Monday 16 December 2019, 12:09

Filipe Luis: We're giving the semi-final maximum priority

  • Flamengo make their FIFA Club World Cup™ debut against Al Hilal

  • Filipe Luis has won Libertadores and league titles in his six months at club

  • “We want to win more trophies. We want to win the Club World Cup."

Filipe Luis is nothing if not sincere. When Flamengo conjured up an epic comeback to win the Copa Libertadores at the expense of defending champions River Plate, the Brazilian defender hugged his team-mates and celebrated with as much joy as anyone. But before he had even left the pitch at the Estadio Monumental in Lima, he gave a frank assessment of his team’s performance on the day: "We played a really poor game."

Footballers are not noted for being self-critical in the immediate aftermath of a momentous win, but then again the Flamengo left back is no ordinary footballer. This is a player who does not quite fit the stereotypical view of the modern-day elite footballer.

The lowdown on Filipe Luis

  • Date/place of birth: 9 August 1985, Brazil

  • Position: Left back

  • Brazil caps: 44

  • Clubs: Figueirense, Ajax, Castilla, Deportivo de La Coruna, Atletico Madrid, Chelsea and Flamengo

  • Honours: La Liga (2013/14), Copa del Rey (2012/13), UEFA Europa League (2011/12 and 2017/18), UEFA Super Cup (2012 and 2018), Premier League (2014/15), English League Cup (2014/15), Brazilian league (2019), Copa Libertadores (2019), FIFA Confederations Cup (2013) and Copa America (2019)

A curious mind

"Everyone who knows me knows that I’m pretty restless. I’m always asking people things,” he told when asked about his love for science. From the Higgs boson and astronomy to calculus and medicine, he has an interest in all things scientific. “I have all these doubts and questions because of science. I’m always looking to find out more about what’s around us, looking for answers about why we’re here.”

Aged six and the oldest of his three children (Sara, aged 5, and one-year-old Lucas complete the family), Tiago seems to have inherited his father’s inquisitiveness. “He’s starting to ask questions now and I love that,” said the Flamengo full-back. “I like talking to him. He has his point of view and it’s very different,” he added with a laugh.

The owner of a collection of more than 2,000 films, he is also passionate about cinema and TV series. “With the children I hardly have the time to watch anything these days,” he lamented. His TV highlight of the year was the final episode of Game of Thrones: “It’s the best series of the lot and it’s a shame it’s finished.”

A triumphant return

Hobbies aside, football remains Filipe Luis’ biggest passion: “It’s the only thing I know how to do well. I have more fun on the pitch than anywhere else.”

This year has given him more enjoyment than most. After a successful few years in European football, he arrived at Flamengo in July – the club he supported as a boy – and promptly helped them win the Copa Libertadores and the Brazilian league title. “Winning the Brazilian championship is a dream I’ve had since I was a boy,” he said.

Maximum focus

Next up for Fla is the FIFA Club World Cup, the most coveted of all titles for South American teams. Though the fans are hoping for a final against Liverpool, Filipe Luis and Co have to focus first of all on Al Hilal, their opponents in Tuesday’s semi-final.

“It’s happened to other South American teams. They’ve come here and lost in the semis,” he warned. “That’s why we’re giving this game maximum priority. There’ll be plenty of time to think about the final, if we get there.”

One thing for sure is that the Mengao squad will not be short of information on their next rivals. Their coach, Jorge Jesus, knows everything there is to know about the Saudi side, as Filipe explained: “He was their coach before he came here. He started to put their team together so he knows very well how they like to play. We are so well prepared for this match."

Filipe is not lacking in motivation in Doha and is more competitive than ever, as he explained: “I get more and more ambitious as the years go by and my retirement comes closer. I always want to win and here we are at the Club World Cup, determined to win it. We’ve won the league and the Libertadores but that ambition to lift more trophies is still there.”

With Flamengo having been below their best in the Copa Libertadores final against River Plate, what kind of performance can we expect from them at Qatar 2019? “We always want the ball, no matter who we’re up against. We play a possession game. We press the opposition the whole time to try and win the ball back and then we try to play our game. We’ve got some very aggressive players in the final third of the pitch and some unique players up front who can win games for you.”

Filipe and his team-mates will be hoping there will be no need for more self-criticism when the final whistle sounds against Al Hilal.