After eight seasons in Turkey and Germany, Lincoln Cassio de Souza Soares joined Palmeiras this week just in time for Carnival. Yet the 31-year-old Brazilian midfielder will be eschewing the celebrations over the coming days in favour of hard work and training.
Not having played for nine months, the former Schalke 04 star cannot wait to be available to coach Muricy Ramalho, who brought him in to reinforce a team desperate to get back among the silverware after last season’s derailment.
In an exclusive interview with FIFA.com, Lincoln spoke about his expectations for the season, the prospect of playing in front of Brazilian fans once more and his experiences abroad. And though he says he could never forget Galatasaray’s fanatical supporters, the player is now keen to be hailed by a new audience.
FIFA.com: Your coach Muricy Ramalho has always said he'd like a creative midfielder at Palmeiras. However, it's also well known that he expects a lot from attacking players when it comes to marking. Are you ready for this?
Lincoln: I haven’t talked to Muricy about this yet, but I’m well aware of how he likes to set up his teams. I realise he demands maximum effort from everyone but he knows that I’m the kind of player who creates scoring opportunities for my teammates. That said, having played in Europe for a number of years, I’m now accustomed to rigid tactics and have become more of a team player. They always demanded that from me over there so I’m prepared for that now.
The fans are looking forward to seeing you line up in midfield alongside Cleiton Xavier and Diego Souza, players with quite different styles. What do you think you can offer and how do you see the three of you performing together?
There’s always room for talent. I’m not going to pick the team. Muricy is great at that but I have made it crystal clear that I see myself as a fixture in the starting line up. I think our team can perform very well with a midfield of Diego Souza, Cleiton Xavier and myself. Nowadays, many clubs are using this tactical system to great effect.
This return to Brazil comes at what stage of your career?
I’m a more mature player now – one with experience of playing in top European leagues, and I’m proud of what I achieved over there. However, my expectations are the same as those of a young lad making his way into the professional ranks.
At Palmeiras there will be a huge pressure to win a trophy after the disappointment of last year’s Brasileirao. Do you think your experience of playing in front of Galatasaray’s demanding fans will help you deal with expectations at your new club?
I’ve always played for big clubs such as Atletico-MG, whose fans are among the best in Brazil, Kaiserslautern, Schalke 04 and of course, Galatasaray, who I think have the most fanatical following in the world. So pressure doesn’t worry me. I’m ready to seek the success that the Palmeiras fans want so much. I went through a similar experience in Turkey and, fortunately, we won a couple of trophies [the Turkish Championship and the Turkish Super Cup].
You were only 22 when you went abroad. What was it like to be away from home for so long at that age and what do you think you’ll miss most about Europe now that you’re back?
It was a great experience and I found it very helpful. I had the chance to learn another style of football and leaving Brazil so young made that easier. I gained in culture by living in countries like Germany and Turkey which are rich in history. It’s something that will stay with me for the rest of my life. But in saying that, I missed the Brazilian lifestyle. I think I will miss some things about daily living in Europe but nothing that is likely to make me feel too nostalgic.
Despite being a standout figure at Schalke 04 you never managed to play for the Seleção. Do you think there was simply too much competition, and did Germany ever sound you out about the possibility of playing for them?
Competition for places is always tough in Brazil but I don’t think that complicated my chances with the Selecão. I was pre-selected by Dunga for the Copa America in 2007 and received other call-ups as well. While respecting the coaches’ opinion, I found it quite difficult to understand some criterion because when I was pre-selected, I was the best player for Schalke 04 while others who were called up weren’t even playing regularly for their clubs. As for Germany, they are always on the lookout for new players but I made it clear that I wanted to play for Brazil.