Last Saturday you scored your first goal for Zenit against Ural, congratulations, how did it feel?
I was delighted, I’ve missed more than five months due to an injury and that was a difficult period. Muscle injuries are very difficult, but now I fell positive and have played four full matches in a row and yes, I finally celebrated my first goal. It’s very important to be mentally strong right now.
It looked like football in Russia was going to carry on, but in the end, the RFU decided to suspend the league until 10 April because of the coronavirus situation...
Yes, this is a tough situation. We have all been tested and confirmed there were no cases among the players and club staff. Fortunately, there are very few cases of the virus in Russia, but this is all a precaution and I think we will continue training in any case.
There is no football in Spain either at the moment, have you spoken to any of your ex-colleagues from Barcelona's? How are they getting on?
Now everyone is focused on their families. When I was at Barca I forged friendships with Nelson Semedo and Arthur, we have a groupchat on WhatsApp, with Rafinha and Coutinho. They’ve said that Barca is calmer now that they are top of La Liga again.
Let's talk about life in Russia, has it been hard to get used to it so far?
I really like the cold so it’s been fine for me to get used to, I thought it would be harder when the offer came in. I told my agent that I wanted to come here because of the Champions League, that Zenit always play in and it’s good for me to show Europe what I can do.
Life is very calm here. I get up at 10, going to training, we have to be at the training centre at 11, because the session starts at 11:30. Being late is strictly punished. I like to cook at home - sometimes my family bring me real Brazilian food because it’s my favorite.
How have you found your teammates?
It’s been perfect! Everyone here speaks English and I’m learning it and after that I will try Russian. I was not the best student at school, but with foreign languages, I’ve always found them quite easy, in Barcelona I quickly learned Spanish.
What are the differences between football in Spain and Russia?
Russian football is more physical, the players here are very tough. In Spain, more attention is paid to technique and the style of play.
What are your fondest memories from Barcelona?
Every day I remember it, it was like a dream. I’ll always remember the two goals I scored against Real Madrid and Inter in the Champions League. These are my coolest memories.
Was it difficult to play so little there?
It wasn’t easy. You train everyday with the aim of going out on the pitch and playing. I had a great relationship with Valverde, he is a really good person and a good coach. But with my position it was difficult for me to break into the first team because of the competition there.
He never explained to me why I didn’t play, but I got used to it because I am a professional and that’s how it works. I never gave up, worked hard and when I got a chance I played well and helped the team. You never know what will happen to you, maybe one day in the future I go back there, I would be pleased too, but now all my thoughts are only about Zenit. When the offer came, I did not hesitate, because it is a club that plays in Europe and I want to win all the trophies here.
What was your relationship like with Messi?
It was good, a usual relationship. We didn’t chat that much, especially at the beginning. Later we began to talk more with each other. He has a big influence on the locker room, everyone listens to him as he is the captain of Barcelona. I really respect him, the whole world says he is the best player and he is for me too.
What differences do you see at Barcelona now with the change of manager?
I don’t see much difference. Barca can change the coach, but it is very difficult to make the players change their way of playing. They have their habits, style and a class of their own.
You are 23 years old and your contract at Zenit is valid until 2024. Where would you like to be in the future?
The future is unpredictable and I am still young, life has so many twists and turns, today I am playing in Russia and tomorrow I could be in China. I hope I can play in Europe too. The Premier League and Serie A are the leagues I would most like to play in one day.
Last question, what movie, book or series would you recommend to us in these non-football days?
The series Elite. The second season has just come out and I really like it!