Luan: We’ve got the quality to take on Madrid

  • Intercontinental Cup winners in 1983, Gremio are seeking first Club World Cup title

  • Fresh from beating Pachuca in the semis, the Brazilians now take on Real Madrid

  • Luan, their attacking spearhead, warns: “We play with a lot of desire”

“Luan? He’s really good,” said Marcelo a couple of days back, in reference to the young Gremio star. “He’s got an amazing future ahead of him. People are talking about him a lot, which makes me very happy.”

When he heard those words for himself, Luan could not help but smile: “He’s a wonderful person. He’s got lots of titles, so maybe he can just leave this one to us.” And with that, he burst out laughing.

When Real Madrid and Gremio step out this Saturday to contest the final of the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2017, the smiling Luan will be the focus of much attention.

“The whole world’s going to be watching the game and it’s going to be a huge privilege for all of us,” he said. “We want to give our all and try and lift this trophy.”

The lowdown on Luan

  • Luan Ghuillerme de Gracia: 24, forward

  • Dribbling, pace and creativity are his main assets.

  • Played nothing but futsal until the age of 19, when he joined Gremio’s youth ranks.

  • 2016: wins Olympic gold with Brazil.

  • 2017: wins the Copa Libertadores and is voted player of the tournament. Makes his Brazil debut in the 2-0 defeat of Ecuador in the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ qualifying competition.

In the countdown to the final, Luan sat down with to discuss what is an eagerly awaited duel with the Spanish giants. You’ve played in and won an Olympic final and a Copa Libertadores final. Where does this final rank? Luan: For me it’s just as important. The Olympics were very special because Brazil had never won gold before, and the Libertadores too, because it had been a while since we’d won it. And this Club World Cup final is going to be one of the biggest games of my career.

This is a tournament that’s highly valued in South America. What would it mean to you to win the Club World Cup? It would be a dream come true to win it with the team that I started out with, the team where I’ve developed as a player. It’s the biggest thing a club can aspire to, and it would mean an awful lot to win the Club World Cup with Gremio, not just for me personally but for the history of the club too.

Are Real Madrid the favourites or is there no such thing as a favourite in a final? We play with a lot of desire. They’re the favourites, of course, because they’ve got great players and the best player in the world. We want to perform the same way we’ve been doing all year – with the style and the type of football that helped us win the Libertadores.

Gremio looked a little nervy in their semi-final against Pachuca and were made to work hard for the win. Does the team need to play better to have a chance of beating Madrid? We have to play better, but I think we can do that. The first match of this Club World Cup was something of a new experience for us, especially for me, and we were a bit nervous in the first half. Then we started to find our rhythm and get into the game. We had a lot of chances and we could have created even more. The important thing is that we won and that we’re in the final. It’s a completely different game now. There are no nerves and we’re ready in our heads to play.

Is there any pressure on you to show that a South American team can compete with one of the giants of European football? Every side in the tournament has got quality. We had a tough game against Pachuca, and Madrid had a tough game too. The matches have been close. What we have to do is show why we became South American champions. We’ve got the quality to take on Madrid.

You managed to break Pachuca down in the end thanks to your speed. What do you think will be the key against Madrid? We need to study them a little bit more closely to see where we can break down their defence and also see how we can stop them doing the same to us. It’s going to be a tactical match.

There are more than 2,000 Gremio fans in the UAE to cheer you on. What does that mean to the team? It shows they believe in us. They wouldn’t have come all this way if they didn’t. We have to repay their faith on the pitch now, and we have to run and show our commitment. The result depends on the effort we put in. We’re very happy they’ve come so far to be with us.