Alex slammed the door after leaving the office of Fenerbahce’s president, unsure of what to do next. The three minutes he had spent inside were about to change the life of the attacking midfielder. For Alex, the meeting was to be about getting help with his deteriorating relationship with Fener coach Aykut Kocaman, who that morning had instructed him to train with the Turkish side’s youth team.
The ensuing conversation with the head of the club was brief and non-conciliatory. It was at that precise moment that Alex’s eight-and-a-half year spell in Turkish football came to a sudden end. And although no one knew it then, it would also prove to be the catalyst for the player’s footballing swansong.
While the transfer window permitting a move to Brazil was closed at the time, the wounds caused by the fallout were most definitely open. Hordes of fans showed up at Alex’s doorstep in Istanbul, apologising for what happened and imploring him to stay at the club.
“I felt it would be better to stay at home and wait for the dust to settle," he told FIFA.com. "However, I realised that same day this wasn’t going to happen. Emotionally, all this affected me a great deal and I resolved to leave the country as soon as I could. This turned out to be 12 days later so there were a lot of tears shed during those days and nights.”
This "12-day funeral", as the 35-year-old described it, brought an end to one chapter of his life but also paved the way for his final move as a player, one which took him back to where his professional career had begun: Coritiba.
And what a move it turned out to be. Back at his old stamping ground, Alex was soon showcasing his precise footwork, clinical passing and exquisite timing – much to the delight of appreciative fans. In no time at all, it became clear that Alex and Coritiba were the perfect match.
The first tangible reward came in the form of the state championship last May, secured courtesy of an Alex brace in the final against rivals Atletico Paranaense. Two months later and still performing slickly, O Coxa found themselves joint leaders of the Brasileiro with Botafogo.
With his side co-leading the title race and his name among the tournament’s best performers thus far, Alex took time out to speak to FIFA.com about the impact of his return to Brazil, the challenges of settling back in the Paranaense capital and the reasons behind Coritiba’s recent success.
FIFA.com: Your return to Brazil came about after your unexpected departure from Fenerbahce. What was going through your mind when you left the office of club president Aziz Yildirim that day?
Alex: When I went to speak to the president that day, I thought he was going to calm things down and try to get the three of us – him, the coach and I – to sit down and talk things through. That didn’t happen. He told me that if I wanted to remain at the club, I had to train with the youth team, but that if I wanted to leave I could gather up my things and go. At that time, I disagreed with the coach’s decision so I made up my mind to leave. My head was spinning with the madness of it all.
When did you decide that the best thing was to return to Brazil?
There were a lot fans in front of my house, so I felt it would be better to stay at home and wait for the dust to settle. However, I realised that same day this wasn’t going to happen. Emotionally, this all affected me a great deal and I resolved to leave the country just as soon as I could. This turned out to be 12 days later so there were a lot of tears shed during those days and nights. It was then I began thinking about what I’d do when I returned to Brazil, and I came to the conclusion that the best course of action would be to return to the club where it all started for me, Coritiba.
And why Coritiba?
To be honest, it’s as if I drew a circle. I started out there then went to Palmeiras, so I want to try to finish my career at the place it all began and go full circle.
Has it been hard to come to terms with all this in such a short space of time?
The hardest part was off the pitch as my family had put down deep roots in Istanbul. I’d been thinking of the possibility of renewing my contract with Fener and ending my career there. I lived very well in Istanbul and my wife loved the city and the country.
How would you explain Coritiba’s success this season?
We have a modern coach and a modern coaching staff, who both pay great attention to detail. It's a team that has put in a great deal of work in terms of organisation. We know we have our limitations and, with those in mind, the coach has strived to put together a very organised side. Now this is starting to pay dividends.
With Coritiba back to winning ways and you playing well, your name is once again being mooted for a Seleção call-up. Were you expecting that?
Honestly, no, even if it does make me happy. When people talk about you like that, it’s because you’re doing something right. Given my age and experience, I don’t get too euphoric or carried away, whether it’s something positive or negative. When I get criticism I don’t let it get to me as much. Unquestionably, I feel flattered and I’m very pleased with the praise, but I know how things work in football and how quickly they can change. However, it’s nice and a source of motivation that people are talking about me and Coritiba at the moment.