zinedine Zidane against Leverkusen, the volley in the final of the 2002 Champions League. But also all the Brazilians who inspired me. Lucio, Juan, Roque Junior ... I dreamed of being in their place. And one day, your moment comes. My first opportunity in the Champions League as a holder was against Arsenal at the Emirates Stadium. I was so nervous ... I tried to do my best. But each Champions League match transforms you, adds a little something in you. You can't sleep and you know you're going to be playing against the best in the world. And then I still had the opportunity to participate in a final ... It would have been a complete dream if we had won against Bayern. The Champions League is a life experience.
You played C1 with Dortmund and Schalke, two very big clubs with two big atmospheres. Are European nights special?
In Dortmund, it's special. Because the stadium configuration is different between the Champions League and the Bundesliga. The stadium goes from 80,000 spectators normally to something like 60,000 in the European Cup. But it remained an incredible atmosphere and an immense pleasure to have played there. Same for Schalke. After, the stages are really different. Dortmund is an old-fashioned stadium, Schalke is a super modern arena. The stands are closer to the field in Dortmund, while in Schalke, you have more the feeling of playing in a theater. So you have different feelings, but you know that the atmosphere is heavy in any case.
With this yellow wall for Dortmund, of course ...
It's really tough, even if in the Champions League, you don't have those 50,000 spectators in the wall who change everything behind the goal.
Jürgen Klopp was the guide of the BVB. Are there any developments between the Klopp of the time and that of Liverpool?
It has never stopped evolving and reinventing itself. He grew up, he maximized his qualities, he took a lot of experience, he learned a lot. I see a new coach, at least much more complete. He was already an excellent coach, inspiring, but he is now, in Liverpool, much more confident, more developed. He lost two Champions League finals, with Dortmund and Liverpool, but it made him grow. And it's another Klopp. It has developed in all areas. He's a chameleon. He can change the course of a match with one or two decisions. He is able to anticipate, much more than in Dortmund. He knows what's going on, how the players interact ... And he always gets the best out of his players.
Individualities have changed, as have the two attackers, Robert Lewandowski and Roberto Firmino, who have very different profiles.
This is very important in the evolution of Jürgen Klopp. Robert Lewandowski is no longer a pure number 9. Roberto Firmino, it's a 10 who plays 9. Both are great and, above all, they are part of an attack that is complete. In Dortmund, Lewandowski played alongside Marco Reus and Mario Gotze. Firmino plays with Sadio Mané and Mo Salah, who are two very different players. The change is there. In Dortmund, we played for Lewandowski. And Liverpool do not play for Firmino since on the contrary, it is he who plays the game.
About the defenders, what did he want from you?
Already, Liverpool has the best defender in the world, Virgil van Dijk, so it changes a lot. But we were not to be pitied with Mats Hummels or Neven Subotic. Mats became world champion a year after the Champions League final. He was the leader of our defense, the one who transmitted tranquility. And Jürgen Klopp built on that. He did a lot of specific work around the defenders. Not only, but there were. The mod of Klopp's game begins with pressing, which obviously started with the attackers. In defense, you must follow to be able to impose restricted choices on the opponent. For that, he required maximum concentration because the pressing is a story of details. He has always kept this philosophy. It's a situation that gives you confidence, a special feeling match after match.
We see him very close to the players and he seems to spread a lot of joy.
Jürgen Klopp talks a lot with his players. And he spends his time making jokes. You build a positive atmosphere. For its part, it allows him to create something. In the end, the players put their destiny in his hands and follow him in his ideas. This is the secret of Jürgen Klopp. He knows how the players work, how to manage them, how to put them in confidence ... And all that, of course, translates into the field.
About you, what are the upcoming projects?
My one and only project is to return to the field. I wanted to stop a little because I was seriously injured. And this injury put me aside ... I wanted to stop, resume little by little. But a year later, I'm back and ready to come back. Of course, I have to start from the bottom again. But it's my goal, to find a club and why not find Europe one day. ”