Joao Victor recently joined the likes of Lluis Sastre and Joel Chianese in the Hyderabad FC squad for the 2020-21 Indian Super League season. The Spanish central defensive midfielder will be given a diverse role to play at the centre of the park under new head coach Manuel Marquez.
In an exclusive interview with Sportskeeda, Joao Victor spoke about his football journey, the differences between European and South American football, his tenure at Mallorca and expectations from the Indian Super League (ISL).
Speaking about his journey as a football player, Joao Victor said that he has been playing football from the age of 4:
''Actually, I started playing football when I was 4 years old. My father was a goalkeeper so the way was already there for me. My father had a football school since I was 6 years old, and I played there till I was 13. So, I can say that most of the things I’ve known about football are because of my father, and I wouldn’t be a footballer if it wasn’t for him. Then when I was 15 years old, I signed with Náutico, spending about four years there, after playing my first professional match as a 16- year-old.''
Joao Victor began his professional career with Brazilian Serie B side Nautico. He then played for Sao Caetano and Treze before switching continents and playing in Asia and Europe.
The 31-year-old thanked legendary Brazilian footballer Rivaldo for advising him to try playing in another continent. He said:
''I’m blessed by God because he put some people in my life that have helped me a lot. So, the question is not just WHAT made me leave Brazil, but WHO! Rivaldo, a former football player and one of the best I’ve ever seen playing, took me there to Uzbekistan. So, when a player and a person like him brings an offer like that to you, you can’t say No. He also is a very important person in my life and also is responsible for what I’ve done in my career.''
When asked about the differences between the fundamentals of European and South American football, Joao Victor said:
''When I played in Brazil the football wasn’t that much professional as it is today. Football in Brazil has improved a lot but still it’s very far from European clubs. There are some clubs in Brazil that you can maybe compare with the European clubs, but the budget also makes a lot of a difference.''
Joao Victor played five seasons for Mallorca in the Segunda Division and La Liga. He played 86 games for the club during this time. His stint with Mallorca is touted as the peak of his career.
Speaking on his successful tenure in Spain, Joao Victor said:
''It was amazing playing in the La Liga. I have to thank Rivaldo again and also another important person in my career, that was the president of Mallorca in that time, Lorenzo Serra Ferrer. He gave me the opportunity to play in one of the two best leagues in the world. I had amazing years there and I learned a lot. My family and I fell in love with the city, so we consider Mallorca our home. We made a lot of friends, some in football and the others out of football. My sons were born in Mallorca, so I have very good memories from there.''
''Yes, I have played against two of the best players in the history of football, but in that time, I didn’t have the notion about how big they actually are. But it is normal for me, and wherever I go the first thing the people ask is 'how was it playing against Ronaldo and Messi', but I’ve always answered the same - in that time for me, it was normal. Because when I get inside the pitch, I’m 100% focused on winning, no matter how (fairly of course), no matter against who. But today I can say that it was an honour and I’m part of the history they created.''
Joao Victor then revealed that he had offers from other countries but focussed on the abundance of impressive sports projects in Indian football:
''Yes, I had offers from other countries. But at the same time, Indian football is growing a lot. They have very good projects here and the primary goal from everyone is to make the Indian league one of the best in Asia. I wanted to be part of this, so that’s what made me choose Indian football.''
Joao Victor also praised the growing standards of the Indian Super League and is looking forward to the new challenge with Hyderabad FC. He said:
''I heard something from the players that I’ve played with before. So, I know that it is not an easy league. And as I said, it’s a growing league and there is a lot of foreigners also. So, it is going to be a good challenge.''
When asked about his most memorable football game in his career, Joao Victor recalled his first La Liga game, which happened to be against FC Barcelona at Camp Nou. He said:
''It’s very hard to choose just one. But maybe, my first game in La Liga that was against Barcelona in their stadium. It was memorable because that’s when I saw truly the level of those players that they had in the likes of Xavi, Iniesta, Messi, Puyol, Daniel Alves.''Published 12 Sep 2020, 07:58 IST