Marcelo Pereira: Did not think twice about coming to India

Hyderabad FC ‘s talisman Marcelo Pereira has been a constant menace to opposition defences ever since he stepped on Indian shores in 2016. Part of an entertaining Delhi Dynamos FC side that went to the semi-finals of Hero Indian Super League (Hero ISL) 2016 under the tutelage of World Cup winning Italian defender Gianluca Zambrotta, Marcelo Pereira was an instant hit in his debut campaign, winning the Golden Boot that year after notching up 10 goals and five assists.

“During the first season Zico was in India and everybody in Brazil knew about Indian football because he did the preparation in Brazil. So, everybody was starting to talk about India and it was something new. The next year, I had the invitation to join the Indian Super League. All the players were saying very nice things about the league and its organization and I did not think twice to go through this experience,” Marcelo Pereira told host Anant Tyagi on Episode 17 of Let’s Football Live.

Delhi’s style of play in Hero ISL 2016 similar to Goa’s now

The highest-scoring side in Hero ISL 2016 with 27 goals in the league stage, the Brazilian fondly recalled his time in the national capital as well as his relationship with the Hero of the League that year, Florent Malouda.

“We had Malouda, who was a very intelligent player. We had a very good group where everybody connected. Moreover, the offensive game for me was more attractive than anything. I think we played quite similar to FC Goa that season. The team changed everything for the next season, but it was very enjoyable,” Marcelo Pereira said.

He continued, “I remember when I was with Memo and he said, ‘Hey Malouda, I played as you in the video game, now you are here with me.’ But he is a very humble guy. He doesn't speak a lot. It's very crazy because for years I have seen him in the World Cup. He shared the dressing room with us, so it was very nice. Very intelligent player to play with on the pitch. He knows your moves, when I'm going in space. I think I'm never going to forget this guy. He's a very good guy.”

Donning FC Pune City’s colours

After his time with Delhi Dynamos, Marcelo Pereira moved to FC Pune City and continued to thrive, leading the Stallions to a semi-final appearance with eight goals and seven assists. “I think we had a very good team to be champion. I think we played against Bengaluru in the semi-finals and they were good, but we had a team to be champions there with head coach Ranko Popovic. I had a very good partnership with Emiliano Alfaro, we had Marcos Tebar. We had an amazing team,” he said.

“My point of view changed a lot (in my second season with Pune). There were many changes, we did not adapt to the system. When we woke up it was a little late, so we tried to play only for pride, to do something nice in the league and that happens sometimes. Things not going well happens but we need to do our best,” the 32-year-old added on his second season with Pune that saw him score six times and provide four assists as the Stallions finished seventh.

However, Marcelo Pereira’s lowest finish in the league came in Hero ISL 2019-20 with new-comers Hyderabad FC. While a variety of factors played a role in Hyderabad’s bottom-place finish, the Brazilian believes that a lack of preparation and injuries heavily affected their performances in their debut campaign.

Optimistic about Hyderabad's prospects with Albert Roca as coach

“We were a new team, a new fresh side, and new things take time. So, I think we needed better preparation during the pre-season. I think with change, you need to be perfect. The change came a little bit late. We had many injuries in the first three-four games, so we could not win. But we gave our maximum with the situation. A little bit of luck also we lacked,” he said.  

“We were very unlucky in some games, with some mistakes from the young players, but we know that we tried our best. We had a very good team. I think we had many positive things. Our fans were amazing. The city is very good. I'm sure the future will be better than the first year and we will prepare better,” the 2016 Hero ISL Golden Boot winner added.

Looking ahead, Marcelo Pereira sounded a lot more optimistic with new coach Albert Roca at the helm for Hyderabad next season. “I think he is one person who already understands football in India. He already knows the players available. He knows the position and the standard. I think he has time to start the job from the beginning. I think he will do something different. He reached the final with Bengaluru, so I think he knows how to work, so I’m sure he will do something nice for Hyderabad in the future,” he insisted.

Blessed with a wand of a left foot and an eye for goals, Marcelo Pereira has scored 31 goals and provided 18 assists during his time in the Hero ISL. However, he’s yet to win the coveted Hero ISL trophy and will be hoping to change that under the guidance of Hyderabad’s new head coach Roca next season.

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