Interview: Corinthians’ Pedrinho

Words By Robbie Blakeley Illustration by Philippe Fenner
May 30, 2018
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“There’s a young guy here called Pedrinho and you should see him. No one tries to overly coach him. They give him the ball and let him do his thing. He’s that good.” Colin Kazim Richards

It may be approaching two decades since Brazil last lifted the greatest prize in the global game, but their habit of producing talent wanted the world over shows no sign of diminishing. The national press has been suitably hyperbolic when it comes to the seleção’s recent failures, particularly during their efforts on home soil four years ago, but Tite has breathed new life into what is shaping up to be a genuine World Cup challenge.

The 57-year-old of course made his name at paulista outfit Corinthians, a club which has won three league titles already this decade, as well as a Copa Libertadores crown and a Club World Cup. Brazil will have just three domestically-based players in Russia this summer – two come from Corinthians.

Arguably the most exciting young talent to leave these shores in the last few years was the Corinthians forward Malcom, who has now made a name for himself at French outfit Bordeaux and has been linked with a move to one of Europe’s more traditional giants. Whichever way you slice the cake, the talent pool in Brazil still runs deep. Vinicius Junior has already sealed his multi-million pound deal to Real Madrid from Flamengo. In the same city, Vasco da Gama’s Paulinho is set to bid São Januário goodbye and head to the Bundesliga with Bayer Leverkusen.

Santos, famed for decades for a seemingly endless line of top-class talent, now boast Rodrygo amongst their ranks, a lad who needs permission to miss school to go on away trips with the Vila Belmiro outfit. And now, Corinthians have one more midfielder of hugely exciting potential amongst their ranks.

Pedro Vitor Delmino da Silva, known more commonly as Pedrinho, has been making progress at the home of the champions and has quickly become the darling of the Itaquera terraces. Back in December, in an interview with Colin Kazim Richards, the Turkish international highlighted the skinny 20-year-old from Maceió as the player to watch at one of Brazil’s biggest clubs.

The youngster came from Salvador club Vitória and readily admits that the move to a metropolis was a struggle at first.

“I came here [to São Paulo] when I was just 15 at first. It was very difficult when I arrived. I came on my own, to a huge city from Maceió and had to deal with things like the cold and being away from my parents. With time it has got easier and now I feel at home at the club.”

The attack-minded playmaker made the transition to first team action last year and his performances have caught the eye since, yet Pedrinho remains focused on the present, for the time being at least. “I want to make sure I am a first team regular at Corinthians for at least a couple of seasons.

“I am still yet to fully ensure my place in the team, and I want to spend time here before I consider moving anywhere else.”

The route from Brazil to Europe is a well trodden one, but it is far from the only passport stamp out of the country these days. The Chinese Super League has been snapping up talent at an alarming rate and the 20-year-old has already received a concrete offer, which he turned down in an instant.

“I didn’t even want to know. I am yet to establish myself at Corinthians. It was flattering to receive the offer, but as soon as my agent told me about the offer I told him that I wasn’t interested.”

Which was the club?

“I couldn’t tell you, to be honest. I don’t even know. I’m not ready to leave Corinthians and I certainly didn’t want to leave at that time and not for China. If I do leave Corinthians one day, I expect it to be for a European club, the aim for any player in Brazil.”

On the day we meet, however, the club is negotiating its way through the kind of crisis which is common in this part of the world. After a week of toing and froing, Corinthians have lost their manager Fábio Carille to Saudi Arabian club Al-Wehda, with youth coach Osmar Loss promoted to the top job.

Things have not started smoothly. The club lost at home to Colombian club outfit Millionarios in the Copa Libertadores, before then losing away to Internacional in the Brasileirão the following Sunday. The defending champions have slipped to sixth in the league table, with a solitary victory in their last five league outings. However, Pedrinho is adamant that the restructuring at the top of the coaching chain will not have a long-term damaging effect on the playing staff. “To be honest, it didn’t come as a great surprise.

“We already knew there was an offer on the table and there was a strong possibility that he [Carille] could leave the club. Now he has gone, our work will continue just the same as before.”

“I am still yet to fully ensure my place in the team, and I want to spend time here before I consider moving anywhere else. I didn’t even want to know (about the offer from China). I am yet to establish myself at Corinthians. It was flattering to receive the offer, but as soon as my agent told me about the offer I told him that I wasn’t interested.”

Corinthians, perhaps more than any other Brazilian club, have followed a structured philosophy when it comes to employing coaches over the last decade. First there was Tite, who the board persevered with despite a humiliatingly premature Copa Libertadores exit at the hands of Colombian club Tolima in 2011. The rewards subsequently came thick and fast, culminating in that World Club Cup triumph over Chelsea in December 2012.

There have been sidesteps admittedly, such as the ultimately unsuccessful gamble on Cristóvão Borges, and the unimaginative hiring of veteran boss Oswaldo de Oliveira. Nevertheless, there remains an identity to the Brazilian champions that is lacking at just about every other Série A club, and Pedrinho is testament to that.

“This is Corinthians. We have a way if playing that has become our hallmark.”

He has come through the ranks from the under 15s, and the youth sides all set up the same way, with identical playing styles to ensure players are ready when they are promoted to the senior side and there are no surprises. Pedrinho made his name in the renowned youth tournament the Copinha, an under-17 football tournament played at the start of the year. In 2017, he was voted the best player at the competition.

The last two appointments have now been promotions from within the ranks and the young playmaker is of the opinion it will benefit the club. “We know how he [Loss] works.

“He follows the same style of play, the same pattern, as Carille. Both were already part of Corinthians before getting the job [as manager] so there will be no great surprises when it comes to how we will set up.”

At a club the size of Corinthians, the demand for success, or at the very least be challenging for glory come the business end of a campaign, is almost constant. Having won the title comfortably last time out, surely the logic goes that the next rung on the ladder of progress would be continental success in the form of a Copa Libertadores crown?

“We are looking at short-term goals at the moment. The league will stop of the World Cup, so our immediate objective is to be top of the league on 13 June [when the league will take a five-week hiatus].”

“All that matters for us is to be challenging for titles, whether that is the Brasileirão or the Libertadores, we need to be there.”

And Corinthians are certainly well placed in the South American answer to the UEFA Champions League. Despite successive home defeats, to Independiente and Millonarios, the club finished top of Group 7 with 10 points from six outings. The hard slog of a league campaign can be different to facing the elite of South American competition, however, and Pedrinho goes on to explain the difference in approach to both. “The Brasileirão is of course a longer competition.

“It gets said a lot in football but there really are no easy games. It’s rare to go into a game in Brazil where one side is playing for a draw. In this league teams go into each match looking to collect three points.”

But the club’s attitude to the domestic tournament points to a more focused effort in the Libertadores this season. “With the knock-out stages of the Libertadores one mistake can be enough to knock you out.

“To win the tournament you have to beat some of the best teams in South America. So it’s likely that some players will be rested for Brasileirão games prior to knock-out Libertadores ties.”

But it is of little surprise that the ultimate objective is that famed yellow seleção shirt. This year’s World Cup has come just too soon, but with the Copa América next year there may well be a chance some fringe and younger players will be called up to prove their worth.

“Of course, the dream for any young player in Brazil – probably any young player in the world – is to represent their country. We have that tradition and a lot of excellent players so it is always a challenge to break in.

“I only had one training session with Tite [when the Brazil boss was at Corinthians] but the way he works, his intelligence, is there for you to see. What he has done with the national team is phenomenal.”

Does Pedrinho rate his chances of making his international debut prior to the Copa América? His face breaks open instantly into a wide, toothy smile. “Who knows?” he grins.

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