Alex Telles

UTD Unscripted: Think like a winner

Saturday 20 March 2021 08:00

I’ve never, ever been a good loser.

I've always been competitive. Even today, even at stone, paper, scissors or any type of bet with people I know… I just don't like losing at anything and that’s the way I’ve always been.

Right from the beginning, I was always the lad that grabbed the ball and chose the teams. I didn't want to be left out of any team. I always got my friends together and organised the games, and if I lost then it would really bother me. If games were finishing and I was losing, I would always add extra time to the games to play on longer for the comeback, to never leave the pitch defeated. If I did, I'd get really annoyed and not want to talk to anyone, just wanting to train to be able to win the next game.

Thankfully, I was part of winning teams from a young age. Ever since I was very little, from when I started understanding about life, I was always kicking a ball around the house. I was a very active kid, never sat still, so I think sport and football helped me a lot. I knew from an early age what I wanted to do: I wanted to play football and win.

Thank God I've won things everywhere I've played. I remember the first important trophy I won as a kid was when I was about 17. I still hadn't really made it into the first team and we won an important tournament in the south of Brazil. It was really important to me, I’ve still got a photo of me with the trophy that I still look upon affectionately. Thank God everywhere I've been I've won a lot and that's very important to me. I think that represents a part of history and it's great for our careers.

That first trophy you win is so important because it means the start of a winning trajectory, the start of a story that is making a mark in football, big or small. Making a mark is important in my career. That was the first trophy, and today, thank God, I must have won about seven or eight trophies in my career as a professional footballer and that's really important to me.

It hasn’t always come easy or been straightforward, though.

Alex Telles says

"I've always been competitive. Even today, even at stone, paper, scissors or any type of bet with people I know… I just don't like losing at anything and that’s the way I’ve always been."

Take my debut for Juventude, my first club in Brazil, for example. It was a really memorable day for me. Juventude are from a small city so I had a lot of friends and relatives in the stadium that day. During the game, I played a one two on the left wing and came inside. Out of nothing, everything opened up for me on the edge of the box, so I brought it on to my left foot in the area. I've always had a good shot from distance, so I hit it and it went in off the crossbar. It was a surprise for me as I wasn't the type of player to get in the box and shoot, but that time the play worked well! Of course, my first goal is a memory that still brings me a lot of joy, a lot of memories of my first sensation of scoring a goal as a footballer, but unfortunately I ended up getting injured soon after and had to leave the field.

I ruptured the cruciate ligament in my left knee and was out for seven months. So, while I was very happy to have scored my first goal and lived the dream of scoring, I had a long road ahead of me.

That game did a lot for my ambition. That first goal for me was a huge incentive for my career. Starting out, things are very difficult. A lot of players have been through this. I thought of giving up at the start for numerous reasons. That was before winning my first trophy as a youngster. There wasn't much opportunity to play, it was really difficult to get the opportunity to be on the pitch showing what I could do. A lot of the time I would be training but not playing in many matches. When you're younger, when you don't have much experience, you immediately think about giving up. You don't know what your future holds, whether you'll make it as a player, so you start thinking about studying something. So, yes there were many times when I thought of giving up. The greatest motivator for me not doing so was the strong will of my family. My own desire first of all and then from my parents, who never let me give up on anything. My dad always dreamed of being a footballer but didn't make it, so I carry my father's dream with me and have been playing together with him up to the present day.

The fact is, it's not easy to make it to the highest level in football. To get there you face a lot of obstacles and difficulties, but I never gave up and I've made it here through a lot of struggle and I'm very grateful for this. I think football is all about moments, good and bad, so you have to learn to value both.

The scar on my head, for example, is something I look upon affectionately. This was another difficult episode in my career, but I'm proud of this scar as it's part of my story, part of my career. It was a very important derby match in Brazilian football – the derby between Gremio and Internacional – the game was almost over and I went to head a high ball. I got to it before the opposition player, who came in late. We ended up clashing heads and I suffered a depressed facial fracture. I had to have quite a complex operation, which is where this big scar on my head comes from. As I already said, it's part of my story, it's my distinctive feature and I've always progressed very well in my career when coming back from injury.

There's always been a very positive response from me in those situations. Firstly, I'm someone with a lot of faith, faith in God. Right from the start me and my family have always had a lot of faith and belief. I think there's always something greater than us in which we can trust and believe, and this is the most important thing for me. Then there's obviously hard work, working on a positive mentality, having family around you, people who motivate you, lift you up and help you grow every day. It was through them and myself that I achieved this. Most of all I think it's because this is my dream, chasing my dreams and never giving up.

That has allowed me to win a lot of trophies in Brazil, Turkey and Portugal so far in my career. I have been part of strong winning teams and there’s no big secret to success: I think the main thing is honest hard work - work where all the players give their all not just during games but also in day-to-day training. You need to do work in the gym before a match. If you need to work out then you work out, you do your recovery work when needed. Sometimes the work nobody sees is the most important; it could be the work that wins a league title. Resting at home, recovering at the right times, sleeping well. Thinking about the practical elements, definitely on the pitch there can't be any individualism. I believe that football is very collective, we win as one and we lose as one. Having a tight-knit united group where you all play together makes the team stronger with much greater chances of winning something.

Alex Telles says

"The scar on my head, for example, is something I look upon affectionately. This was another difficult episode in my career, but I'm proud of this scar as it's part of my story, part of my career."

Having been here at United for six months now, I’ve seen enough to say that I think we're on the right path to success. Quality-wise, all the players are high quality. Whoever comes into the side maintains high standards. Whoever comes in to replace another player or whoever is playing, the high standard is maintained which is really important. I believe we have a really good group, and you get a feel of this competitiveness as when we lose or draw everyone's really upset in the dressing room, it's noticeable amongst the players. I’m not the only bad loser here! I think this frustration when we don't win a game is a sign that we are on the right path as there are only winning players here, I'm sure we will definitely win trophies here.

I think the most successful player is the one who wins a trophy and the next day is working towards winning another one. I think this is the great thing about football, that you always have another opportunity to win something even greater the next day. If you lose a game, you can work the following day to win your next game. There are a lot of opportunities in football and the good thing about the game is that every day there's something new: a new game for you to win, to achieve more and be remembered and make history at the club. I think this is the most important thing, being remembered fondly at your clubs for the things you've won.

When I win something, I firstly thank God for granting me the health to be able to play football. From there, we all win, not just one person, and everyone has their own inspiration. I have my family, the people around me who have supported me right from the start through the most difficult moments, so it's during these joyful moments that we think of them. The true friends that we have, those who support us, as I said before, when one player lifts the trophy it's the work of the whole team, not just the players but the coaching staff as well, everybody wins.

Of course, so do the supporters.

Alex Telles says

"Having been here at United for six months now, I’ve seen enough to say that I think we're on the right path to success. Quality-wise, all the players are high quality. Whoever comes into the side maintains high standards."

I love playing for the supporters. I'm someone who is full of heart, not just in sport but in life. I'm very passionate about things and when I'm into something, I really get into it. When I'm at a football club, I really feel the club and when I see a fan in the stadium celebrating a goal I feel the same emotions as them. When I score… well, first of all I'm a left-back, and left-backs don't usually score that many goals, in fact defenders don't score that often. So, when we get forward and score a goal it's a different type of joy, we are ecstatic. When I score a goal I want to celebrate together with the fans and hear the noise in the stadium… that moment is just epic. It really comes from the heart and I'm always ecstatic when this happens.

So it has been really strange playing in empty stadiums and, honestly, it's not easy. Obviously, a stadium full of our supporters gives you additional motivation. You're filled with motivation when you go onto the pitch to warm up and you hear the noise of the entire stadium. We really miss it, we can't wait for the stadiums to fill up again. It's also good when we play away, it's good to hear the boos and whistles as this also motivates you in a different way. We know that it's part of the footballing spectacle and we hope that they'll be back soon. I think the only thing that football is lacking right now is the fans. It's everything about the noise: it's when you score a goal or even when you don't score but come close, and there's that 'almost' sensation in the air. When you're tired, the shouting fans drive you on and give you additional motivation. You play for yourself and the team but you also play for the fans.

Sadly I haven’t had the chance to play in front of United fans yet, but I've only heard great things and I've looked through supporters’ videos on YouTube. Sometimes, when I see the videos on social media from games in a full Old Trafford it really motivates me. It moves me to want to play in front of a full Old Trafford crowd. I can't wait for this to happen but we know that for this to happen people need to be conscientious today so we can be together again further down the line.

Then, when we are finally all together, we will focus on winning together.