One of the most decorated and famous full-backs in world football, Roberto Carlos is striving to instil in the Sivasspor squad he took charge of last summer the winning mentality that served him so well as a player.
The former FC Internazionale Milano and Real Madrid CF defender – famous for his marauding runs and powerful, swerving free-kicks during a playing career that yielded three UEFA Champions League triumphs and two European/South American Cups – had only a brief spell in caretaker charge of FC Anji Makhachkala on his coaching CV before accepting the reins at Sivasspor in June.
If his appointment was greeted with some scepticism in Turkey given his lack of experience, that was not the case among the Anatolian minnows' supporters, who gave him a rapturous welcome when he was paraded after signing a two-year contract to succeed Rıza Çalımbay.
"Football is a simple thing and system-wise there's not much to create," said the 125-cap Brazilian international, who hung up his boots in March 2012 while at Anji. "You just walk out onto the pitch and show a desire to win. Certainly, the coach has to have a philosophy and the players need to reflect this on the field with their own qualities.
My philosophy is winning, winning and winning. My entire career was like this and I want to bring the same to Sivasspor."
If the first half of the season is anything to go by, his outlook seems to be rubbing off on his players. After 17 games, Sivasspor are in fifth position. Though they are 12 points adrift of leaders Fenerbahçe SK, the club their coach scored six goals for in 65 Süper Lig appearances between 2007 and 2010, Roberto Carlos's side are within touching distance of second-placed Galatasaray AŞ and through to the last eight of the Turkish Cup. They resume their league campaign against Kayserispor on 25 January.
"Fenerbahçe might have collected the most points in this period, but Sivasspor played the better football. This is not just my opinion – the whole of Turkey says so," he explained. "We finished the first part of the campaign in the top five and our aim is to be among the top three come the end. My team will continue to play ambitiously and passionately in the second half of the season."
Key to that attacking ideal will be Cicinho. The 33-year-old former Madrid and AS Roma right-back was persuaded to return to Europe from Brazil by his compatriot last summer and has proved an astute acquisition, providing a league-best eight assists in 16 outings. "I have quickly adapted to the team," said Cicinho.
"The quality and level of the league is quite high. There are many good teams and every game is a big challenge. I would argue that it's at the same level as Serie A. Fenerbahçe seem to be the title favourites, but there is another half [of the season] to be played. There can be surprises and these can involve Sivasspor too."
The scoring threat of centre-back Manuel da Costa has also proven a boon – the ex-PSV Eindhoven, ACF Fiorentina, West Ham United FC and FC Lokomotiv Moskva player striking six times in 14 matches – while attacking midfielder Aatif Chahechouhe has added consistency to his game and is the division's ten-goal joint leading marksman.
However, if Sivasspor are to hit their coach's stated target come the end of term, there is one thing they need to improve: their record against the top four. They have taken just one point in 2013/14 from fixtures against Fenerbahçe, Galatasaray, Kasımpaşa SK and Beşiktaş JK, but with three of those sides still to visit the 4 Eylül stadium there is every chance that aim could be realised.
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