China had different uses for Renato Augusto. It was a place to make a lot of money, to play less than I would play in Europe or Brazil and thus have time to see his son Romeo grow up, to prepare himself well to fulfill his dream of playing a World Cup. It was also a hiding place to deal with the sadness after the defeat to Belgium in the quarterfinals. But the passage through Chinese football is behind him and the midfielder is in the eye of the Corinthians hurricane, with the responsibility of bringing back to the team the prominence of other times, leading a project in which the club exchanges the promised financial austerity for spending to return to be champion. If he succeeds, if he plays at a high level, his return to the Brazilian team to play a second World Cup will be closer than ever.
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How is this return to Corinthians being?
It’s not easy to go for a long time without training, without playing. My last game was in December and after that I stayed home. I’m adapting to the pace of training at Corinthians, which is different from what I used to experience there in China. The style is also different. I need to adapt to the team and improve physically.
Is there already a forecast of when you will be able to play the 90 minutes?
It will depend on the day-to-day evolution. It’s no use saying “I’m ready”, getting into the game and instead of helping, getting in the way. When I feel confident to help the team, let’s sit down, Sylvinho and I, and let’s talk.
Is your responsibility greater now than in 2013, when you arrived at Corinthians?
The responsibility is greater not only for the moment it was (Corinthians had been champions of the Libertadores and the World Cup the previous year), but also for the history that I have already created within the club. I come up with a big, beautiful story. I already came to know that it would be like this. Of course, sometimes it’s better to get to a team where everything is ready. On the other hand, when you’re in a building, getting into the middle of it feels good. You grow together with the team.
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Does it motivate to have the responsibility to be a leader in this process?
This is something that comes naturally, it has always been like this in my career. I don’t arrive thinking that I’m going to assume everything. Sometimes members give more responsibilities. I won’t press anything.
Is it a desire to return to the Brazilian team as well?
My biggest goal is to be playing well, contributing as much as possible to Corinthians. As for selection, it comes naturally. I can’t get here just thinking about it, because things don’t happen like that, I’m going to take a step bigger than my leg. The first step is to feel good, the other is to help the club. And, in the future, if there is an opportunity with the national team, then yes.
Can you do that in time to play the Qatar Cup?
Anything is possible as long as I’m okay. I need to be right here at Corinthians.
Have you talked to Tite since you started playing again?
I haven’t talked to him yet and I haven’t met him. Tite is a guy I have full respect and affection for. If it has to be, it will be. If not, eternal respect will always prevail.
Many compared the goal you scored against Ceará with the ball you kicked out against Belgium (in the 2018 World Cup defeat). Does this thing still move you?
Today, it crosses my mind less. But it’s been a long, long time. I didn’t talk about it, I didn’t want to talk to anyone, I haven’t been interviewed since the World Cup. I went back to the interview now because I didn’t want to talk before, I knew that every time I spoke, someone would ask me about it, and it was something that bothered me. Because you suffer twice, both as a fan and a player.
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Is the surprise of some with the Hulk’s good football at Atlético-MG a sign that in Brazil we still don’t have any idea of the level of Chinese football?
Without a doubt, people are very unaware of it. There are many Cup players there, high-level coaches, European football. But you arrive and you need a little time. The Hulk needed it at first. The problem is that you don’t have much patience here. When you arrive, everyone wants you to sort it out the next day. Hulk is perhaps the best player at the Brazilian Nationals today, and I’m not at all surprised by his performance. I don’t doubt that soon an Oscar will come back here and kick ass too. Roger Guedes himself.
With your arrival, from Giuliano, Roger Guedes, Willian, can Corinthians compete with Flamengo, Atlético-MG and Palmeiras?
This is the fan’s thing, it’s this rivalry that keeps him alive. We have to understand, get our heads together and see that we have to win the next game first. In football, it is not always the winner who has the best team, the best squad.
What did you think of the young players you found at Corinthians?
What I found, and it’s something that has changed a lot, is that they’re working a lot harder. Before, the boy rose from the juniors, arrived at the club after you and left first. Now you see the boy working at the gym, looking to get better. We have quality young people, Adson, Mosquito, Roni. João is a fullback.
How do you see the possibility of maybe ending your career without playing for Flamengo again?
In fact, what makes me feel like that is that Flamengo was the only club in my career where I didn’t reach 100 games. But I think a lot about today. I have to think about Corinthians.
What did the Corinthians board tell you about the club’s financial situation?
We talked a lot about this, about Corinthians’ financial condition. I have a very good relationship with the board. The timing is not so easy, but there is a good future projection. I believed in the project. I believe and know that Corinthians has a very strong power for change, the club is very big, a power. Suddenly, things start to fall into place, then you sell a player, sign a new sponsorship, and things change. Because I trust the people who are here a lot, I believe that everything will be all right.