Given the pace of change in modern football, it is perhaps unsurprising that many clubs take a short-term, results-based approach - even if that can sometimes be detrimental to long-term success. Tottenham Hotspur, however, may just have played a masterstroke by allowing Sandro, who they signed in March, stay with Internacional throughout their triumphant Copa Libertadores 2010 campaign, which culminated in a victory over Guadalajara in the final last week.
Indeed, the 21-year-old midfielder's confidence levels could hardly be higher as he prepares to touch down on English soil this week. Moreover, Sandro feels he has grown as a player since the spring, a verdict backed up by his status within the Brazil squad. Earmarked as one for the future earlier this year by former Seleção coach Dunga, around the time he signed on the dotted line for Spurs, some five months on Sandro now has a Libertadores winner’s medal and high hopes of playing a key role for his country under Mano Menezes.
“Going through all that was the best thing I could have done. I picked up so much more experience,” Sandro told FIFA.com about the decision to delay his departure from Inter.
“You learn something new in every game in the Libertadores, and even more so during the latter stages. If that’s the case even for more experienced players, imagine what it’s like for us younger guys. It’s not every day you’re crowned champions of a tournament like that.”
Yet another product of a prolific youth system that has unearthed the likes of Brazil internationals Alexandre Pato, Nilmar, Rafael Sobis and Lucio, O Colorado’s insistence on only sanctioning Sandro’s switch to Spurs provided he stay for the remainder of their Libertadores campaign appears to have paid off for all parties involved.
“It’s a competition which is very demanding for players, it requires a lot of dedication and maturity,” said Sandro. “You can’t afford to switch off for a minute if you want to avoid getting sucked in by your opponents’ gamesmanship. I grew a lot as a player because of that. Now I’m aiming to carry on in that vein at Tottenham, which is a new chapter in my life.”
Grafting away alongside Pablo Guinazu and Tinga, Sandro and his fellow midfielders were equally adept at sitting deep and shielding their back four or pressuring the opposition further forward – a tactic designed to win possession quickly and trigger lethal counter-attacks. A key figure in this system, thanks to his physical prowess, imposing stature and tactical discipline, the youngster has even drawn comparisons with Internacional and Roma legend Falcao.
Indeed, the ex-Seleção icon, often held up as the archetypal Brazilian deep-lying midfielder and now working as a commentator, has often voiced the opinion that Sandro should be the five-time world champions' next No5. “To hear that from someone like Falcao is really great,” said the new Tottenham man.
“It made me very happy, after all he made history with Internacional and with Brazil too. In terms of the national team, my goal is to break into the team and stay there,” added Sandro, who was included in Menezes’ first two squads, though he missed out on August’s friendly with USA due to Inter’s Libertadores commitments.
Should he wish to stay involved in the new-look Brazil set-up, Sandro will need to find his feet quickly at Spurs, who are preparing to welcome him with open arms. Indeed, his continental success with the Porto Alegre outfit was well documented on the north London club's official website, who have been following his progress since he visited the English capital in March to sign a contract, undergo a medical and get a feel for the club’s facilities.
And fortunately for both Sandro and Spurs, he should be able to call on the help of experienced goalkeeper and compatriot Gomes in his bid to adapt as quickly as possible to a new club, city, culture and language. “It’s going to be tough as I’m starting everything from scratch,” said Sandro. “But I know I'll have support and that there are people there who’ll help me with everyday things.”
“I’ve been following the club’s progress and they have a number of quality players. I really like the style of play at the club and in English football, which is about commitment, speed and strength. I think that once I arrive I’ll fit in well.”
With the battle for Premier League success set to be as keenly contested as ever this season, Tottenham manager Harry Redknapp will hope so too.