Hernanes: “A big step in my career”

MILAN – "It’s a wonderful moment, I’m very happy, proud to be a part of this club. I’m very emotional, I’d like some of the people who have supported me over the years to be here, but I’m sure that even from afar they’ll be happy for me." This is how Hernanes began his introductory press conference earlier, held in the exclusive setting of the Pirelli Flagship store at 1 Corso Venezia.

Then the Prophet was asked about the deal between Inter and Lazio that saw him move to the Nerazzurri: "I’ve already said a lot about that, but perhaps not enough. So, as soon as I heard Inter were after me and wanted to sign me, they contacted me and I immediately felt moved to accept because it was a big step forward in my career, and in terms of everything I’ve ever wanted to do in the game, this was a unique opportunity. Inter made me feel important, and I was immediately very happy about their interest. The two parties needed to agree terms, it needed to be right for everyone, only then would I accept. To have a club with the history and tradition of Inter chasing your signature, such a big name in Italian football, was what made my mind up. But I really wanted the best for all concerned."

The Brazilian brings a lot of expectation with him: "Yes, but I’m sure we’ll do well, Inter have a great team, I’ve already seen great quality in the squad, I’m even prouder of my decision and sure that this will be a winning group. Inter have a great coach, something else that weighed heavily in my decision. I know I can still improve as a player under Mazzarri, and reach the top level that Inter are used to playing at. Yes, there’s a big responsibility but I’m ready and prepared to play my own game. It’s a wonderful time in my life and career. I’m hungry, I want to win things, I believe that everyone in the club wants to win again. It’s the right time, and the responsibility will be shared amongst everyone."

What about his preferred position? "I like to play either inside left or right. I’ve played central midfield in the national team, one of the two Scolari uses, while at Lazio I played attacking midfield. I spoke to the coach about my position and told him what my preferred role is. But when I first started playing football, aged 14, I played right back. I’ve played in almost every position. I like playing in midfield, but it depends what the coach needs from me. Basically I don’t mind playing anywhere."

A few years ago, the Prophet was close to a move to Inter: "At the time I was in Brazil and I had a lot of agents. Some of them brought me an offer from Inter and I signed, but I don’t know what happened after that. But yes, that’s a true story. I still remember: Inter had won everything and I could have been a part of it. I’m here now though."

Is Hernanes more mature, three and a half years on? "I feel comfortable, I’d like to thank all the players and staff for welcoming me in a very positive way. I already feel at home, I got a great reception at La Pinetina, I fit in there straight away. I’m 28 now, I’ve always achieved what I’ve set out to in life, at times even more so, but in the end I was always able to obtain what I really wanted. People want everything right now but I have faith in that, God looks after everything for me, so I can let time take its course. This is the right time. For instance, now I know the language, at that time I didn’t even speak a word of Italian. They’re small things but they become essential.

"I really enjoyed my time at Lazio, with the fans too, we had a great relationship. I’d like to thank them and the club for everything they gave me, they had a lot of faith in me. Lazio brought me to Italy, I will be always be grateful to them. A bit like Inter who really wanted me. It’s only fair I thank everyone for the faith they had in me and my character." This is what he had to say about what went on with the Lazio fans outside their training ground in Formello.

Then a word on the Juventus match: "I saw two positive things. First of all quality in the squad, I really like that. The second was that even though it was Juventus, their whole team went back to defend when Inter attacked. I see that as fear and respect for their opponents. That was enough for me to have an even clearer picture and even more enthuasiam. Personally I have a great desire to win things. Together we can get results, what’s most important in football. I will show my determination to help my team-mates."

Hernanes is at Inter to win things. He was asked whether he thinks Inter will be able to compete with Juve going forward: I don’t think we’re missing anything going forward. We have a great coach and a great squad. We just need a bit of time, we will be able to get the results to compete in Italy and Europe."

How did he feel when he went to San Siro for the first time? "San Siro? When I first went there, I was still getting used to the stadiums over here. I was impressed when I first laid eyes on it, its beauty hit me, that pitch has been graced by some of the world’s finest players. A player though always needs to manage this sort of situation."

As the only major signing of the January transfer window, the Prophet has a lot of responsibility on him: "I’m already a very responsible person, obviously I assess things like that. I know it’s a huge investment. First of all I’d like to thank the club for their faith in me because you need to have that to spend so much on a player. I’ll just think about doing what I do best, what brought me here in the first place. I will train and always be open to trying to learn and improve. That’s my responsibility.

"Who has impressed me most among the young players? I was impressed by the quality in general. I was already well aware of who I would play with, just from watching games, but then you realise things more when you’re up close."

Sporting director Piero Ausilio was then asked his opinion: "The fact that the first contact between Inter and Hernanes dates so far back is proof of how interested we’ve always been in the player. He was more than an idea, he was a dream. Today we made that reality. It wasn’t an easy deal, Lazio were losing an essential player in Hernanes. Inter are the team that have won more trophies in the last decade than anyone else. You can’t now think everything has just vanished. Our cycle brought us titles and top players, and now we’re rebuilding. We want to build a strong Inter team."

The Brazilian then once again took centre stage: "What are the two
things I admire most about Inter and its history? First of all they’re
the only club to have never been relegated to Serie B. This is proof
that it’s a serious club that knows how to get results. Then there’s the
fact that Inter were never caught up in the scandals that hit Italian
football a few years back. I’m pleased about that, I’m someone who likes
to steer clear of controversy, that’s why I always do what’s right and
fair. Being at a club like this strengthens my attachment to the cause.

"As I said before it’s a great time, when I was a kid I always had a ball with me, even when I went to get the bus to training. But I remember one day I went into an Evangelical church: the preacher told everyone to write their biggest dream on a bit of paper. I was around 16 at the time. From that moment on, being a footballer was my main ambition. Today that dream becomes even more real. I’m almost struggling to find the words to describe all of this. I’ve had a great career, even if there have been a lot of hard times.

"Have I spoken to Scolari about my move? Not yet. I think Inter will give me even more credibility in terms of the national team. It was a big move, I’ve made a step up. It will certainly be important for the World Cup."

Everyone says the first thing the Prophet promised in his first press conference at Lazio was a winning goal from him in the derby: "In fact, that’s what the fans said. I don’t want to make any promises, I’ll put a lot of hard work, blood, sweat and tears in, as ever, to get results. We’ll work and they will come."

Finally, a question on which former players Hernanes liked most: "First of all Ronaldo, who was one of the three best players of all time in my opinion. Like all left-footed players I liked Recoba, plus he was in a different class. He really impressed me."