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Emerson: I would owe Europa League title to my mum - she stopped me quitting football

10:36 GMT+3 29/05/2019
Emerson Palmieri, Chelsea
The Blues full-back is preparing for the game of his life but he needed encouragement to keep going on a path that wasn't so straightforward

It took a mother's love to help Emerson Palmieri achieve his dream of becoming a professional footballer as he couldn't even contemplate playing in a Europa League final for Chelsea as a boy in Brazil.

Santos-born Emerson is the son of dock worker Reginaldo, who worked 10-hour days to earn enough to keep the family out of the country's infamous favelas, while his mother looked after both her sons who dreamed of footballing futures.

As a boy, Emerson recalls being fed up of travelling on an unreliable bus route across the city to play for Gremetal, a futsal team. The beach soccer-style player would then play for Santos, but only for their futsal team until he was 15, making inconvenient journeys from his Aparecida neighbourhood of Sao Paulo. 

At times, he wanted to quit. The football factory of Brazil produces some of the best players in the world, but it also chews up and spits out a generation who can't make it. 

However, Eliana Palmieri, his mother, pushed for him to continue and Emerson ultimately got the golden ticket to sign a contract with Santos after only making his first 11-a-side academy appearance at 15 years old.

And Emerson reveals he would dedicate a victory over Arsenal in Baku on Wednesday night to his family should Chelsea emerge victorious in another major European final.

"My mother and father have been the most important people. They are everything for me," the 24-year-old told Goal. "When I was six years old, my mum took me to training sessions every day. It took one hour each way every day because we lived on the opposite side of Santos.

"I was late to every training session. It was really far. I kept telling my mum that it was too far, we can't keep doing this, we can't keep being late. She said 'No, you will see if you keep going. You will become a success from it'. Now, I can see why it was important for me to go.

"My father was always working at the dock to help us live, my mum was feeding me and taking me to football. That's why I owe my career to them. They helped me reach my dream of becoming a professional footballer.

"I supported my local team Santos - it was important that I managed to play for my local team. It was a special feeling. I was at Santos since I was 10 years old, so it was vital for me to earn that contract. It was that day I said 'I am good enough to be a professional', then I focused on becoming an important player.

"I would say that the day I signed for Chelsea is just as important as Santos. It was great coming to Chelsea because my mum called me and she said 'Hey, son - you made it, you did it'. It was a happy day because I understood how important it was for her.

"Chelsea, for me, are in the top 10 most important teams in the world. That's why they think I have made it by signing here."

One of the most striking things about Emerson's image is his tattoos which cover both arms. Tributes to his mother and father, as well as religious text, cover one arm, while among other things on the other arm there is a nod to his mixed Brazilian and Italian heritage with his number 33 shirt number. 

Like many, he is mesmerised by football, watching it after training and playing FIFA and Football Manager with his friends. Emerson says that his Brazilian football idols have pressured him into achieving excellence and it is perhaps Roberto Carlos who inspired him to become a left-back.

"Every single Brazilian like me is under pressure in their childhood because, when it comes to becoming a footballer in Brazil, people think you need to be like Ronaldinho or Ronaldo Fenomeno. You absorb this pressure," Emerson continued.

"You also have Brazil and football. We are the biggest nation, so it is a good pressure to manage. We are crazy about the sport. I like to watch games, I learn from other players by watching them and I try to add what they do to my game.

"Ronaldo Fenomeno, Ronaldinho and Roberto Carlos were the three players I loved growing up. It is difficult for me to become like Roberto Carlos on free-kicks, he was a specialist with that powerful shot.

"I have tried to copy him, though, along with Marcelo at Real Madrid. They impress me as left-backs. I want to be a mix of them with my own personality as well."

Emerson's best friends at Chelsea are unsurprisingly the Brazilian group, but he also can speak to the Spanish group, as he continues to try to learn English.

David Luiz reaches out to help a lot of Brazilian talent around London, extending his arm to those even beyond Chelsea. Emerson acknowledges that Luiz's personality has been essential for him in his early Blues career.

"David Luiz helped me a lot since I got here," Emerson continued. "Also, Willian and Jorginho. Being Brazilian, our people are like that. People like to help each other and at the same time that they offered help to me, I want to help them as well. That's the way that we like to be."

After the final, Chelsea will look beyond Arsenal and set their sights on Manchester City and Liverpool, who finished 26 points and 25 points respectively above them in the Premier League table.

Emerson admits that Chelsea are not yet as good as the top of the table duo, but is confident they can be soon.

"Liverpool," Emerson abruptly said of the best team he has faced. "I say Liverpool were the most difficult because when we faced Man City our gameplan has worked. We held them in the right way.

"It was still a hard game for us, but then when we played against Liverpool and tried to prepare in the same way, they were more direct. From defence to offence. We couldn't get the clean sheet. I believe that Liverpool are the most difficult team.

"For sure we can catch them, we are not talking about only losses against them. We have beaten them as well. We need consistency to catch them but I believe that Chelsea will arrive at their level soon."

It took Emerson time to establish himself at Chelsea, with Marcos Alonso having been the first-choice left-back. Emerson, however, is increasingly winning out as they battle to impress manager Maurizio Sarri.

He had also just recovered from a knee injury when he signed for the club in January last year and Emerson thinks that he has yet to reach his top level for the Blues.

"It is hard for me to say that people have seen the best of me, but I can say that I have played many games really well," he concluded. "I am trying to learn from my mistakes too, I am still only 24 years old so I have a lot to learn.

"It is hard to say I have reached my peak. I am training every day to get the best for the fans. Of course, if I could, I would play in every game but I know that Chelsea has 22 important players. The reason why I consider this trophy more important is because I am playing more now.

"I think we are still missing a game that we can say is at the highest level in this competition. Maybe that's the next one."