Sure, you’ve seen me play but you probably don’t know too much about me. So let me tell you a little bit about my story so far.
I guess the most important thing is that I’ve always known I would be a footballer. My family and I always believed I could do it. They boosted my confidence and have supported me, no matter what.
If I didn’t believe in myself, I could never achieve my goals - that’s how I think. I always have positive thoughts before a match, and always try to visualise myself playing well so that I can help my team-mates to win the game.
That’s something my family taught me to do, to be positive and make the most of the opportunities you’re given. They’ve never left my side and I have to thank them because, without my family, none of this would have happened.
They have been there for every step of the way, whether it’s taking me to training, taking me to school or just giving me the support that I needed. I wouldn’t be here without them and because of that, I have to dedicate my career to them.
So as you can probably tell, I’m very close with my family. I was born in Guarulhos, in Bela Vista town, and was raised very close to my grandfather’s home, near Sao Paulo International Airport.
My earliest memories are from when I used to travel to Parana, where my mum is from. I also played a lot of football with my uncles, cousins and my dad.
I didn’t play a lot on the streets, only sometimes. Most of the time we played at school, we were always playing football at school. Obviously there were kids of many age groups, so I would play against older or younger kids.
I think that helped me to become a professional. I believe everything I’ve been through in my life has contributed to get me to this very moment.
Back then, I was just enjoying myself and people would invite me to play. I would go and play football with them but only for fun. I think I was 12 or 13 years old when I saw that football could give me a better future and I could make a career.
I would always dream of being Ronaldo – I loved him. His nickname says it all: The Phenomenon. He was my biggest idol when I was growing up, well, him and my dad. My dad always told me he was an amazing footballer too. But when I saw him playing, I wasn’t too sure about that! That’s OK, though, because he’s still my inspiration anyway.
He used to take me to train with Corinthians from when I was about six up until I was about 12 or 13. It was a big part of my life and I can only thank them for everything they did for me. It’s where everything began for me in my career, and I am so grateful for what they did to help me on my way.
For anyone who doesn’t know, Corinthians is a huge club in Brazil. Massive. At every big club, you have to show results and from an early age they would teach us the importance of winning and having that mentality to better ourselves, always with positivity.
I loved my time with Corinthians but when my dad had a job opportunity in Itu, I had to make the toughest decision of my life to leave. It was the best thing for our family to do, so we had to move 100km away to join my dad.
At the time, I was only 13 and I don’t think I was mature enough to understand why we were making such a big change, and I just remember being so sad because Corinthians was a home for me. I would go there straight from school every day and spend all day at training. That’s probably what I missed the most.
Things were a bit different at Ituano but it was a really important step in my life, on and off the pitch. I grew up as a player and became much more mature. It’s where I developed as a professional and where I was given the chance to become the youngest player to play for the club this century, so I can only thank Ituano for the opportunity they gave me.
The biggest one of those was when they played me in the Campeonato Paulista, the Sao Paulo state championship, which is the most challenging in the world. You play against the biggest clubs, like Corinthians, Sao Paulo, Palmeiras, Santos and more.
I was only 17 at the time but I had a really good tournament. I scored six goals, including two against Bragantino, and set up three more as we won our group to face Sao Paulo in the quarter-finals.
We lost 3-1 over two legs but I was named Young Revelation of the Tournament and was the youngest player to be included in the Team of the Tournament, too. That’s when other clubs really started to pay attention to me.
You see, my agent always calls me before a match to wish me luck, have a little chat, that sort of thing. One day, out of the blue, he told me that Arsenal had contacted him and were watching me.
I remember being so happy. It was not only my dream but also my family’s. I’d always worked so hard to make the next step in my career, so to be told that Arsenal wanted to bring me to England to play in the Premier League… that was incredible.
When I did come over here, my first day was crazy. It was so surreal and just kind of a shock really. I was so impressed with everything. When I first walked into the training ground and saw everyone, it took me a bit of time to realise what was happening to me. Being very young, I got a little shy, because I only saw these players on television and in video games.
Eventually I managed to snap out of it but I couldn’t stop smiling because it was just such a happy moment for me. They welcomed me very well, making me feel at home and I try to learn from them on a daily basis. I was received in the best way possible.
Less than two weeks later I was flying to America on pre-season tour with Arsenal. It felt like I was living a dream. To be honest, it still does. I have to thank God for blessing me with all these things and I believe I grabbed the opportunity with both hands. I scored against Colorado and I felt I did a good job in pre-season.
I think the coach saw that I’d worked hard, too, because he gave me my Premier League debut at Newcastle the following month. When he called me over from the bench, I couldn’t believe it was me he was pointing at! When I realised it was me, my heart-rate skyrocketed but then as soon as I stepped out on the pitch, I was calm. It was like second nature.
See, football here is very different from Brazil. It’s physically demanding and a lot faster but, after my first few touches, I felt I was getting the hang of it. Even in training it’s tough. It’s rougher than Brazil because your team-mates slide tackle you and there’s no easy ride. It’s very different to what I’m used to, but I love it.
People that know me will tell you that I always give my absolute best, so I guess, in a way, English football is well suited to me because there’s a lot of passion in the game over here. I’m proud that Arsenal has put its trust in me, so I will always give my all to help this team reach the top. That’s where it belongs.
For now, though, I’m just focused on making more Premier League appearances. As it’s my first season, I want to show my potential to steady myself at the first team. I know the squad is packed with great players, but I know what I can do and my goal is to help the team.
And finally, I want to thank all the fans for their support. They have been so welcoming to me ever since I arrived. What they can expect from me now? Someone who always gives his best, his maximum, and who always plays with his heart. That’s the most important thing you need to know about me.
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