Marcio Rodrigues believes Al Wahda can make the semi-finals of the Club World Cup.
Capital gains for Magrao with Wahda
ABU DHABI // With eight national team players and three foreigners in the line-up, Marcio Rodrigues believes Al Wahda can make the semi-finals of the Club World Cup.
The UAE Pro League champions will be looking to repair the damage done to the footballing reputation of the nation when Al Ahli crashed out to amateur side Auckland City 2-0 in the first round of the tournament last year.
"If we can play true to our potential, a second-round clash with the Asian club winners and going beyond is within our reach," said Rodrigues, the Brazilian midfielder who is better-known as Magrao, a nickname meaning skinny he inherited before he bulked up.
If Wahda beat Hekari in the first round, they face Seongnam. Inter Milan, the European champions, await the winners of that one.
"To give a good impression is not only for Al Wahda, but for the whole country," Magrao said. "We want to do the UAE game proud in front of an international audience.
"In my opinion, Wahda are the best Pro League side and they have a good chance of retaining the league title."
Magrao spent nearly two hours in an intense training session recently, and said it had been routine.
"Nobody seems to know what we are preparing for. The fans have been critical of our results in the Etisalat Cup. They are not aware on what goes through our minds. We are doing what the club management has told us, preparing for the Club World Cup.
"These days, on and off the field, we talk only of the championship. Most of the players are suffering from little niggles and the club don't want to take any chances on playing them in the cup games for the fear that they will aggravate those injuries and may not be 100 per cent for the Club World Cup."
Magrao joined Wahda in 2009 on a one-year contract. Having won the Pro League with the Abu Dhabi club, he has been given a two-year extension until 2012. He turns 32 next month and is aware his career is reaching a point that he needs to secure a future for his family.
"I will play as long as I can and as long as I am needed," he said. "I am fortunate to have been signed by Wahda because they are the best local team. The atmosphere at the club and among the players is very nice. They live like an extended family."
Magrao won six international caps for Brazil during the 2004/2005 period, and four were for World Cup qualifiers.
He recalled a game against Venezuela. "It was the farewell game for Romario and we won that game 3-0. Romario scored twice. He was such a great player even at his advancing age. It was one of the high points in my career."
Magrao picked up the game in the streets of Heliopolis, a favela in Sao Paulo. After two false starts to his professional career, he joined Sao Caetano, a club in a well-heeled suburb of Sao Paulo, joining the youth side in 1995. He moved to Santo Andre two years later but returned to Sao Caetano where he played another two years.
He played almost five seasons at Palmeiras in Sao Paulo before moving to the Yokohama Marinos in Japan in 2005 on a four-year contract. He returned after one season because he was unhappy and because his mother was ill.
He joined Corinthians on loan for a season and was at Internacional, who are also playing in the Club World Cup, when he was signed by Wahda on a free transfer.
Family is an important part of Magrao's life and he is enjoying his time in the capital.
"I like the lifestyle in Abu Dhabi. It is a safe place to live," he said. "My wife and three kids also love this place. We find everything we need here, and there is no shortage of Brazilian beans because my Brazilian friends travel frequently."
Magrao has named his elder son Matthaus, 12, after the German player Lothar Matthaus, and his second son, Pedro, is six. He has those two names tattooed on his forearms. His daughter is 10.
"Maradona is my favourite player and I would have named my son after him had he not been from Argentina."
Magrao is the eldest of three boys and his father wanted him to be named Marlon, after the actor Marlon Brando. But his mother was against it because of Brando's role as a mafia boss in the film The Godfather.
"So I became Marcio but my father still had his wish by naming my younger brother Marlon. My father is football crazy and I was told he presented me a football when I was born. I am glad I managed to fulfil one of his dreams of playing for Brazil."