When Brazilian playmaker Alex Meschini joined FC Spartak Moskva from SC Internacional at the start of the 2009 season, the deal raised few eyebrows. But Alex had already been capped twice by Brazil and helped Internacional win the Copa Libertadores, FIFA Club World Cup and Recopa Sudamericana, and in his first season in Russia scored 12 goals and made nine more to help Spartak to second place and into the 2010/11 UEFA Champions League group stage. Spartak's vice-captain, the 28-year-old spoke to UEFA.com about life in Russia and his FIFA World Cup dream.
UEFA.com: This is your second season in Russia. What are the main differences compared with the first and how would you rate Russian football in general?
Alex: The biggest difference is that now I'm fully aware how everything works here.
The time when every single thing was new to me is now long gone. Russian football can still improve a lot when it comes to sheer technique. There are quite a few good players here but that alone isn't enough. They need to invest even more in grassroots and you can see just that in the fact Russia missed out on the World Cup.
UEFA.com: Do you believe they are on the right track?
Alex: It all comes down to mentality. Here everybody thinks and feels football in a very different way when compared, for instance, with Brazil. They also need to evolve in terms of mentality. At Spartak it is a bit different because all the people who work at the club are more open-minded and that reflects on the team.
UEFA.com: This is your first spell abroad; how have you and your family adapted?
Alex: Around 15 years ago there were no foreign players here so that says a lot. In Brazil we have more quality players and we play with more joy but, again, that has to do with the mentality of the country. Here in Russia people are a bit colder, just like the weather. Moscow and St Petersburg are good cities to live.
My wife and son are adoring the experience. Everyone is quite nice and it's very safe to live here.
UEFA.com: Have you already learnt how to speak Russian? How important is that?
Alex: I can't say I'm fluent at it but I'm able to communicate with my team-mates on the pitch and that's the most important thing. Sometimes there's no need for words to get the job done. That's the beauty of football. It has its own language.
UEFA.com: Do you think Spartak have what it takes to become champions this season?
Alex: I don't think we are better than our main rivals but we're also not worse. The top four or five teams are pretty much at the same level and the strongest in terms of mentality will prevail in the end. We just have to take one game at a time. It's true we are struggling a bit at the moment but the league is a marathon, not a sprint.
UEFA.com: What do you think Spartak need to succeed in the UEFA Champions League?
Alex: I won't deny we have some limitations but I feel that this group of players can deliver if every single one of us believes that we can play at the highest level and against the most powerful opponents.
UEFA.com: What are your personal ambitions for the remainder of your career?
Alex: If you ask me if I would like to play for a club like Barcelona, Internazionale Milano or Chelsea my answer would of course be yes. I'm very happy at Spartak but every player aims to improve his situation. For now my main objective is to be at the World Cup. I have a chance, especially because I believe I did what I was asked to every time I was called up.
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