Enjoying football is straightforward,” Johan Cruyff as soon as proclaimed. “But playing simple football is the hardest thing there is.” It’s a sentiment that clearly echoed within the thoughts of a sure Marcos Senna when he took to the pitch. “My style is simple and objective,” he stated. “I don’t like when players try to do easy things in a complicated way.”
The Brazil-born midfielder by no means donned the yellow of the Seleção, as an alternative simply the yellow of Villarreal, for 11 dependable years. Imperious and omnipresent, he performed with a subtlety that always went unnoticed, however not by those that valued his contribution.
Senna was born in São Paulo, although it was with Spain that he would discover his footballing calling. His profession was, in a method, lopsided, unconventional from the start. The place most gifted younger gamers emerge and stand out while nonetheless of their youth, Senna remained a relative unknown in his homeland till his mid-20s. A late bloomer, to say the least.
It appeared that Senna, unassuming and laid again, had been virtually ignored. He was by no means one to attract consideration to himself; a quiet, softly-spoken particular person whose enjoying fashion echoed that of his character. Senna did the unglamorous work, however he did it impeccably.
There was nothing eccentric about this holding midfielder, nothing spectacular. Maybe that’s why it appeared to require probably the most astute of observers to lastly take discover. Sporting glasses, no flashily costly clothes or jewelry, and talking in a hushed tone bordering on a whisper, Senna made a refreshing change from a few of his extra exuberant counterparts. It wasn’t till his early 30s that he was really acknowledged; bizarrely, he was one thing of a revelation as he approached the latter levels of his profession.
Earlier than that, although, Senna spent the early years of his profession within the decrease divisions of Brazil, hoping for a break. He received it in 1999, a transfer to Corinthians that quickly introduced with it success. He was a part of the aspect that gained the Série A and Campeonato Paulista, however his early years have been a far cry from the safety and longevity that might come later. Senna moved on to Juventude, then São Caetano. It was with the latter that his performances caught the attention of an up and coming membership in Spain, an hour to the north of Valencia.
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Senna’s transfer to Villarreal in 2002 was unheralded, a €600,000 signing that hardly registered amongst the plethora of La Liga’s extra respected arrivals. In hindsight, it was shrewd enterprise; the modest charge can be repaid tenfold. However there was undeniably a component of luck that Villarreal got here to signal Senna in any respect.
AS journalist, Javi Mata, revealed that the Yellow Submarine had initially deliberate to usher in a special, extra in-demand Brazilian midfielder. “Villarreal originally wanted to sign Gilberto Silva,” Mata stated. “The deal had been agreed but then Emerson – at Real Madrid – got injured and this left Brazil with just one defensive midfielder for the 2002 World Cup. Gilberto Silva played every game and his performances grabbed the attention of Arsenal and he went there instead.”
Senna had presents from Russia, however a transfer to Spain proved a extra engaging proposition. “Spain’s is a more beautiful football than Brazil’s,” he stated, controversially. However for 2 years, he was used sparingly at Villarreal, hindered by repetitive knee accidents. He later recalled how a member of the membership’s hierarchy had prompt that his unlucky health points have been the results of a curse.
“When I first signed for Villarreal I chose the number 19 for the back of my shirt,” Senna informed Graham Hunter in his guide Spain: The Inside Story of La Roja’s Historic Treble. “One of many membership administrators got here to me and informed me: ‘That’s an unfortunate quantity round right here, maybe you’d higher assume once more.’ However I appreciated the quantity and advised him I wasn’t superstitious like that.
“Then in the January of my first season I did really bad ligament damage to my knee against Betis, was out for several months, and the director came to me again. I ignored him, got back to playing and immediately was injured in the knee again. This time he insisted that I was suffering the jinx of the number and although I stopped and thought about it, I made a point of not giving in to some sort of made-up hoodoo.”
Senna didn’t give in, and the incessant accidents didn’t persist. He had demonstrated his commendable resilience after what was a troublesome begin to life in Europe, away from his household, at a better degree of football. Third and second-placed finishes would comply with in La Liga, a totally match Senna turning into the ideologue of an inherently trendy Villarreal aspect.
Manuel Pellegrini’s appointment was very important for Senna. The Chilean launched a possession-based recreation, and the newly-invigorated midfield common thrived. Senna expertly shielded the defence, marshalling in entrance of the centre backs, however not within the historically bodily sense. At 5 foot eight inches, he was not notably imposing, though he had an air of assurance, a command of his space of the pitch that few dared to dispute.
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Nonetheless, Senna remained unsung regardless of his notable affect at Villarreal. Even once they confronted Arsenal within the semi-final of the Champions League in 2006, a big landmark for the membership, Senna was not on the radar of many. As an alternative, Juan Román Riquelme and Diego Forlán, the dynamic attacking duo, have been on the forefront of consideration, whereas Senna silently dictated.
Villarreal and Senna might have misplaced out towards Arsenal, however it felt like the start of one thing. A group from a city whose whole inhabitants might match contained in the Emirates Stadium had ascended to the highest of the European recreation and have been now, albeit as underdogs, capable of compete towards the footballing elite.
Senna’s fame had slowly grown alongside the membership’s. In 2006, after his domineering shows within the center for Villarreal, Manchester United got here calling, however he turned down the supply of a transfer to Previous Trafford; El Submarino Amarillo had clearly made an indelible impression. “I won’t pretend I didn’t study the offer carefully: it was Man United,” he stated. “But Villarreal made me feel wanted and I don’t regret staying.”
In the identical yr – a profession defining one – Senna certified for a Spanish passport. He had adopted a brand new nationality, taken to a rustic by which he was welcomed, and when Luis Aragonés referred to as him as much as the Spanish nationwide workforce, he had little hesitation in accepting. “I always knew the Brazil team was distant and after I was naturalised and played a game for Spain I totally forgot about it,” Senna stated. “I am privileged. For Brazil, where could I play?”
There had appeared no indication that a spot within the Seleção squad was imminent. Senna, although, had proven on quite a few events that he had a singular set of expertise. The nucleus of a well-functioning Villarreal aspect, Aragonés was eager to utilise Senna in an analogous approach amongst the excess of technically gifted pass-masters within the Spain squad.
Some cynically seen Senna’s choice as an try from Aragonés to diffuse a number of the rigidity amidst accusations of racism. As the one black participant in Spain’s workforce, his inclusion was seen as a technique to finish the widespread criticism that had come Aragonés’ approach when he labelled Thierry Henry “a black shit” throughout a coaching session.
Senna vehemently denied these claims, as he repeatedly did when requested whether or not Spanish football had an inherent difficulty with racism. “He is not racist,” he stated. “Aragonés is a spectacular person. He helped a lot bringing me to the Spain team, and the fact people thought he was racist was minimised by the fact he called me. I see the way he treats me and how he likes me.”
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Whatever the controversy, Senna made his worldwide debut in March 2006, and was part of the squad that went to Germany for the World Cup. Spain reached the final 16, disappointingly eradicated by France, and Senna admitted that “in 2006 I felt a little bit – how shall I put this – lost”.
True integration would take time. This was an alien expertise for Senna, taking his first steps into worldwide football on the age of 29. After Germany, he misplaced his place to David Albelda, however then gained it again forward of the 2008 European Championship. Within the build-up to the event in Austria and Switzerland, Senna had been appointed captain at Villarreal and led his aspect to an astonishing second-placed end, forward of Barcelona.
Riquelme and Forlán had gone, as had earlier captain Quique Álvarez, so Senna stepped up. And he would quickly develop into equally indispensable for Spain. “At Euro 2008 I felt as much part of it as anyone,” he stated. “I felt Spanish. I owe Spain everything. At first I was nervous, but everyone treated me brilliantly and Luis Aragonés was fundamental. I didn’t even think about the Brazilian team. The only team in my head is Spain.”
At Euro 2008, Senna might conceivably have been named the participant of the event. He wasn’t, however many claimed he ought to have been. All through La Roja’s profitable marketing campaign, the one which started their interval of domination, Senna protected a defence that some thought-about weak, denied his opposition area, recycled possession with unerring accuracy and instigated the method of Spain’s carousel-like passing strikes with such effectivity that it appeared virtually mechanical.
“He gives us the balance we need and does a dirty job,” stated David Silva. “He does a fantastic job for us and is a wonderful guy,” added goalkeeper Iker Casillas. “We know his importance.” By now, everybody knew his significance – all however the least observant, anyway. Senna’s endurance had been vindicated; by the age of 32, he had lastly earned widespread recognition. Not that it was crucial factor to him.
Senna referred to as himself “an athlete of Christ”, devoutly spiritual and teetotal. “The lads like to wind me up,” he revealed forward of Spain’s Euro 2008 ultimate towards Germany. “They say to me, ‘Marcos, if we win the Euro we are going to make you stay out until you vomit’.”
Senna’s consistency continued at membership degree, as did his loyalty to Villarreal. When he and his teammates met Arsenal once more within the Champions League, this time the quarter-final of 2009, Senna careworn that the trophy was there to be gained. “We can win the Champions League,” he insisted. They didn’t; Arsenal once more acquired the higher of the Spaniards, however Senna’s optimism by no means diminished.
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Senna all the time seen his profession positively given his humble beginnings. From the poverty of Jardim Rincão, the neighbourhood the place he grew up, to the beginning of an unexpectedly high-profile profession within the decrease reaches of Brazilian football, he took nothing without any consideration. His father labored to make sure his son might play football, and then persuaded him to hold on when he considered stopping.
“Coming from humble origins gave me strong values,” Senna stated. “It made me want to succeed and appreciate my achievements even more. I had an aim to become a professional footballer – the best that I could be – and I achieved all my aims. I am proud of all my achievements.”
His achievements have been many, although the potential of profitable the World Cup, a career-long aspiration, was cruelly taken away in 2010. Had he been chosen to go to South Africa by Vicente del Bosque, a dream would have develop into actuality. However on the age of 34, and with the emergence of Sergio Busquets at Barcelona, he was deemed an expendable remnant of the aspect that had succeeded so impressively two years earlier.
It was harsh, if comprehensible. Senna had suffered from accidents at Villarreal within the season previous to the World Cup, and his aspect had regressed barely to a seventh-placed end. Maybe del Bosque had heard him joke about being “pissed off” when requested to run after his teammates had made a mistake.
Senna remained at Villarreal till 2013, when he departed after 11 seasons to NASL membership New York Cosmos. He completed his profession with two years in America, however it was the yellow of Villarreal that outlined the Brazilian. “He’s a key man in the recent history of Villarreal – a great captain,” stated journalist Xavi Sidro. “He’s a footballer that represents the evolution of the club and who played a key part in its greatest achievements. He was an incredible player and an even better person.”
His contribution to Villarreal as a participant was invaluable, and he would return in 2016 as an envoy, the bond between the midfielder and the membership seemingly inseparable. He has additionally turned his hand to philanthropy, establishing the Marcos Senna Basis, which goals to assist deprived communities in Brazil.
Sometimes altruistic, Senna has labored in the direction of serving to kids of an analogous background to that of his personal, replicate his achievements. It’s unlikely, nevertheless, that any of them may have a profession fairly as distinctive, as unusually non-linear, or as unconventionally profitable as Senna’s.
By Callum Rice-Coates @callumrc96