Shakhtar's 21-year-old mini-marvel talks to FourFourTwo about his past, present and future...
What’s your first World Cup memory?
I was born in 1992, so the most remarkable one for me so far has been the 2002 edition, I was 10 years old and I remember the street I lived was all garnished, painted green and yellow, banners everywhere. It’s one of my greatest memories of my childhood friends.
Any special moment in South Korea and Japan?
That’s a tough one [laughs]. Perhaps that shot of Ronaldinho's that dipped under David Seaman’s crossbar against England. I should have asked while we were together at Atletico Mineiro if he really meant that!
Are you still in touch with Ronaldinho? He took you under his wing at Atletico Mineiro in much the same way he had with Leo Messi at Barcelona…
It was his birthday the other day and I texted him sending my congratulations. I’m a really simple guy, I don’t like to bother anyone, but he knows how much I like him. He’s one of the players that have always inspired what I do. If you ask me which footballer I admire the most, it’s him. Playing alongside Ronaldinho was another dream that came true for me.
Maybe you’ll get together again next June…
We haven't talked about it. I've left that to Big Phil [Scolari, Brazil coach] and focus on what I can do, trying to secure a place for me first [laughs]. Whether he’ll be with us or not, I know the coach is always searching for the best for everyone.
How are you preparing for the World Cup?
We’re all doing some injury prevention work, although I know this can’t be avoided at times. But I have been arriving a bit early at Shakhtar training ground to do some gym, the activities with coach Mircea Lucescu are very intense as we don’t get to play so often in Ukraine.
Your Brazil team-mate Willian once told FFT that every holiday he had at Shakhtar he packed his things and traveled to London. Have you had the chance?
No, I haven't had a chance yet: all my days off have coincided with the FIFA dates. Shakhtar give you three days to do whatever we want to do, but I’m always with the national team, so I hope to never have any holiday like this. If I have to visit London, let it be when I’m with Brazil for a friendly! [Laughs]
Interview: Marcus Alves. Exclusive digital-only extracts from a much longer interview in the June 2014 issue of FourFourTwo.
For much, much more on the World Cup, read our gorgeous digital-exclusive World Cup guide.