With his call-up to the Brazil squad for the friendly against England and the birth of his third son, February was meant to be a special month for Lazio midfielder Hernanes. Unfortunately for him, a head injury sustained in a league meeting with Juventus put paid to his hopes of a return to A Seleção.
Having made a speedy recovery, however, his stop-start Brazil career is back on again, with his name appearing on Luiz Felipe Scolari’s list for the two upcoming friendlies against Italy and Russia.
A mainstay of the Lazio side for the last two years, and of the Sao Paulo team that won three straight Brazilian championship titles between 2006 and 2008, the acclaimed midfielder is looking for an extended run in the national side, his chances of enjoying one having increased now that he is playing in a settled position for his club.
Discussing his A Seleção ambitions, his excellent club form and the latest addition to his family, the Pernambuco-born player sat down for a chat with FIFA.com.
FIFA.com: After more than a year out of the Brazil team, how frustrating was it for you to miss the England game through injury?
Hernanes: To tell you the truth I didn’t have time to feel frustrated because I had to think about my health after the accident and undergo lots of tests. When I saw that I was fine I started to think about the next call-up. I’m happy because my form’s improving with Lazio and because I’ve achieved my goal of getting back into the Brazil squad. The chance has come at a good time in my career and my personal life and I need to make the most of it.
You have won only eight caps in an international career that started back in 2008. Do you get the feeling that every time you’re picked it’s almost as if you’re making a comeback?
It’s true I haven’t played that many games. There aren’t that many matches to get called up for in any case, and unless there’s a coach who has faith in your work and picks you, you’re not going to get the chance to show your potential. It’s not easy to play one game one day and then the next a year later. Everyone’s got their preferences and I respect that. I just hope that Felipão [Brazil coach Luiz Felipe Scolari] is someone who’s going to pick me to play and give me a regular game so I can show what I can do. That’s why every detail in training and in matches counts.
Do you think the fact you changed positions so much at Sao Paulo and then Lazio conditioned the way Dunga and Mano Menezes saw you?
I think so, more so than my sending-off against France anyway, which I don’t think had much to do with it. The fact I was changing positions did, though. For me it was important to play in different parts of the pitch. It allowed me to improve my game and my ability to adapt and score more goals. I enjoyed the experience and I think it’s the reason why I’m playing so well right now. But I also feel I’ve tried every possible position and that I’ve played where I’ve had to play. This year I’ve asked to play a bit deeper at Lazio, which is my original position. I’ve been through the whole process and I’m more fully rounded now. Even so, I’m happy I’ve gone back to what I’ve always done.
I’m happy because my form’s improving with Lazio and because I’ve achieved my goal of getting back into the Brazil squad.
After having a lot to say about the midfield following the England game, Scolari has picked six midfielders, though Paulinho and Ramires have since dropped out of the squad. With the changes he now has to make, will there be even more competition and a bigger burden on you?
I don’t think the last game changed much because all the players selected have a lot of quality. The great thing is that Felipão (Scolari) is going to take into consideration the positions people play in with their clubs. He knows I’m not a defensive midfielder. He knows I like to bring the ball out, get moves going and get forward. That’s why I think I’m going to try and play like I’ve been doing at Lazio. The good thing is he’s picked me for that reason, because he knows me and he knows the way I play.
Do you think the success of versatile midfielders like you, Xavi, [Bastian] Schweinsteiger and [Frank] Lampard has spelled the end for the traditional playmaking No10?
Football in general is changing. It’s not a clear cut as it used to be, when wingers were wingers, full-backs stayed in defence and everyone had their own position. These days everyone does everything, which is why all these positions started disappearing. That said, whenever a talented left-footed midfielder comes through they always tend to shine and bring something else to the table. It’s different to the way I play but I really appreciate technical players like that.
Lazio have had a few bad results in the league lately but are doing well in the UEFA Europa League and the Coppa Italia. Why the inconsistency?
I think it’s just a coincidence, something you can put down to all the games we’re playing. It can take a lot out of you and we are struggling a bit in the league. We’re still fighting though, and looking no further ahead than our next game, determined to go as far as we can. We’ve got a strong squad and we’ve learned a lot in the last few months. I feel anyway that we’ll find more consistency soon.
You’ve named your newly born third son Maximo after the character in the film Gladiator. We knew you liked the film, but not that much. Did your wife take much convincing?
About eight years ago I had the idea of calling my son Maximus after the character in the film, and when I came to Rome I wanted to do it even more because of all the history here. I spoke to my wife, though, and we agreed that maybe Maximus was a bit much (laughs). One thing that’s for sure is that even though he was born in Italy, he’s 100 per cent Brazilian. In fact he’s 100 per cent Pernambucano.