On Saturday 80.000 Borussia Dortmund fans will fill the Westfalenstadion, although there won’t be any Bundesliga action due to the international break. It’s an event far more important than any regular Bundesliga match, as it concerns a Borussia Dortmund legend. It’s the farewell match of Leonardo Deus Santos – in short Dedé. The crowd will obviously set a European record when it comes to farewell matches.
On Saturday BVB fans will celebrate one big party, as Dede has invited the crème de la crème of the past 20 years of Borussia Dortmund. Stefan Reuter, Christian Wörns, Julio Cesar, Marcio Amoroso, Jens Lehmann, Thorsten Frings, Jan Koller, Alex Frei, Mladen Petric, Mohamed Zidan, Kevin Großkreutz, Nuri Sahin… to only name a few. There will be also a “World selection” featuring players, who didn’t play for BVB such as Ailton, Rafinha, Paulo Sergio, Kevin Kuranyi. The list is big and prominent.
Leonardo, on Saturday 80.000 Borussia Dortmund fans will await to be part of your farewell match. That is a record in Europe. How did you take that in?
Dede: I’ve been really excited for the last three weeks. Especially this week – I was hardly able to sleep. It’s hard to put in words that 80.000 will come.
You have wet eyes now. Are you scared of Saturday? How many tissues fit into a pair football shorts?
Dede: (laughs) It’s not easy for me. How many players have the chance to play a farewell match for Borussia Dortmund? And then 80.000 will come to the Stadium. I’m a privileged man, god has opened that door for me. It doesn’t matter whether I laugh or cry, this isn’t a regular thing.
You invited a lot of former BVB players. There will be selection of half of the world’s former finest footballers…
Dede: That is not only my farewell match. That’s a match for a generation of 20 years of BVB. Champions League winners, German Champions, players out of the current squad. The fans can look forward to it. It’s a blessing to host this match, we’re all winners.
There is hardly a BVB player, who embodies “Real Love” as much as you do. How thankful are you, that you could play 13 years for this club?
Dede: It’s something money can’t buy and cannot be described in words. I could say “thank you” a million times and it wouldn’t suffice. Borussia Dortmund and I, this is a chemistry that grew on its own and is incomprehensible.
In 13 years at Borussia Dortmund you lived through good and through bad times. Which memory do you cherish the most?
Dede: There isn’t that one moment you can pick out. I was able play with my brother together in the Champions League (Leandro Deus Santos, played for Borussia Dortmund between 2002-2004 on loan from Atletico MG). The way the fans saw me off in 2011, my birthday celebration with 2000 fans in the city (BVB fans organized a flash mob)… I’m a very lucky person to have experienced all that.
Although you didn’t want to stay longer than the period of your first contract. What had changed?
Dede: My first contract was valid for three years. I wanted to stay here for this time and buy a house for my mother, my family and myself. After that I wanted to go back to Brazil. It was really hard for me at first. Internet didn’t exist back than. I had to get used to the weather and the food, my friends weren’t here. It were 13 years in the end.
During that time you received a lot of offers from different clubs. A move to AS Roma just fell apart before its finalization. What were the reasons for you to stay?
Dede: I didn’t only receive an offer from AS Roma. I had one from Russia and several other German clubs. I was a good player and left-backs were, and always will be, in demand. But I always wanted to stay at this club and always added two more years to my contract until I realized that I’ve been at the club for 13 years. Incredible!
Then you moved to Turkey in 2011…
Dede: I wanted to end my career here. But then I was injured and Marcel Schmelzer played superbly. This is how football works. I still wanted to play football and had to make a decision. I didn’t want to play for another club in Germany and then Michael Skibbe gave me the opportunity to play in Turkey. If it was up to me, I would have played here until the age of 50.
A lot of players changed their club during the last transfer period. Especially English clubs have moved a lot of money. What is your assessment on that?
Dede: It’s crazy. I talked with Claudio Taffarel and Roberto Carlos. They also said, that players hardly stay as long at one club as Raul at Real Madrid, Steven Gerrard at Liverpool or me at Borussia Dortmund. In today’s times the chemistry between clubs and players is missing. Of course, everyone wants to earn money, we also play football because of that. But I fell in love with this club like you fall in love with a woman. That is priceless.
A lot did also happen at Borussia Dortmund during the transfer period. Kevin Großkreutz was one of the players who left the club. You are very good friends with him. How did he deal with the change?
Dede: Kevin is one of us. He is a Borusse. Er turned the dream into reality to make it from the Südtribüne to the football pitch. Which is why he didn’t want to leave the club, just as I didn’t back then.
How did you hear about his switch? A lot of fans were disappointed, that he left…
Dede: He called me when he already was in Istanbul. He asked me about the Turkish mentality and the people there. I told him about my own experiences.
How do you rate Borussia Dortmund’s team after the changes in the squad and on the coaching position?
Dede: Very highly! It wasn’t easy to replace a coach like Klopp, who has done immense things for the club. Thomas Tuchel has given this team a new drive. The newly added players are also very good. Three games, three wins in the Bundesliga speak for themselves.
What is your impression of the new coach?
Dede: It’s always going to be tough to succeed a coach like Jürgen Klopp. You have to give a new coach time. The time he has used the time he has had so far excellently. It’s very positive and he’s doing a couple of things differently. He is changing the face of the team, which is normal. I think he has some great years ahead.
Borussia Dortmund signed Adnan Januzaj after Kevin Großkreutz and Jakub Blaszczykowski left the club at the end of the transfer window. What do you think of this transfer?
Dede: I’ve seen him play a couple of times on tv. I think he is a superb player, who can help out. He’s a real threat on the wing, I think he fits in well at the club.
Another thing that fits well is Borussia Dortmund’s standing in the table, level on points with FC Bayern. Is this the duel, that will take the attention this season?
Dede: As a fan you can certainly see it this way. But for the players it’s too early to say. I can say one thing: There is no better team in the league than FC Bayern. But BVB is the best of the challengers in my opinion.
Both teams will go head to head on match day 8. Will this already be a decisive game?
Dede: No, it’s way too early for that. Bayern play at home, but they haven’t automatically won. Of course they are the favourite for the game, but Dortmund play attractive football. The title race is open.
Borussia Dortmund had a lot of issues in their defense last season. Will they defend better this time?
Dede: I think the defense is doing a good job. Conceding three goals against a minnow in the Europa League is certainly a wake-up call. It can happen, but everyone is giving everything for the guy next to him. A good offense does only work in line with a good defense. BVB have a very good balance.
Let’s get back to your life: What had you become, if you wouldn’t have been a professional footballer?
Dede: That’s hard to say. I didn’t have a qualification, I was already working on the streets when I was eight years old. I sold ice cream and washed cars – and always played football. I was focused on my dream. I did everything to help out my family.
It worked out in the end. You’ve been in Germany for half of your life. You’ve been living in Turkey for a couple of years now, too. Where is “home” for you?
Dede: In Brazil and in Germany! I’ve got my house and my wife here, I’ve got a German passport. I always use that on flights. I love this passport, but my home country will always be Brazil.
What’s next for you? You’re currently assistant coach in Turkey. Would you like to return to Borussia Dortmund at some point?
Dede: I would like to work for BVB some day. I was told that I could come here as soon as I’m ready for it. When the club says that I’m ready, we’ll hold talks. But I’m not ready, I haven’t obtained a coaching license yet. When Borussia offers me a job, it should come from the bottom of the heart though.