Marcelo Leite Pereira, or Marcelinho, is all set for his second year at FC Pune City, his third in the Indian Super League (ISL). He scored eight goals last season for the Stallions, just two short of his Golden Boot-winning tally with Delhi Dynamos in 2016.
Marcelinho feels that every team needs a right combination, much like the partnerships he enjoyed with Florent Malouda (at Delhi Dynamos) and Emiliano Alfaro (FC Pune City).
"Combination for me is very important. Nobody can do anything alone. I was very lucky to play with Malouda earlier and Alfaro last season. I hope it continues like this because it is very important for two players to share the responsibility. You can see how (FC) Goa had the combination between Ferran Corominas and (Manuel) Lanzarote. So a combination is very important for a team. If one player is not doing well, another can," he explained.
The duo of Corominas and Lanzarote scored 31 goals while Marcelinho and Alfaro combined to score 17 goals for their respective sides. But Lanzarote chose to join ATK which meant that particular partnership has been broken. However, the Pune City forward hopes to continue striking the chords with Alfaro.
And now with Miguel Angel Portugal at the helm, Marcelinho feels that the coach has the personnel to take the team all the way to the title.
"He (Portugal) has a big challenge because we did very well last season. We reached the semi-finals, the team was well connected and now we need to do better. So I don't know how he will manage, for me, the best foreign players in the league," he stated.
"I am always motivated. Last season we reached the semi-finals," he reiterated. "So I'm pushing myself. It's like a challenge to myself to be in the final but it's not easy. We need to work step by step to be competitive and play well. I will give my maximum and I hope to be happy at the end of the season."
Marcelinho feels that Pune City are title contenders but backs the likes of the ATK, Bengaluru FC and FC Goa to challenge for it too.
"It's too early to say who will be the title contenders. We are in pre-season. I have high expectations from my team and I hope to be in the final. I think you can see traditional teams like Bengaluru and Goa are playing very well. Jamshedpur are doing well and Kolkata (ATK) is looking strong. There are like five-to-six teams that can be champions. It's good for the fans and it's good for the players to be motivated and challenged," he observed.
The former Flamengo youth player is no stranger to criticism even if it comes from a section of his own fans, particularly when he picks seemingly unneccesary bookings.
In his defence, the 31-year-old said, "I accept the criticism. I'm not perfect. I am human and I make mistakes. Sometimes, as we are here in India far away from family, we have feelings. Some days you do not feel a hundred per cent. You try to find a line and not to be so bad but also not perfect. Sometimes we make mistakes.
"That's normal. Everyday, I try to be better. I try not to make mistakes. I can only say that I'm human and I make mistakes like everyone (else)."
FC Pune City have two good wingers in Nikhil Poojari and Ashique Kuruniyan and the former Atletico Madrid B player hopes to build an understanding with the duo.
"They (Poojari and Kuruniyan) have arrived (from the India U-23 team). They are very good players. Let's see how coach wants them to play but for sure we will need them. They are strong, they are good and I hope to be connected (to them) as much as possible. We really need that help," said Marcelinho.
Greece was considered as the Brazilian's "second home", having played for various clubs there. He now looks forward to play in the ISL on the long haul.
"I'm very happy to be here. A lot of players from my country (Brazil) want to come here to play. I am very proud to play here and I hope to continue for more years. I can say that I am very happy to be a part of the history of ISL.
"About scoring goals, I like to think step by step. I like to be fit and competitive, work on my skills and help my team. And then everything will be a consequence of that. At the end, of course, we want to be champions but I want to do everything step by step," Marcelinho signed out.