Elano joined Manchester City in 2007, a year before Sheikh Mansour’s multi-billion pound takeover of the club. A key member of the early City team beginning to compete with the league’s top clubs, the playmaker helped push City closer to the top.
The signing of Robinho further signalled the club’s intent, and reunited two Brazilians that had played together at Santos between 2002 and 2005. While both players showed their genius in flashes during their time in Manchester, they also struggled for consistency.
In the latest issue of FourFourTwo, in shops from April 7 and available to order online now (opens in new tab), Elano explains exclusively the reasons why his first season in England went so well.
“We had a brilliant atmosphere in the dressing room and a top boss in Sven-Goran Eriksson," Elano tells FFT. "He was the most important person for me in English football – someone who allowed me to play with freedom. Above all else, he was a gentleman. Every week, he gave flowers to the female staff at City’s training ground. He could even speak some Portuguese, making it easier for me to adapt.
“I had a good start and assisted Rolando Bianchi on my debut at West Ham. I wanted to score my first goal so badly though and it finally came at home to Newcastle – a 25-yard free-kick right into the top corner. That was special for me.”
The goal in question was a thunderbolt, arrowing directly into the top corner. Leaving Shay Given hapless between the sticks, Elano announced himself to the blue half of Manchester in exquisite fashion. Playing with signature Brazilian flair, he quickly endeared himself to City fans - though he claims it wasn’t just because of his performances on the pitch.
“I sensed the fans loved me, but do you know why? Because I wasn’t a private player," he says. "I walked in the streets, went shopping and spent spare time in cafes. I felt like one of them and really liked living there. City had struggled a lot in the seasons before I arrived, so it was terrific to win the derbies, finish higher in the table and play in Europe.
“I remember going for a meal with Geovanni after beating Manchester United, and being greeted with a song by fans in the restaurant! That’s the sort of thing I miss the most about living in England.”
At the beginning of Elano's second season in Manchester, City’s fortunes were boosted by the takeover. Robinho swiftly arrived from Real Madrid. Having tried to help his compatriot settle in Manchester, Elano speaks fondly of his former teammate.
“I’ve known only one other guy who brought as much joy to the dressing room as Robinho – that was Denilson. It was brilliant to reunite with Robinho.
“When I think about our time at City, the first memory that comes to mind is the day Mark Hughes told him in English to track back and mark the opposing full-back. He couldn’t understand, though.
"“What’s he saying?” Robinho asked me during half-time. I told him, “He wants you to come back, because you’re not marking the full-back.” He turned to Hughes and said, mixing Portuguese and English, “Mister, eu nao vou fazer come back – eu fazer come back, no goal.” [“Gaffer, I will not come back – I come back, no goal”].
“He looked back at me, but I was already on the floor laughing. The entire dressing room was!”
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