If the definition of defensive midfielder existed in the dictionary, the photo of Mauro Silva (12/1/1968, São Paulo, Brazil) would have to be next to it, a real historical reference in that position on the pitch. Emblem of the great Deportivo, with a street in A Coruña bearing his name and world champion with Brazil in 1994, At age 54, Mauro is the vice president of the São Paulo Football Federation and came to Qatar as a television commentator for NBC Universal Telemundo. The Brazilian takes care of AS.
Has football changed much in these 28 years since you won the championship with Brazil in the United States?
Yes quite. There is more and more data, you train better, everything is more scientific, you get more performance from the players and I see that there are fewer places on the field. Football has changed and will continue to change.
Now everything is more physical and tactical. Is street football lost?
Unfortunately it is. Everything is more mechanized. All parameters are studied and analyzed a lot and the game is more and more organized. In addition, before the formation, it was more natural and spontaneous on the street. Now it happens in schools and you have to be very careful not to lose the essence of football because we risk seeing less and less creative players like Maradona, Messi, Djalminha or Ronaldinho. You have to save the essence of the game: dribbling, improvising and one on one. It is something that we discuss a lot in the Federation of São Paulo, because we are very concerned that the coaches transmit to their young footballers the right philosophy to train good players.
And it is said by someone who was not a great virtuoso like Romario, Rivaldo or Bebeto. You were a very tactical and very positional player…
It’s true, but I started to worry about those aspects of football when I was 16 or 17 years old, because in my country it’s about creativity. As a kid I loved being on the street, dribbling past five rivals and scoring a goal. Children love two things: the ball and scoring goals, and if they fall in love with this, it will be easier to form good players.
Is it true that you studied the football players you would be dealing with a lot?
Yes, because normally, as they say in Spain, I had to dance with the ugliest woman in the rival midfield and I paid close attention to their pattern of play to try and stop them. I enjoyed analyzing how they behaved and moved on the pitch and that helped me develop great intuition on the pitch.
You had to defend stars like Ronaldinho, Maradona, Zidane, Baggio, Rivaldo,… What was the most complicated?
They were all world figures, but the one who caused the most problems for me was Maradona. In a match against Argentina in Buenos Aires, I tried not to give him any space, to leave no room, I marked him very hard. The clash ended 0-0 and I left the field with the satisfaction of having fulfilled my duty.
Did Diego care that he studied it? Was he unstoppable when he had his day?
It is that he had a very wide repertoire of resources and technically he was extraordinary. He commanded a lot of respect. If you had him in front of you, you couldn’t give him an inch of space. Other phenomena such as Ronaldinho fell more to the wing and were not so much in the center. Maradona was without a doubt the rival who caused me the most problems on a football field.
Is it true that he called you once when you explained to an Argentinian journalist on the radio what the number of a “5” should look like and called him?
Yes, Diego was a great human figure and I had impressive affection for him. That happened in Buenos Aires. I explained on a live radio show that the midfielder’s mission is simple, it’s about finding the ball back and giving it to the best player on your team, and if that was Maradona, all the more reason. Diego listened to him and a few minutes after finishing the interview, the journalist came back and said that Diego was on the phone to talk to me. He thanked me for what I said about him and it was a special and very endearing moment. Diego was a wonderful person who only hurt himself.
A few years ago he said that Casemiro was the best defensive midfielder. What remains?
I love it. He has won five Champions Leagues and that data is great. Madrid has done great business with him because he has gotten sporting and economic achievements from him. He is an incredible player because of the consistency he brings to his teams. Brazil suffered when he was not on the pitch. For me it’s still the best.
Your successor in Madrid is Tchouameni, what do you think of him?
It has a great future and I think Madrid has done a great operation. He has been benefiting from Casemiro for ten years and has raised enough money to attract a much younger, great replacement. It is dynamic and with great potential. I think the Frenchman can make history at Madrid, but the expectations at that club are very high and it’s not easy to play there. You have to prove many things for a long time to succeed in Madrid.
If you were a sports director and had a budget to attract one world star, who would it be?
By age and future to Vinicius.
Before Haaland or Mbappé?
Also to Haaland. I like it a lot. With Mbappé I’m not so clear, I have doubts with him so it would be between Haaland and Vinicius. It would be one of two.
At the level of charisma and affection of the fans, is Vinicius already close to Neymar in Brazil?
Not yet. Vinicius left the country at a very young age and Neymar spent more time with Santos. When Ney left, he did so with a more consolidated career. The Brazilians love Vini very much, but he is still no match for Neymar.
Is Brazil favorite to win the World Cup?
Yes, Brazil is always a favorite and this time maybe a bit more because of the team and the coach. Tite knows how hard it is to lose a World Cup and that experience should be a positive one. Obviously she is one of the big contenders but to win a title like this the stars have to align because after the first stage you go home on a bad day. It’s not enough to have the best team.
Do you see a selection that comes close to the offensive potential that the yellow green?
Name by name and with so many options no. There are a lot of very high level attackers and frankly I don’t see any team anywhere near the attack line.
Much is said about Messi’s last World Cup, but it’s possible it could also be about Neymar, who has also never won one. Do you see him more motivated than ever?
Yes, at PSG I see him very motivated in recent months. He knows that this is his moment, that it’s his big chance, because if he made it to 2026, it certainly wouldn’t be in the same circumstances as now. He is in good spirits and knows that this is the great opportunity to win a World Cup and that suits the team very well.
I ask for a name.Who do you see as a great rival of the Seleçao?
There are great teams like Spain, Germany or England, but I will say Argentina.
despite the great encounter Saudi Arabia?
Yes, that could have been an accident. He lost when he could lose. Think about what happened to Spain in South Africa. I see her as very strong for Messi, for the career of 36 matches she played without a loss, for winning the last Copa América in Maracana,… There are many arguments in her favor, although it is true that her debut with a defeat against a seemingly weaker rival.
And he also has a good friend of his as a coach who was a teammate at Depor for many years…
I know Scaloni very well and I know how he thinks. He is a hard worker and would give his life to win the most coveted trophy. He knows it’s Messi’s last World Cup and I’m confident he’ll take that message very well to further motivate his squad because he’s very good at controlling the emotional level. Argentina and Brazil could meet before the final, but if I analyze it coolly, I think they will recover from the blow against Arabia and be our great rival.
Another big surprise has been Germany’s loss to Japan…
It was totally unexpected because he had the game in his hands and let it slip. It had been a long time since I had seen such a team of experts fail so many times at the top and with so many defensive mistakes. I don’t know why Flick changed Gundogan either. For me he was the best in the game. The changes brought Germany back and gave Japan wings. Now the Germans are playing against a Spain that has started very strong. This has just started and it is very exciting.
You are also Spanish because you have dual nationality. What do you expect from Spain after the 7-0 defeat against Costa Rica?
It is a young team and in transition. Only Busquets remains of the great generation that won in South Africa. I think he will play a great role and he has a very offensive coach. The start was incredible, with a nice win, but honestly I don’t see her fighting for the World Cup. I hope I’m wrong because if Spain wins I’d be as happy as Brazil.
Which Spanish players do you like the most?
Always looking for I also like Azpilicueta, who I have seen very well at Chelsea. Then there are youngsters like Pedri, Rodri or Gavi who have quality and I don’t know how Morata comes, but I would like to highlight the first two.
Which ending would you like to see?
If possible Spain-Brazil of course. My heart is asking me for that final but it’s very hard to get there. For example, in USA 94 we had a great team with Cafu, Romario, Dunga, Bebeto,… and we suffered a lot in different games. Every detail in a decisive game can sideline you.
Have you particularly appreciated a selection so far?
England was very good against Iran. I bet on the traditional teams, because a World Cup is a very tough competition and experience is important in decisive moments. I include the English in that group.
After your retirement you have prepared yourself very well for the board and management and some see you as a future chairman of the CBF. Would you be excited?
What really gets me excited is that Brazilian football is a big industry, like LaLiga or the Premier, generating wealth and jobs. I don’t know how far I will go, but I have been preparing and updating myself for many years to contribute to the growth of football in my country. It doesn’t take away my sleep to achieve nice personal goals, I don’t have a leading role. It’s the same thing that happened to me on the pitch, I worked for the team and I didn’t care who scored the goals. I just want to do a good job and contribute as much as I can. I am a team player.
And do you ever want to become president of Deportivo de la Coruña?
I spent 13 years there and the love I have for the club, the fans and the city is huge. I had two chances to come back, but I think my place is now in Brazil, next to my mother. I also feel that I am more useful there than in A Coruña. We have extended the mandate at the head of the São Paulo federation until 2026, 156 clubs have supported us and there are many things that can be improved. I must keep that promise. I would like to see Depor play in the First Division and in the Champions League again, because my time there was great, but now I am involved in another project.