- Renan Lodi discusses Brazil’s Qatar 2022 qualifying showdown with Uruguay
- He recalls seeing his dad cry after the Seleção’s South Africa 2010 exit
- The 22-year-old hails Atletico Madrid team-mates Luis Suarez & Joao Felix
“He was Brazil’s biggest danger,” wrote Marca after the 1-0 victory over Venezuela on Friday. “The three chances the Seleção created in the first half all came from his feet.”
Yet this wasn’t, despite the Spanish sportspaper jestingly referring to him as a “striker”, an attacker they were raving about but a left-back. Renan Lodi was, indeed, the principal invention infuser in the vacuum created by Neymar’s absence and was named man of the match by several publications – something which would have sounded preposterous 18 months ago.
The Serrana native had never been capped by his country at any level and was at Atletico Paranaense. He’s since moved to Atletico Madrid, established himself as Brazil’s first-choice left-back, been called “a phenomenon” by Filipe Luis, “a wonderful talent” by the legendary Junior and “a player who has it all” by Diego Simeone.
FIFA.com caught up with Renan Lodi, 22, to discuss the skyrocketing of his career, Brazil’s showdown with Uruguay in FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ qualifying, Luis Saurez, Joao Felix and whether Atletico Madrid can win La Liga this season, and the world’s best left-backs.
FIFA.com: Most of the Brazil players represented the country at youth level, but you didn’t. How did it feel to suddenly be in the senior squad as a 21-year-old year last year?
Renan Lodi: I played for Atletico Paranaense at every youth level. I was always dreaming of being called up by the Seleção – at U-15, U-17, U-20 and senior level. Every time there were Seleção call-ups at youth level, I’d get my hopes up and be really sad when I wasn’t called up. But I always maintained my focus on turning professional with Atletico Paranaense and, if God wanted, reaching the senior Seleção. I’m enjoying it as much as possible, and I want to play as well as possible for my club to keep getting called here.
Thirteen months ago you’d never even been in a Brazil squad. Now you’re the first-choice left-back. How does that feel?
It’s a feeling of immense pride. You think about how many players who have dreamed of this – footballers and people who do other things. I love wearing the Brazil shirt. I’m learning as much as I can from every player, from every coach. I’m very proud to be here and I’m loving every second of it.
You have provided three assists in six Brazil appearances. Does Tite encourage you to get forward?
I’m almost another striker! (laughs) I have more freedom to attack with the Seleção. It’s not like this at my club. I really enjoy it. But with Tite, he asks me to get forward, yes, but to also always maintain my defensive responsibilities.
How pleased are you with Brazil’s start to Qatar 2022 qualifying?
We’re really happy. The atmosphere in the squad is amazing. You couldn’t say one little thing negative about it – all the players want to help each other. We’re very pleased with the first three results. Nine points, the maximum. But we have a big game against Uruguay and we want to get more. We want to put in good performances and keep picking up points.
What do you think of this Uruguay team?
They’re really well organised. They’re very tough to break down. They give their everything from the first minute to the last, which always makes it very intense and fast-paced. They have magnificent players. Suarez is out with COVID and that’s a huge blow to them, but they have other great attacking players. It will be a very tough test for us, but we’re confident, well prepared, and we’ll give our all to try and get the points.
Had you discussed the game with Suarez?
We joked about it at Atletico. He wound me up, I wound him up. He said he going to mark me, stop me, that they would win. I said things back to him. All good fun.
What’s the World Cup memory that most sticks in your head from growing up?
2010. I will never forget that. We were watching it at home. We were beating Holland but we ended up getting eliminated. My dad started crying. It was really difficult for me to see that. I remember it as if it was yesterday.
Which left-backs have you most enjoyed watching?
Roberto Carlos was a great player, but I didn’t see too much of him because I’m young. I really like Filipe Luis, Alex Sandro, who I watch a lot – the way he defends, the way he reads the game. Marcelo too.
Who do you rate as the world’s best left-back now?[Andy] Robertson of Liverpool and Alphonso Davies of Bayern Munich are outstanding players. Davies is even younger than me, and Robertson is still young. They’re great players and have so much potential.
Can Atletico Madrid win La Liga this season?
Yes. Things are going really well, we’ve got a very strong squad. La Liga’s a really difficult league to win. The table is really messy, the favourites have dropped points. We’re third, we’ve got two games in hand on the teams above us, and we’re working very hard to have a great campaign.
What do you think of Suarez?
He’s a real joker, a lot of fun. He also does his utmost to help everybody day-by-day. I try to learn the maximum possible from the time I spend with him, because there are no words to describe him. He’s strong, very talented, finishes with both feet. He’s a magnificent player and a huge asset for our club.
And what about Joao Felix?
He’s my brother at the club. We’re almost the same age. We get along really well. He’s an incredibly talented player, but he’s always trying to learn and improve also. I have no doubt that he will become one of the best players in the world.