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"I wasn't professional enough" - How Samir became a Brazil international

09:23 BST 05/09/2019
Samir Caetano
The former Flamengo man has come a long way since swapping Rio for Udine and this month is hoping to cement a long-term role with A Selecao

When coach Tite sat down in Rio last month to announce his 23-man Brazil squad for this month’s Brasil Global Tour, more than two dozen tuned in hoping to hear their name called.

Samir Santos wouldn’t usually have been one of them. The Udinese centre-back’s selection was the surprise name in the squad, but the 24-year-old had been tipped off a week earlier by his club.

This month serves as the culmination of a long journey the former Flamengo man has been on since swapping Rio for Udine three years ago.

The youngster underwent a major transformation since arriving in Europe, and crucially got over the injury issues that had plagued his development in the early stages of his career.

“When I played in Brazil, I had a lot of injuries,” says Samir from Miami ahead of Brazil’s clash with Colombia this week.

“Normally, Flamengo play around 70 matches a year. I played 20, 25. For an 18-year-old player that is not very many. It really got to me.”

Since arriving in Italy, Samir has grown into his body somewhat, increasing his muscle mass and overall fitness. But it wasn’t only physical issues that he needed to overcome to reach the Selecao.

“I wasn't as professional as I am now,” he recalls. “My head has changed a lot since making the move to Europe. It’s really helped me to keep up a pace that I never reached in Brazil because of the injuries.

“I'm very happy about the regular run of games I have had now. That was key to attracting interest from the national team.”

While Samir’s call-up came as a surprise to supporters back home, it certainly didn’t for coach Tite, who saw it as a natural consequence of the evolution of a player he once tried to sign for Corinthians.

Samir has improved significantly in the years since, and his versatility was key to his inclusion for the this month’s Brasil Global Tour double-header versus Colombia and Peru.

"I think it’s important,” Samir says. “For my club, I play wide when I have to. I've played left-back, where I never thought I'd play. But I think it's important. When the coach looks at the bench, he thinks: 'I know I can count on that player’."

Samir will have to prove his ability to adapt once again if he is to cement a role in Tite’s long-term plans. Brazil play a back four, whereas he has impressed in a back three for his club.

"I have to make the best of my chance,” he says. “Everyone wants to find a spot in the national team. These two friendlies will be a test, of course.”

Follow Brazil's run to World Cup 2022 by joining Brasil Global Tour on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.