Exclusive interview: Internacional's Andrés D'Alessandro: "I prefer to play well and lose rather than play badly and win."

A key man for Internacional for over a decade now, Andrés D'Alessandro speaks to Copalibertadores.com about his legacy at the club, the lack of classic no.10s and his favourite coach.

Andrés D’Alessandro welcomed the Copalibertadores.com team on a sunny morning in Porto Alegre to talk football. The meeting is a rare one – the Argentine grants very few exclusive interviews. But “D’Ale” loves to speak about football and the chat goes on for almost an hour. There is nostalgia in the air, from someone who will never forget his 2010 Libertadores triumph, the biggest title in his career, according to the player himself.

At 38 years of age, the left-footed midfielder is blessed with a unique ability and equally striking personality as he prepares to perform off the pitch. D’Ale has not yet confirmed it, but he has completed a course to become a coach and it is a future option when he finishes his playing career. He also does not dismiss taking up a director’s role at Internacional, with who he has a contract until the end of the year.

Before, in accordance with his style of play, the genuine no. 10 and his professionalism remain as a legacy for the youngsters at the club. D’Alessandro believes that the great no. 10s like him are becoming extinct and highlights the importance of having a such a decisive player. For him, it is worth losing playing well rather than to win playing badly.


After so much time, how do you consider your career and the things that you have won?
Football has given me much more than I imagined it could. Football has provided me with things that I didn’t think it could. When I was a child I thought about being a professional footballer, I watched the players on TV and said: “I want to be there.” Football opens so many doors for you, so many possibilities to meet people, football gives you this chance to travel the world as well, so many things that when a players stops to think he says: “Wow, I don’t think there’s anything better than playing football.”

Are you happy with what you have accomplished?
I think that it’s a privilege. Because it’s not easy, it’s difficult, and it’s a privilege because many people want to be in the position that we are in. So, we have to be aware of this, I have always tried to take care of my career, I have always tried to give a little extra effort, I always knew that I could give a little more. So it’s with this thinking that I am here today and I will continue like this until my last day.

Did you imagine that you would get so far?
The dream that I always had, as I said before, was to be a professional footballer. After that, we want to win titles, be a champion and the biggest dream that I had was to win the Libertadores, the most important title that we have in Latin America. It’s a title that doesn’t compare with anything else, it is something that is above everything else. And thank God, I managed it here in this club, at Inter, after having won the Sudamericana. It came almost all together, the Libertadores, with a very good, experienced team, with difficult matches, but I think that it is one of the most important titles and definitely the most beautiful memory of my career.

What is your relationship like with Internacional today?
I have been at the club for 11 years, being one of the oldest, the biggest in the changing room, we end up taking on things which are important for the group, for the club. Never alone, always with other leaders, with other players. But it’s good, it’s good to develop other things off the pitch, to know people, different characters, different personalities, profiles of teammates, to manage different situations as well. So we enter into something which makes us grow as a person as well, so that I can understand better my teammates, so that I can put myself in a situation where I also have to manage the strength of the changing room, and this is good, I like it. I like it because, after so many years, it makes you learn and become more mature, it helps to have many more experiences and get to know people, which is important.

Why are there so many Argentine coaches working abroad at big clubs and not Brazilians?
With my experience, it is difficult to speak about coaches because I am not yet a coach, but I believe that this new wave happened much sooner in Argentina. This new arrival came, this change of coaches, happened much sooner than here in Brazil. In Brazil it is happening now, these new, younger, coaches. Even so, there are many coaches today who have enjoyed success, I’m speaking about Simeone, Pochettino, who didn’t work in Argentina, for example. Pellegrino (Maurício, coach of Leganes) is abroad, Bielsa also is.... for me, the best there is. I’m suspect to talk about him because for me he is the best there is. Many of them didn’t work in Argentina, but they learnt. All those I cited worked with Bielsa, for example.

What meaning does your photo with Francescoli have, a River idol and Libertadores champion? Explain that image.
De Francescoli, I was a ball-boy and we took photos with everyone. And we wanted something from Francescoli. It was impossible, we wanted a sock, shorts, something. And this photo I have at home, he is a guy that won the Libertadores in 1996 with River, I was a ball-boy in this Libertadores. The guy represents River a lot as well as Uruguay, he is a symbol.

You’re close to ending your career. Do you see someone ready at Inter with the ability to succeed you?
This passing of the baton, citing some name, I don’t want to put pressure on anyone, but I think yes there are players who in the future can come into the team with ease. As an Argentine I’m going to speak about Sarrafiore. He is a young kid that arrived last year, he is young but is growing each day, understanding more about Brazilian football, South American football, international football. And he is making progress, this is important.

Do you think there are no more classic midfielders like before? Are you the last true no. 10 in South American football?
Football changes. What we call modern football today, many teams play without a midfielder, without a hitch, I believe that it will never cease to exist, but obviously those classic no. 10s, there are few playing today. But I believe that all teams need one, if only to play 10, 15, 20, 50 minutes. Because, not speaking about me personally, but remembering many, they are different, they are very different

Who else could you cite?
I have watched him a lot, I could cite Valdivia, who is playing and is part of this discussion as well. Montillo who is in Argentina, who also plays in this style. Buonanotte, who is playing at Universidad Católica in Chile, is also a guy who has that classic style. There are many and we carry on this legacy. We think that football has evolved because football has changed the rules, the regulations, the dynamics, the style, there are new things, new tactics, today we speak a lot about 4-3-1-2, 4-1-4-1, but we often forget about this essence, what it is to play football.

What could be done to improve and not lose this?
When I speak of us, it is all of us, the football world, because I think that the result has often become more important than the route we take to win, that this route of valuing a little more, a little more trying to play well, to have a more clear idea and leave the result to one side. Before it was like this, very much so. I at least remember during my time that I was never a champion with the academy teams. At River they only wanted us to play well, they just wanted us to stop the ball, put it on the turf and play on the ground. That’s all. And we learnt like this. Today many continue with this idea, but others no, they are styles of play.

Do you want to leave a legacy?
Everything goes in football, it is up to us to continue taking this idea further forward. There are coaches who continue with this, there are coaches who mix the two styles, but I think that the discussion is more profound, we don’t have to think that the result is the most important thing. Obviously, the result is key in football, obviously if you play well and lose, you will be criticised, but I prefer to play well and lose rather than play badly and win. Because if you play badly and win in football it won’t lead to any title. And if you play well, work hard and have a solid base, I’ll lose some matches now, but with an idea of how to play, in the future I can win something.