Considered one of the greatest left-backs in the history of the game, Roberto Carlos won almost every major trophy during his playing days. And the switch from player to coach has not diminished his ambition in the slightest. Now at the helm of modest Turkish outfit Sivasspor, he continues to set his sights high.
A great start at the club has helped a lot. With a third of the Turkish league season gone, Sivasspor sit in third, ahead of such giants as Galatasaray and Besiktas. The club are even dreaming of qualifying for Europe next season, a feat that would be an important step in the Brazilian’s plan to reach the top of his new profession as quickly as possible.
In a long chat with FIFA.com, Roberto Carlos talked about the challenges he faces, the coaches who have inspired him (including Luiz Felipe Scolari) and his experiences in Turkey. He even admitted that he prefers building relationships with his players to working on match tactics. And just like in an interview with FIFA.com in 2012, he showed that, as in his playing days, he’s no shrinking violet.
FIFA.com: Your first coaching experience was at Anzhi, where you were player-coach. Is that when you first thought about joining the profession, and did Guus Hiddink help you much?
Roberto Carlos: Everything I have experienced and learned in football led me towards one day becoming a coach. I was player-coach at Anzhi for ten games, but I really wanted to dedicate myself completely to it. So I’m much happier now. I’m still getting used to it, but I’m proud of what we’re building here. I want to make history as a coach, just like I did as a player. Hiddink really taught me a lot. We talked every day at Anzhi and I saw how he dealt with difficult situations, how he always seemed to know what the players needed. He was a great teacher. I hope I can be as successful as him.
You won almost everything as a player. Do you think you can repeat this success as a coach?
I think so. I don’t try and play the tough guy. I like to make friends with the players, identify with them. I work hard and because of that the players respect me. I try to be as open as possible, with the players, the club, the fans and the press. It’s how I’ve always worked. It makes it easier. I think in seven or ten years from now I’ll have a lot to celebrate in my coaching career.
Apart from Hiddink, what other coaches have inspired you and helped to make you the way you are today?
Luiz Felipe Scolari, [Vanderlei] Luxemburgo, Fabio Capello, [Vicente] Del Bosque. Even [Jose] Mourinho, though I haven’t worked with him yet. I always try to watch these coaches, to learn from them and put their ideas in practice myself. I admire coaches from the younger generation too, like Pep Guardiola, because of what he did at Barcelona and what he is doing now at Bayern. And [Michael] Laudrup is doing a good job at a smaller team like Swansea. They definitely have what it takes to continue at the top and be successful for a long time.
Why did you choose Sivasspor and Turkey as a place to start?
The Turkish people have a lot in common with Brazilians. Fenerbahce really made me feel at home and the fans loved me. Then Sivas showed an interest and were offering a long-term project, which is part of what attracted me to the club. It's just the beginning of what I hope will be a long, successful story. I already knew a lot about the country and about Turkish football, which makes it easier. I think Sivas play some of the most attractive football in the league, and we’re tactically very well organised. People are saying a lot of nice things about us. We hope to play in European competition next season, and so far, everything is going exactly as I planned.
The Sivasspor players aren’t well known outside Turkey. How did they react when they found out their new coach was a former FIFA World Cup™ winner?
At first they were surprised to see me up close. But gradually they got used to it. I try to talk to them a lot, and tell them stories about when I lived in Madrid, and about the Brazilian national team, and the time that I spent with players like [Zinedine] Zidane, [David] Beckham, Raul, Ronaldo, Romario. I try to remember the successful moments so that they can relate to them, and believe they can get there too. They are all good players. Four or five are internationals. For us it is all a matter of pride. Sivas are already respected in Turkish football. Next year, playing in European competition, we will be famous much further afield.
What is the easiest part of being a trainer: the personal relationships or thinking about tactics?
I think the relationships between coach, player, club and fans are what attract me, to be honest. The tactical question a little less so. I don’t remember exactly who it was, but there was one coach who said that the team with the best tactical system is the one that wins. So if everyone is committed, if they help each other and work together, the results will come. I think that's more or less the secret. I have put together a good group, where everyone respects each other, and I give them all a chance to play in both the Turkish League and the Turkish Cup. They appreciate that, I think.
Last year, in an interview with FIFA.com before the Ballon d’Or, you chose a very attacking FIFA/FIFPro World XI. Do you focus on attack as a coach too?
I do (laughs). I’m Brazilian, and I know the fans come to the stadium to see goals. At Sivas I have been using a 4-2-3-1 system, and, when we play at home, I switch to the 4-1-4-1, always attacking, with five to seven players going forward. I’ll never be a defensive coach. Sure, there are situations where you have to play on the counter-attack, like against Galatasaray, Fenerbahce, or Besiktas. But in other games, we always try and attack.
So, turning to Brazil. Luiz Felipe Scolari, who you know very well, is once again doing a great job with the team. Do you think he is the right coach to manage Brazil in a World Cup played on home turf?
Brazil has a lot of great coaches, but I think we made the right choice bringing back Scolari. I liked Mano Menezes and the foundations he built. When he left, they brought in someone who knows Brazilian football and is used to the atmosphere around the national squad. Brazil have a great chance of doing well in the World Cup, even with all the pressure. He can keep the players calm, is intelligent and has a very good backroom staff, which always helps. The friendships he has with the players is very important. Even with a star like Neymar in the group, the squad is based around team spirit, with everyone working towards the same goal.
Do you see Marcelo as your natural successor at left back, both for Real Madrid and Brazil?
Marcelo is a leader at Real and with the national team, and is an important player for both sides. He has evolved very quickly. Brazil have lots of options on the left side, with Marcelo, Maxwell and Filipe Luis, who are all great players, but Marcelo has an advantage because he’s been at Real Madrid for so many years. It shows that he is confident. He is a leader on the field, and he is among the best in the world at his position. The only problem is the injuries, but otherwise he is a great player.
You have a very strong relationship with Real Madrid and Spain. How do you see the current Spanish national team? Has anything changed since the FIFA Confederations Cup? Are they still among the main contenders for the title in 2014?
They are still very strong, and will be formidable opponents at the World Cup too. They know they lost to one of the strongest teams in the world at the Confederations Cup, a country with five World Cups, and they have accepted it. When I talked to them they said that Brazil were the better team, and they didn’t really seem too upset. Brazil pressed with great intensity - something that Brazilian football is not used to doing - and played with such joy, like we were having fun. But Spain also said they wouldn’t lose to us again. Well, they still lost last June!