x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Maicon a star in his own right

Marcotti's man Once written off as 'too slight', the attacking Brazilian full-back has gone from strength to strength in Europe.

Maicon celebrates after scoring in Inter's Champions League victory over Barcelona this week.
Maicon celebrates after scoring in Inter's Champions League victory over Barcelona this week.

He does not know when or how the rumour started, just that he has heard it all his life and it is not true. Maicon Douglas's name may have an assonance with a certain Hollywood actor, but the Inter Milan right-back was definitely NOT named after the star of Basic Instinct and a host of other big-screen blockbusters.

"My parents aren't film buffs, I don't even know if they know who he is," the Brazilian told Gazzetta dello Sport in 2008. "It's just funny because this urban myth, that my parents were such fans of Michael Douglas that they named me after him, has been around for a decade. "Everybody assumes it's true and, until now, nobody has asked me if it is." In fact, Maicon's father, Manuel Sissenando, probably had other things to think about when he became a dad. A former top-flight defender for Internacional, he completed his coaching badges early and threw himself into management.

He was careful, however, to steer clear of his son, at least at first, wishing to avoid accusations of favouritism. Maicon was sent to Gremio to learn his trade, only to be turned away at 16 for being "too slight". Looking at his muscular 6ft 2ins frame today that assessment seems ludicrous. He moved to Cruzeiro, where he starred as a solid, if unspectacular, attacking midfielder in the youth sides. So much so that the club told him that he probably would not have a future there and should try the lower divisions.

A call from his dad, then manager of third-tier Criciuma, led to a loan deal. And, in his first game, after an injury to the right-back, Manuel moved his son into defence. "My eyes were opened, all of a sudden everything became clear and I thrived," he told Calcio 2000 magazine in December. Almost overnight, his view of the game changed, as did his performances. He completed a brilliant loan spell at Criciuma and Cruzeiro took him back and made him a regular at the age of 20.

Maicon responded by going from strength to strength. He spent three and a half seasons at Cruzeiro establishing himself as one of the best full-backs in Brazil and winning his first cap at the age of 22. Then, in the summer of 2004, came the leap into European football. Maicon joined Monaco, defeated Champions League finalists the year before. People quickly began to take notice. How could they not? Tall, powerful and athletic, he patrolled the entire right flank and was equally adept at attacking and defending.

The year 2006 was bittersweet. On the one hand, Maicon got the big move he wanted - Monaco sold him to Inter for around $8 million (Dh29.3m). On the other, Carlos Alberto Parreira left him out of Brazil's World Cup squad, opting instead for the veteran Cafu. No matter. Maicon was an instant success in Serie A, helping Inter to three consecutive league titles and proving that right-back could be just about the most influential position on the pitch.

Starring under both Roberto Mancini and his successor, Jose Mourinho, for Inter sides which lacked creativity and attacking prowess beyond striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Maicon began the carry the offensive burden. When Ibrahimovic was marked out of the game or when he was simply having an off day, it was Maicon who took charge, powering up the wing and terrifying defenders, either by cutting inside or by taking it to the corner and delivering his trademark "whipped in" crosses.

With Ibrahimovic now gone, Inter look more like a team and creativity flows from multiple sources. And, in some ways, that makes Maicon even more effective, because opponents can no longer key in on him the way they once did. Were it not for Dani Alves, that other outstanding right-back, who also happens to be his teammate with Brazil, there probably would be no debate over who is the world's best right-back.

"When I hear people say that I'm thrilled," he told Gazzetta. "I don't mind, it's a compliment. And, if anything, it makes me want to work harder and prove people right." So feel free to call him the number one "number two". Just don't say he was named after Michael Douglas. sports@thenational.ae