In part two of our exclusive interview with Eduardo, the former Arsenal favourite talks about life at his current club, Shakhtar Donetsk - one of the emerging powers of European football - and about his desire to represent his adopted country, Croatia at the 2014 World Cup in his native Brazil. And he also tells us how the story of his life may soon be hitting the silver screen.
"Donetsk is a small city, where football is the biggest pleasure they have. It’s far too cold and we have harsh winters... but I like it"
Eduardo, it’s three years since you left Arsenal and moved to Ukraine. Tell us a bit about life at Shakhtar Donetsk...
It's very different. I'm in my third year here, and in that time we've won five trophies: two national league titles, two Ukrainian Cups and the Ukrainian Super Cup. And we’ve been doing well in recent Champions League campaigns too. I've still got one year left on my contract and I have a great life here. It’s very peaceful; Donetsk is a small city, where football is the biggest pleasure they have. It’s far too cold and we have harsh winters. But I like it.
Was the move influenced by the fact there were already so many Brazilians there? Or did the presence of Croatia captain Dario Srna play a part?
Shakhtar is becoming very well known in Europe. And of course the fact that there were already lots of Brazilians, and the fact that Dario was here helped my decision. But my main motivation was to play for a club that is growing on the European stage. The club has a great set-up. They have ambitions to join the European elite, and I wanted to be part of that. The rivalry with Dynamo Kiev is special. I’d already read and heard a lot about it, so was really looking forward to playing in it. It’s really a special game.
How do so many talented young Brazilians end up at Shakhtar? Does the club have a big scouting network in South America?
They have a good connections with Brazil. They know most Brazilian players dream of playing in Europe, but not all of them can get a transfer to the likes of Barcelona, Real Madrid, Arsenal, Manchester United… So Shakhtar serves as their entrance to Europe, and then if they succeed here they can be sold to a big club in a major league, as happened with players such as Elano, Matusalem and Willian.
"Shakhtar serves as their entrance to Europe, and then if they succeed here they can be sold to a big club in a major league, as happened with players such as Elano, Matusalem and Willian"
With Shakhtar so dominant, how does that affect the standard of the Ukrainian league?
Shakhtar are way ahead of their rivals at the moment. In fact it’s been like that ever since I came here. But I think this is just a phase. It depends on how you start the season. If you do well in the first 10 matches, then you will do well. But every year the other teams are getting better, investing more. Dnipro and Metalist are buying good players and that is making the Ukrainian League stronger and more difficult and competitive.
Can Shakhtar can step up another level and win the Champions League?
It’s going to be difficult. You have to have luck too. But the most important thing for us is to get through the group phase. After that we have to be drawn against a team that we can beat and stay away from Barcelona. Once you get that far you’ve got confidence on your side and an anything can happen in semi-finals and finals. But, realistically, I don’t think it’s possible at the moment. Maybe in the future. We have a big problem, because in the Ukrainian League you have to field five Ukrainian players in every match. So we play different line-ups in the league and in the Champions League… and that makes it harder to build a stable team with a well-defined system. Another thing is that when we play the likes of Barcelona, Chelsea, Real Madrid, it’s still like the game of our lives, while for them it’s just another match.
Mircea Lucescu has a reputation as a great tactician. What is he like as a coach? How does his style compare to that of Arsène Wenger?
They actually have the same style and both are born winners. They like to play offensive football and they want to have a beautiful playing style. They like to see their teams play a passing game, and they both work a lot on detail. In short, I’d say that both like to see their teams playing modern football.
These days lots of Brazilians are now leaving Europe to sign for clubs back home. Is that something you would fancy? Given that you left Brazil before becoming established, do you feel that you’ve got something to prove there?
I think I’m a bit of an exception, because I’ve never played in Brazil. Maybe that’s the reason I have no desire or obligation to go back to play there. I’m 30 years old now, and I can assure you that idea isn’t in my head at all. I’ve been living in Europe for 14 years now, I’ve only ever played here, and I’m adapted to the football and the way of life. So I don’t have any urgency to return to Brazil. But of course if I have the opportunity I’ll go. Though a club would have to be interested in me first. If that happens, maybe in a few years, it would be quite nice to go there and feel the atmosphere of Brazilian football.
Do you have ideas about what you want to do after you stop playing?
I’m not thinking about that yet. But I will stay in football, although I don’t know what I’ll be doing. I’m finishing my coaching badges, which will open the way to becoming a manager, coach, or assistant coach… I’ll have lot of time to think and choose my next step. But I think being a manager is the hardest option… and the most challenging.
"I have a huge respect and a strong feeling for Croatia. I try to split my love between both countries but Brazil is definitely my home"
Where is home: Croatia or Brazil?
Brazil, for sure. That’s home. When I’ve got any vacations, I always try to spend time there with my family and friends. But I have Croatia as my second home, because my wife is Croatian. I have a huge respect and a strong feeling for Croatia. I try to split my love between both countries but Brazil is definitely my home.
I guess at a personal level, it’s especially important for you to see Croatia qualify for the next World Cup, given that it’s in Brazil?
I think a lot about that. We’re going well in the qualifiers and well placed to earn a place in the finals. I guess this is my one and only opportunity to play in a World Cup, so it’s special anyway. But being in Brazil, close to my family and friends, would be great!
With just over one year to go until the World Cup, do you have a sense of how the mood is back in Brazil?
I have a little. I always try to keep up with the news about the preparations. The stadiums are almost ready. I have friends there who always call me and tell me that I must do well so that Croatia makes it to Brazil, because they want to see me playing in Brazil. So I have a big responsibility to make sure that happens.
Will it not feel strange playing in a World Cup in Brazil for another country?
I don’t know. I played against Brazil in a friendly match. It was in Croatia and felt really strange. I was nervous at the time. But I think if I have the chance to play for Croatia at the World Cup in Brazil, it will feel normal.
You were on the bench for the Croatia v Serbia game recently. Obviously that game is accompanied by huge emotions and tensions. But as a non-ethnic Croat, how easy is it for you to really get a sense of the occasion? And how important was it for Croatia to win that game?
People outside the Balkans have no idea what this match means. It’s a match that always has so much attention. There's no beautiful game, it's a match played from the heart. Two months before the game, both countries start to talk about it. For me, as someone who has lived nine years in Croatia, and who knows the country well, it's easy to understand what this match means. The players and the fans enter the stadium like dogs after a bone. Luckily we won the latest match. This is not a simple football match, there’s much more in that game. If you win you show the rival that you are better not just at football, but everything: politics, social, economics… everything.
Read the interview with Eduardo and more in the latest edition
As a Brazilian playing for Croatia and now working in Ukraine, do you ever stop for a moment and think to yourself: how did I get here?!
Sometimes. But I think that will become more frequent when I end my career. I still have plans for my career, so I don’t spend much time reflecting on the past. I try to focus on the present. Back in Croatia there are some people who are interested in making a movie about my life, as they think it would make a great story.
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