Marlon Santos (Duque de Caxias, Brazil, 1995) left his country, signed by Barcelona, as one of the most promising centrals of the moment. Now it is essential for De Zerbi in the Shakhtar system and before it was in the Sassuolo. The ‘canarinha’ continues to be his big dream.
He is one of Shakhtar’s star signings last summer, an express request from coach De Zerbi. It was Barcelona who brought him to Europe, there he went on to win a King’s Cup on the pitch, make his debut in the Champions League and get to know Messi closely (“He is gentle, pleasant, intelligent and reserved …”). But he still has the thorn in him of what could have happened if he had finally chosen to play at the Bernabéu: “In this case I could have been a little more rational …”.
—How is your adaptation to Ukraine being?
—The coach, with his football idea, is making the team play well. And personally I’m fine, because there are many Brazilians who understand the coach’s idea well.
“What kind of club is Shakhtar?”
—Before arriving I knew he was a great from Europe, but once here he surprised me even more. It has a fantastic structure, people working with very good mentality and who row in the same direction.
“And what is the dressing room like?”
—Portuguese is widely spoken, it is logical. We are the majority (laughs). Ukrainians are learning Portuguese, as we are Russian. The important thing is that there is a very good atmosphere and a lot of young people.
—How important has coach De Zerbi been in your professional career?
“For me, it was fundamental.” It has been in my last years. When I left Barcelona he called me on the phone: “Marlon, come to Sassuolo, here we are going to play real football, we are going to have fun …”. And that’s what happened. They were three very good years there. Today I am at the Shakhtar for him.
“Does the Shakthar try to play well or is it posture?”
-All the time. The coach does not want long ball. It’s the ball at the foot, pam-pam-pam … It’s a similar idea to Guardiola’s.
“It’s strange for an Italian coach.”
—It is a different mentality from the Italian one, yes, but it is also true that everything is changing there too. There are more teams in Calcio that propose a game, but De Zerbi was one of those who managed to change the Italian style of play.
“How have you improved with him?”
“Especially in mentality.” I have grown up with him as a human being as well as as a professional player.
“Has the position of center back and winger changed over time?”
-Much. Now they are asking centrals who know how to play the ball and wings who can attack. But beware, you can never lose the point of view that you are there to defend, it is the essence of the position.
– What do you think of Real Madrid?
—He is a great in history, but today he is going through a period of reforms, like other greats: Juve, Barça … At any moment he will go back to being what he was two or three years ago.
* Data updated as of October 16, 2021
“Are you worried about anyone especially white?”
-Benzema is in a great moment, but also Vinicius, Modric, Kroos … There are great players there, you can’t be shy with them.
– Were you able to sign for Madrid when you were young?
—Yes, yes … He contacted me before Barça. Then everything stopped and Barça appeared, and when it was done, Madrid reappeared. I chose to go to Barcelona because I am a person of my word. He had already said yes. For me it was an honor being so young to have the opportunity to choose between Madrid and Barça.
– Have you ever regretted not having signed for Real Madrid?
-Good question! (laughs) I don’t usually regret anything. In life you can sometimes be more rational and less emotional. When you follow the emotion, sometimes you rush. In this case I could be a little more rational …
– What memory do you keep of your time at Barça?
—We managed to go up to Second with the subsidiary, I played in the Champions League and the final of the Copa del Rey. It was fantastic.
“What technician did you have?”
—To Luis Enrique. It was another that marked me a lot. He is a fair person, a real human being who teaches you many things. When I arrived I had the chip from Brazil. And he spoke to me: “Marlon look, here at Barça we play a little faster, you have to change the rhythm and things in Brazil. And you have to be very aware of the line (behind) to overtake it …”. His advice came in handy for me. He and De Zerbi are the ones who have marked me the most.
—You shared a dressing room with Messi …
“He’s gentle, nice, quiet, and reserved.” I see that it is great on the field because it is great off the field. He knows how to receive people, deal with them … Apart from having that special talent, he has a great talent as a person.
– What game do you expect on Tuesday against Real Madrid?
—Saying that we can beat Madrid is very risky. They are still a great team, but I think we can have a good game. We are sure to do our best.