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Alex sure PSG are ready to step up

Published: Sunday 5 August 2012, 16.45CET
Having left Chelsea FC for Paris Saint-Germain FC, Alex helped the French side into Europe's elite and he tells Champions: "We have a chance to build something special here."
by Fernando Duarte
Alex sure PSG are ready to step up
Alex is hopeful of a fine season for PSG ©AFP/Getty Images
Published: Sunday 5 August 2012, 16.45CET

Alex sure PSG are ready to step up

Having left Chelsea FC for Paris Saint-Germain FC, Alex helped the French side into Europe's elite and he tells Champions: "We have a chance to build something special here."

At the end of last season Brazilian centre-back Alex could have been forgiven a twinge of regret about his €5.1m January move from Chelsea FC to Paris Saint-Germain FC.

When I joined PSG, it was clear to me we would not start winning overnight

The club he had left proceeded to lift the UEFA Champions League trophy they had failed to win in his four full English seasons. His new side were also pipped to the Ligue 1 title by Montpellier Hérault SC despite the financial resources afforded PSG by new Qatari owners.

"I am not going to say it was easy to leave a club like Chelsea, but the time for a new challenge had come," Alex, 30, told Champions magazine. "I wasn't getting as many first-team opportunities as I deserved and when that happens the club or player have to make a decision

"I was happy for my friends at Chelsea. Ramires is a great guy and David Luiz deserved more credit than he got at the start. People forget how tough it is to settle in the Premiership."

Though born in Rio de Janeiro state, Alex got his first break in football in neighbouring Sao Paulo. His early outings were for local club CA Juventus, who share their name with the Turin giants thanks to that region's tradition of Italian immigration; he was then poached by Santos FC.

At Santos he played alongside Robinho, Elano Blumer and Diego in a talented young squad that broke a 35-year club hoodoo by clinching the 2002 Brazilian championship. Alex's partnership with Andre Luiz was the foundation for their success, the pair being labelled the Twin Pillars by fans.

Chelsea bought him in 2004 yet, fearing work-permit problems, loaned him to PSV Eindhoven. Quickly nicknamed the Tank because of his powerful free-kicks, Alex helped PSV land three straight Dutch Eredivisie titles and reach the UEFA Champions League semi-finals in 2005.

Alex finally became a Chelsea player proper in 2007 but, five years later, after he made just nine appearances under André Villas-Boas, he was allowed to head for Paris. The defender was intrigued by PSG's ambitions, the presence of countryman Leonardo as director of football and the arrival of his ex-Chelsea boss Carlo Ancelotti as coach.

"Carlo is the kind of manager who makes things easier for the players," Alex said. "He's had a long career as player and manager. He knows how to handle situations and how to treat players fairly, regardless of the pressure he's under."

One thing Alex learned at Stamford Bridge is that financial muscle does not necessarily deliver instant glory. At the time of writing, Qatar Sports Investments (QSI) have spent a French record €127m on players since taking over PSG, raising expectations at a club who have not won Ligue 1 since 1994.

"A team need at least two seasons to gel properly and get into a position to challenge regularly for trophies," Alex said. "When I joined PSG, it was clear to me we would not start winning overnight. It's understandable that the arrival of new owners and all the media coverage the team were receiving would get people overexcited, but the players always knew we are in the process of building a foundation."

While Montpellier beat PSG to the crown, the Parisians at least secured a return to the UEFA Champions League. "European qualification is an achievement," insisted Alex.

"I'm sure the fans are delighted we're going to be playing in the world's biggest competition. Some of the most memorable moments of my career took place in the Champions League, like when PSV made it to the semi-finals in 2005 and almost knocked AC Milan out. I am relishing the prospect of more European nights."

Nonetheless, Alex also recognises that QSI are anticipating silverware sooner rather than later. "They certainly haven't come to PSG and committed so many resources not to win tournaments," he said. "But I have faith – we have a chance to build something special."

This is an edited version of a piece in Champions #54. To read the full article, you can subscribe here.

Last updated: 05/08/12 16.48CET

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