João Cancelo, Interview, FC Bayern

João Cancelo: It’s an honour to be here

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João Cancelo has won titles in Portugal, Italy and England – and now he wants to win honours with FC Bayern too. Ahead of the clash with parent club Manchester City, he talks in an extended interview with the members’ magazine ‘51’ about the two clubs, comparisons with Philipp Lahm and how he has gained strength from difficult circumstances.

Interview with João Cancelo

João, you have been involved in five goals in 11 games for FC Bayern since your move from Manchester City in the winter. A good return for a defender, isn’t it?
“I feel my start at Bayern has been positive. Football players always need time to settle in. So, I tried to fit into the team as soon as possible and get to know my new teammates and the system. Up to now, everything’s gone very well with the team and on a personal level.”

Sadio Mané recently said he doesn’t see a better squad than Bayern's. You played for Manchester City for three years – do you agree with that? Now, ahead of the big quarter-final?
“There are three, four or five clubs that stand out – and Bayern are amongst them of course. Teams like Bayern, Manchester City and Real Madrid are always difficult to beat and are favourites to win the Champions League every year. It’s an honour for me to be here. We can compete with anyone. We can beat every team.”

João Cancelo, Interview, FC Bayern
João Cancelo played for Manchester City, Juventus and Valencia before joining FC Bayern. © Markus Burke

How would you describe Bayern's team? What makes them special?
“When the chance came to join this big club, I said yes straightaway. I’d already been in Spain, Italy and England, and now I wanted to experience football in Germany too.”

“At Bayern, everybody and everything is focused on absolute success. There’s really hard work here at every training session – I really like that mentality. I’m happy to be here and play in this great team.”

You were named in the FIFA World 11. What does that mean to you?
“I was nominated for a second time and this year I was successful. It’s a dream because you always want to produce your best as an elite athlete. I always aim to be the best in my position and, above all, be successful with the team. I’d like to thank everybody who voted for me.”

At FC Bayern, everybody and everything is focused on absolute success. There’s really hard work here at every training session – I really like that mentality.

João Cancelo

One of your predecessors on the right flank at Bayern, Philipp Lahm, was also in the FIFA World 11 twice. What do you know about him and how he played?
“It’s brilliant to be compared with such great players – I used to like watching Philipp play. A player like that is a reference point for me – I also really rate Dani Alves and Marcelo at Real Madrid. I think I still have to achieve a lot to before I can get to Philipp Lahm’s level. He won everything. The Champions League is also my big dream – and I won’t give up until I’ve made it happen. Perhaps it will be this season with Bayern, I wouldn’t have anything against that.” (laughs)

Which players are your role models?
“My biggest hero on the football pitch is Ronaldinho Gaucho. Thanks to his joy in playing, his charisma. For me he is the most talented of all football players. I never saw Diego Maradona or Pelé play, nor Marco van Basten and Johan Cruyff. The relaxed, huge joy of Ronaldinho, being smart and brave, the magic on the pitch and the fun he gave the spectators was all unique. So, Ronaldinho Gaucho is my hero."

João Cancelo, Interview, FC Bayern
João Cancelo has won the league title in Portugal, Italy and England. The Portugal international wants to lift the Meisterschale in Germany this year. © Markus Burke

Your crosses are amongst the most accurate in world football. How did you acquire that technique? 
“I actually prefer providing assists to shooting. I practise passes and crosses every day. My technique has developed completely on its own. I played Futsala at school, Futebol de Salao, five-a-side indoors. You especially practise technique because you have less space. And I played football on the streets with friends, and two or three of them were also very talented. But talent doesn’t just come from nowhere. I later signed for FC Barreirense. Then I went to the Benfica academy, one of the best in the world. That academy produces a new talent nearly every day.”

João, you welcomed a daughter three years ago. What’s that like for you?
“There’s nothing more beautiful in the world for me than being a father. I love getting to know my daughter a bit more every day. She is healthy and is a very jolly, funny girl who always wants to play.”

There’s nothing more beautiful in the world for me than being a father. I love getting to know my daughter a bit more every day.

João Cancelo

You compare your little daughter with an earthquake on Instagram.
"We say that in Portugal if a child has huge amounts of energy. She constantly asks questions and makes an incredible mess with her toys. She sometimes has a kickabout with me too (laughs). But she's more into being a princess. She is a great gift and I'm grateful for that. Unfortunately, I lost my mother in a car accident when I was young. I have a new lust for life since the birth of my daughter."

Do you believe in a guardian angel?
"I believe in God. And above all I believe in my mother Filomena and the power she gives me. I lost my biggest supporter when she died. I was only 18 years old and had to learn how to manage without her. The loss made me stronger and into what I am today. Sometimes that means I might have a not uncomplicated personality. But my heart's in the right place. And you can always rely on me."

João Cancelo, Interview, FC Bayern
In spite of a devastating twist of fate, the 28-year-old Portuguese has grown into one of the best full-backs in the world. © Markus Burke

What you mean by not uncomplicated personality?
"It's difficult to explain. But I'll try. I'm very impulsive and sentimental and probably very easy to see through because I always say what I feel. Transparent people like me don't always have it easy in today's fast and unforgiving world."

What can you learn about life on a football pitch?
"A lot. The most important thing is to always stick to your principles even if there are complications. I'm a battler. Life in Portugal is much more difficult than in Germany. My mother worked in three different places as a cleaner. And because the minimum wage is very low in Portugal it was difficult to pay the rent. For the first 16 years of my life, I lived with my family in my grandparents’ house because we couldn't afford our own flat. My father was a builder and he worked six months in Switzerland at a time and then spent a month with us. He had to go abroad to feed his family. Fortunately he is now a pensioner. I was good at school and I always had football."

João Cancelo, Interview, FC Bayern
João Cancelo came through the youth section at Benfica. The Portuguese player then moved to Valencia before finally ending up at FC Bayern via Milan, Turin and Manchester. © Markus Burke

You use the hashtag #mommyblessme on Instagram. Would you like to explain that?
"It was very tough when I lost my mother at the age of 18. My father said to me I had to accept more responsibility for the family. He didn't have any work and my brother was at school. It wasn't an easy time. You need to have determination. I think that contributed to me being a more reserved person now although my nature is basically a very happy one. I have a tattoo of my mother on my upper arm and her name Filomena on my lower arm. Her blessing gives me strength and security. When I'm at home in Portugal, the first thing I do is visit my mother's grave. I feel good there. I can tell her everything I feel. It seems to me that she is still with us although she doesn't answer."

Your aim is to make your mother proud.
"I mean that in terms of sports and personal reasons. People who I like should be proud of me. I want to be a good husband, good father for my daughter, a good son for my father, a good brother for my brother – that's it. That inspires me."

The full interview is available in the current edition of the FC Bayern members’ magazine ‘51’. 

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