Life hasn’t been easy for Arsenal fans this season, nor for some of the players. Not least Andre Santos who went from a fan favourite (more because of his attitude and outlook than his defending, in fairness), to public enemy number 1 after the now infamous shirt swapping incident at Old Trafford.
But he’s determined to learn from his mistakes and put things right on the pitch.
“This is important,” he told GLOBOESPORTE.COM. “In life, we fall and get up, we get some things right, other wrongs, we win, we lose … that’s life, regardless of the profession. I’m a footballer who’s here to get things right and wrong. I’ve made many mistakes. My spirit is to stumble, to fall, but to get up as fast as possible and get back on top.”
In a wide-ranging interview he spoke about his recent troubles at Arsenal and while he’s going to have to do more than explain to win some people over again, it offers good perspective on his current situation.
First of all, what is your situation at Arsenal? You’ve been through some troubled times lately. Are things easier?
I’m good. I get along with all the players, the board, the manager, who’s always talking to me. I’ve been sidelined due to an injury and he always asks if I’m ready to get back. A footballer goes through many phases. There are ups and downs. Sometimes we are on top and we need to start over. There’s always a new phase. I’m at a top club in Europe, I live in London, my family is settled and I have adapted well. I have a lot to give to Arsenal still and I’m going after that. I have many aims in my career.
You had a very good time at Corinthians and Fenerbahçe, when you made it to the National Team. Here in London, you have been questioned. How do you deal with that?
It’s good, it helps our ego. This is important. That’s why I have focused and worked hard to get back on top, to get back to who I’ve always been. A player is never prepared to receive so much criticism. Great players have experienced that, even Kaka recently. A lot of people said he was going to leave Real Madrid, that he wasn’t doing well, he wasn’t playing, but he remained calm, focused, worked hard, and that’s what matters. I hold on to this. There’s a lot of people to bring you down. I’m a footballer, and of course there’s a lot of jealousy and sometimes they don’t like you as a person. I can’t please everyone. My aim is just one: to work to get back to be the André Santos I’ve always been. I want to win titles at Arsenal, to make history, like I did where I played before.
What do you say has been lacking for you to be that kind of player again?
A little bit of communication has been lacking. Sometimes it’s hard because I always adapted to a certain style and now it’s a new one. To play in defence in England isn’t easy, we have to stay in the back. At Corinthians and in Turkey I played more advanced. I was concerned about defending, but I had more freedom, so much I could score goals. In my last match, against Tottenham, I was put a little more advanced, and I did well, I felt well. I’m sure there’s a new André coming up, looking to be what I’ve always been. I need to be better at certain aspects, I’m a guy who scrutinizes everything, be it the strength, speed, marking … I hold on to certain details and this is important to play at high level.
Recently there have been talks about your exit, is that something going on your mind?
I’ve received calls from interested clubs in Brazil, Turkey and Italy, but it’s all speculation. No one has given me anything. The manager has never said a word to me. He’s very clear about things and I’m focused on staying at Arsenal, chase a title, do well in the Champions League, and I have three years left on my contract. I’m happy here. I hope to have more opportunities and to play more.
Do you feel supported by Arsene Wenger?
This is the most important thing. Whether it’s with the criticism or with the troubles with the car or shirt with van Persie, he’s always been by my sideand he supported me. He knows my character and the person I am. This makes me confident. I thank him for all the words.
Speaking a little about two troubles you’ve mentioned. What do you think of it all? First, the famous shirt swapping with van Persie …
As Brazilians, we are used to it. For me, nothing has changed, van Persie is a great friend. We talk every week, he’s an extraordinary guy. Any time he sees something sad on my BBM status, he comes to support me, say positive words. We’ve swapped many shirts. He asked for one of Brazil NT with my name on it. These are things people don’t know about, but they exist. We have a great affinity. We shook hands before the match and he asked for my shirt. I said I’d give it to him for sure, and we swapped going off at half-time. It was a gesture of friendship.
The supporters were angry, sad, even because he moved to a rival club. I understand, I apologised and I apologise again. I didn’t mean it as a bad thing, it was due to our friendship, but it wasn’t the right timing. We could have done it the dressing room. It happened to be out there and the controversy was created, especially because we were defeated with him scoring. The manager was a bit upset, but he talked to me. He said he understood because I come from another country, but that I need to learn and not to do it again in derbies, only after the match.
You said you understand the supporters, but what about comments from former players and commentators, who even asked for your exit, did it upset you more?
Certainly. As I said, people who don’t like you, who don’t cheer for you, they’ll always be against you. They are former players I don’t know, I don’t know about their past, if they were successful or not, but I’m not here to criticize. But I don’t hold grudges. It was the first opportunity and they went on about it. When you have a microphone to say negative things, a lot of people come around. I left it that way, heard the critics and I saw what I had done wrong. I don’t have to answer them.
Another topic is the fine for speed driving. They said you spent the night in jail. Could you explain what happened and if you really spent the night there?
The news goes around and each paper writes something different. It’s something I can joke about now, but it was a very hard moment. Maybe it got in my way because it was during my best moment on the pitch. There was a lot of worry, they spoke about how I could be jailed. Here it’s a serious matter, they even take you to a jury. I was worried about it. I was caught driving to training session, at 9am. I was driving my car, a Maserati, and I never paid much attention to the speed.
That day, it was bad luck. Police stopped me and I apologised. I had my driver’s license from Brazil, which allowed me to drive here for another month. From there, they took me to the station, they checked everything and I waited there talking for three or four hours. Arsenal supported me, they sent a lawyer and I missed training, that was for the first Premier League match. But it was funny. I wanted to train, I was at the station worried about it, with my mind on the game. I thought I wasn’t going to be chosen for the match, but the manager called me and said, “When you leave the station, go to the team hotel”. It was something odd, but a lesson for life. When you acknowledge a mistake, you don’t do it again.
Have you learned with how strict English people are and also the English press?
From all over the world! It was everywhere in Brazil, in Turkey, in Belgium, Switzerland … even in the USA, Henry texted me joking, “You are on the news. You’re driving too fast”. These things happen. Footballers sometimes think nothing can happen to them. And like I said, during troubled times, the critics like to add fuel to the fire. I don’t even read what they said to keep my self esteem up high.
Don’t your fear such stories can leave you with a troubled reputation in Brazil?
If you check my career, and I’ve been on it for nearly 15 years, you’ll see mistakes. Nobody is perfect, but I’ve done more good things than bad ones. Wenger always says I’m very professional, I worry about the schedule, first to arrive, last to leave. I’ve never done things halfway. I’m a good professional, but I’m a human being, with mistakes. Like everyone, in every job.
Thanks to our friends at @BrazilGunners for the translation