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The Brazilian Football Confederation is drawing on its most illustrious former players to assist manager Dunga with their experience of playing for the national team. One of those is José Edmílson, who was at FC Barcelona from 2004 to 2008 and helped the side to the Champions League win in Paris in 2006. For his country, he won the World Cup in Korea and Japan in 2002 and is now accompanying the ‘canarinha’ for their friendlies against Costa Rica in New Jersey and the United States in Boston.
What can you offer to Dunga as his assistant?
Well, to be honest it’s quite surprising to look back and realise that you’ve ‘been around for a few years’ [laughs] .... Football is and always has been my life, and after almost 20 years as a professional, I think I can offer the experience of somebody who has been through a lot of different situations both on and off the field. I can help make sure certain ‘mistakes’ are corrected in time or even before they happen.
I’ve been enormously lucky in that time not just to have won major titles like the 2002 World Cup for Brazil and the 2006 Champions League for FC Barcelona, but also to get the best out of football thanks to competing in Spain, France and Brazil.
How should the team recover from the Copa America?
After a tough World Cup like the one in our home country in 2014 and after such a discrete role at the Copa America in 2015, the Brazil team needs to get back to its best and recover the identity of being five-time world champions. We need to change things from the roots.
How are Neymar and Rafinha looking these days?
They look fine to me. It’s always a special motivation for both of them to come and play for the national team and they’ve had a wonderful year at FC Barcelona under Luis Enrique, where they have developed individually and also won another historic treble.
Rafinha is in the Brazil squad for the first time. How is he fitting in?
Very well. The team are a very closely-knit unit and he looks enthusiastic and comfortable, two factors that ensure that such an important challenge turns out positive. Rafinha is going through a very important year in terms of his development, by winning a place in the team both for club and country. He looks focused and very motivated, and that’s the way he should be.
Luis Enrique is very clear about what he wants and getting involved in his team.What can Rafinha do for Brazil?
Rafinha is a very complete player. He’s very skilful, especially at dribbling and moving the ball around, where few players can match him. As his game matures, he’ll have more and more to offer to the national team, both individually and as a group, and if he carries on the way he is, I’m sure he’ll soon develop into an important part of the team.
What do you make of Barça under Luis Enrique this season?
They seem to have started the league very well, with positive vibes and results, especially as it’s such a ‘special’ year given the circumstances of not being able to use the new signings until January 2016. Luis Enrique is a good coach, with a lot of character. Last season he showed that he’s very clear about what he wants and getting involved in his team.
It will be nice to see Barcelona try to better itself for another year. I believe that if they can keep up the results for the first half of the season, when players like Arda Turan and Aleix Vidal come in from January, they’ll be even more assured for the second half of the season in all competitions.
Can they dream of winning all the same titles as last year?
A Barça fan always dreams of winning every title at stake, that’s part of our identity, but the most important thing is always to be there to support the team and not forget what has been achieved in recent years, and especially how those things were achieved. To get results and play football of such a high standard is never easy. But it should teach us that, when those things don’t happen for whatever reason that might be, Barça fans need to keep on supporting the team and cheering them on towards the next challenge.
Would you like to work for Brazil on a more long-term basis?
It is an option and not one I’m ignoring, just like I have the hope of one day working for FC Barcelona. It will always be my home. I visit the city and my Foundation with my family whenever I can, and we still have a house there.
But for the time being, the most important thing for me is to keep doing what I can for the national team, and also on a personal level to be able to learn from this magnificent chance to experience the sport I love from a different angle.
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