Cancelo: "My friction with Spalletti was not only tactical. Milan spent 200 million and now in Europa League"
Talent and creativity are not easy to find in a fullback. Joao Cancelo has them both and for this reason, he has become the number one goal for the defense of Juventus. In an interview with Tuttosport from his house in Portugal, Cancelo shows that he has irreverence that characterizes him on the field even if he is relaxed on a sofa: he does not hold back on any question, telling the difficulties of adapting to “boring” training in Italy, revealing the moment that he wanted to return to Valencia, responding to Bergomi’s criticism. He also discusses the future, about the desire to play in the Champions League and the will to fight for the Scudetto next year.
You arrived in Italy with the reputation of a fullback who can only attack, how did you work with someone like Spalletti?
“It is the question of training. In Italy, it is very tactical, we work on defensive end and Spalletti is very good at every tactical aspect of the game. Since I started playing, I started adapting to the team and the team did the same with me. My performances at Inter were there for all to see.”
It was a difficult start for you: injury occurred before your debut and then many games on the bench. Is it true that you wanted to return to Valencia in January?
“Yes it is true. I thought about going back because they told me something that did not happen. I understood that this was the case because of the injury. Inter were partially correct but so was I. I did not want to have a lost season. I was afraid. I never doubted my abilities and I continued working hard every day. Even when my teammates had a rest day, I went to Appiano to recover more quickly and my goal was to become a starter at Inter. I knew I had the potential because I played in two of the most competitive leagues in the world (Spain and Italy) and I was successful in both.”
There was also talk of friction with Spalletti during the season. But he was the one that gave you confidence. What did you learn?
“Spalletti is not a defensive coach, he likes a team that knows how to play and keep the ball. It is true that we did have some friction but because we both have a bit of ‘warm” blood and can explode quickly. But I recognize that I have learned a lot from Spalletti. There has always been respect and appreciation between us. Since I started playing more, he gave me incredible freedom and I knew he trusted me. The important thing was to never give up.”
But the friction was tactical reason?
“Yes but not only that. There were situations that I did not agree with him. It is normal. A player should not be a prisoner or be quiet. A player does not know everything but neither does a coach. So it is just right to have a calm and healthy face-to-face. Everyone can express his opinion but nothing serious happened. These are just normal things that happen in the dressing room.”
Almost certainly that you will be nominated for the best right back in Serie A. So would it be better for you to stay in Serie A to give continuity to the growing process?
“Certainly. I would be very happy and honored if I received the best right back award for the season. It is an individual title, the result of a collective goal which was to get to the Champions League and we did that.”
We have mentioned your name a lot in this window so far: Juventus, Wolverhampton, Valencia or maybe a return to Inter. Where will Cancelo play next season?
“I have a contract with Valencia until 2021. Until I have an official and concrete proposal, I cannot say anything. So far, nothing has arrived. At the end of the season, I heard that Inter wanted to buy me on a permanent basis and that they were in contact with Valencia to do it, but then nothing happened.”
But are you disappointed to not stay at Inter and play in the Champions League?
“Disappointed? I do not know if this is the right word, but I expected more. I thought someone from Inter would come to me and said: ‘we do not have the money to buy you now but good luck in your future’ but even that did not happen. Inter were a very important stage in my career and it is a big club. Now let’s see what happens.”
Wolves are interested in you but they will not play in the Champions League, do you prefer the Juventus option then?
“At the moment, I cannot rule out anything. Certainly playing in the Champions League is my goal. I conquered it on the field with Inter and would like to return to this competition.”
Yes, you won Champions League participation on the last day against Lazio. How did Spalletti prepare the team for that match seeing how Inter were the underdog?
“What an incredible game. It will always be in my memory. It was a very difficult one however but we wanted to win. Lazio seemed to have the game under control but we showed what we were during the season: a very strong and united group, even when we were criticized. Our group deserved that victory and God helped us because I believe so much in God. After listening to so many people talking badly about Inter - yes, because Milan lost six games in a row and nobody spoke about them but if Inter lost twice, all of them talked about us - we silenced everyone.”
Do you think people often talk about Inter because the club struggles to find consistency or something else?
“I can understand this but there is lack of fairness in this type of observation: where did Milan finish? Who spent more than 200 million on the transfer market? Where are they now? In the Europa League. Inter only added two-three players to previous year’s squad and we achieved Champions League, our goal from the start of the season. A former player can always have his say but talking badly on TV on a current player is not nice.”
Are you referring to Bergomi who said that he would not redeem you because you are not good defensively?
“I do not know what he said exactly because I did not read it. But my girlfriend sometimes looked at it and told me. I am not angry because he criticizes me. Criticisms fire me up even more. But it is bad to hear a great former player speaks ill of another.”
He is a TV commentator and so he must speak of his own opinion.
“I can also go on TV and say mine, about the game, expressing my opinion. But I will not criticize any current player publicly.”
The heroes of Inter Treble were at training facility before the Lazio game. What effect did this encounter have on you?
“Definitely a positive effect. It was an extra force. Personally, I like the adversity. When I feel the criticism, it pushes me to show what I am capable of. I saw the same in others. At that moment, I thought ‘we really have to win this game, I want to win it.’ I saw in everyone’s eyes that everyone wanted to win, even those who would be on the bench.”
What missing at Inter so that the club can return to the 2010 level?
“It is one of the biggest clubs in Europe although Inter have had a rough time in the last few years. But like everything that falls, it will get up again. I see Inter on the right path to return to that level. There is an exceptional group on both human and sporting level.”
How is Icardi as captain?
“Icardi is an exceptional person, inside and outside the dressing room. I have never seen him having problem with anyone. He is a very humble person, always tries to help everyone. He asks you if you need anything and has always been an exemplary captain.”
You were teammate of Joao Mario for a few months. Recently he said that he did not want to return to Inter or Italy. He never has any kind of feeling and relationship with this league. Why is that?
“To me, he has always been the best player of our generation (1993, 1994 etc..) in Portugal. He is a great player but is unable to adapt to Italian football because he loves to play with the ball at his feet. Mario is very technical and since Serie A there is a lot of physical contact, it is difficult for him to impose his style. When things go badly, it becomes difficult to recover. However, his value is clear to all. He went to England and played an excellent second half of the season. By the way, Joao Mario was the reason of my success at Inter. It was him who gave me peace of mind when I had difficult time, telling me to be patient and wait for my moment. I owe it to him, to Dalbert, to Miranda and Eder. This was like our little group at Inter. Eder will be a friend of mine for the rest of my life.”
Same situation for Andre Silva, identical reasons with Joao Mario?
“He is a good forward but I think he has not adapted yet. In Italy, it is difficult for the forwards because defenders are bad. Bad here is in a positive way, meaning they are experts, physically strong. They come at you strongly and very hard to beat them. He is not a player who is used to a lot of contact. In Portugal, you have a lot more space to play.”
You just had a fantastic season but it was not enough to bring you to the World Cup.
“That’s true but what can I say? It is the coach’s decision and opinion and so I have to respect it. I have a clear conscience because I had a great season, without belittling the others. The coach made his choices.”
“Honestly no. Every player wants to go to the World Cup and I thought I would get a call-up. I played well in the World Cup year at the club level but I was not chosen. I cannot do anything about it. I wish great success to our national team in Russia. I will rest and go on vacation. I will stay with family and fiends to recharge to have another top season. This is what I want to do.”
Did you enjoy living in Italy?
“Very much. But not at first because of the cold but I got used to it and then the heat came. People give you a lot of love. Every time I went down the streets I stopped every five minutes to say hello, it is nice. The player needs this to feel important.”
There is talk of more Portuguese players coming to Serie A. After the failure of Joao Mario and Andre Silva, what would you say to your fellow countrymen who want to play in Italy?
“You must be psychologically strong and have a lot of patience because training sessions are totally different, sometimes a bit tedious and boring. At the beginning, I confess, I did not like it and I came home angry because in some sessions, I didn’t even touch the ball. We trained body movements and many other things that I did not know. There will always be one or two training sessions a bit more physical than others, with crosses from one side to the other. As a defender, I had to position myself in different game situations. But I understand that they are very important details. I owe so much to Martusciello who is the coach that works on Inter’s defense. He is excellent and taught me so much. Lastly is just to have the right talent and ready to adapt.”
Who is your idol?
“Ronaldinho. Anyone who paid money to see him play always left the stadium happy, even the fans of the opposing team because the things he did were incredible. In my position is Dani Alves. He is the best right back, the top in his position.”
What are you still missing to get to this level?
“I have to keep improving. I must do it with the best and fight for important titles.”
In Italy, what player did you like best this past year?
“I am a fan of Douglas Costa. He is a player that I have been following since his Bayern Munich days. I like him a lot. He has so much quality, very quick and decisive. Fullback? I would say Kalarov and Alex Sandro.”
What was the most difficult moment in your career?
“After the death of my mother in 2013. The following two months were extremely difficult. Before, it was her who came and take me to training. She helped me in everything. After that moment when she was gone, there was no one waiting for me. I came home and went to bed crying. I have my mother in my heart and she continues to be present with me.”