By Robbie Blakeley, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – With Brazil’s sporting press currently focused on Carioca club Fluminense and their 2012 Brasileirão success, The Rio Times seized the opportunity to talk to one of the league’s most exciting prospects. Twenty-year-old Samuel Rosa Gonçalves took time out of Flu’s already packed schedule to talk about the past year, plans for the future and personal goals.
After an obligatory congratulations on winning the crown, Samuel opened up about what it meant for him and the rest of the squad. “For me personally it was very important for my career,” he said. ”It was my first major title and success like this makes you hope the story can continue.”
After making big name signings last summer, such as Wágner and Thiago Neves, the youngsters in the squad were forced to raise their game to earn a place in the team, something Samuel managed with aplomb.
“They [the signings] forced me to mature as a player. I managed to get some chances in the first team. Everything is happening here so fast; before I was fifth choice but now I’m a real part of the squad,” the youngster said proudly.
A promising 2012 has led to the player dreaming of even bigger things over the next twelve months. “My goal for next year is to get twenty goals for the season, across the Campeonato Carioca, Campeonato Brasileiro and the Copa Libertadores,” he confidently stated.
Samuel has doubtless made fantastic progress since breaking into the first-team roughly six months ago. And he is fortunate to be playing alongside the Brasileirão’s deadliest hit man – Fred. Samuel acknowledges the influence the Seleção striker has had on his thus far brief career. “I’ve learned many things by Fred’s side,” he said.
“He has helped me improve my positioning a lot. When we are training together, I always look at Fred, what he’s doing, where he’s positioning himself in relation to the ball.”
It is not just his attacking partner who has had an effect on Samuel though, he sites the influence of leading figures in the squad like Deco, Gum, Wágner and Diego Cavalieri in not only steering the side towards glory but helping the younger players bed in and feel part of the group.
With the Brasileirão safely in the bag, Samuel confirms that the next target for the Laranjeiras outfit is the 2013 Copa Libertadores crown. “The Libertadores will be our principle objective next year,” he said. “But we won’t let the Brasileirão slide. The Libertadores will be over by June and then we can concentrate on the [national] league.”
With further team and solo success, European clubs may well come knocking for the young powerhouse, something Samuel has already considered. “I think it’s every player’s dream to play in Europe, at one of the great clubs,” he said. “I don’t have a particular preference for a team abroad, but I identify more with the English style. I like Chelsea a lot,” he conceded.
Anxious Tricolores need not worry about the immediate future though. “Right now I am very happy here. I want to make my name at Fluminense before anything else happens,” he confirmed. Reassuring news indeed.