With a few months to the World Cup how are you? How are you managing your anxiety? How am I? I’m expectant but focused. We reached the World Cup; now it’s time to reach the final and be champions. This is the truth. At the last World Cup I was the manager because of other circumstances [Dunga was fired in 2016 and Tite took over]. Now I have had the opportunity to do the full four-year cycle. Expectations are high but the focus is on work.
I have staff with great values and credentials. And an extraordinary family. If I didn’t have my wife [Rosi], I wouldn’t be where I am. I lose my temper, I hit the roof, I don’t sleep at night, just like everyone else. But I have a partner who supports me, a family that supports me. I draw strength from my family, work and spirituality.
Are you afraid of anything? The pressure we face is a problem: the responsibility, the pressure of the position, the demands. When I was a supporter, I wanted the team to be the best. It’s what moves us. But mental health is important. I think about what Mandela said: “Courage is the ability to face fear.” In every decision he made, fear was present. When I read that, I saw that I am a normal citizen. I have my fears, my nightmares, my little goosebumps. Fear but not dread; fear and dread are different.
I also read what Tostão [a Brazil legend who won the 1970 World Cup] said: “Fame creates a division of the human being – it builds a creature and impoverishes the creation.” I need to look after Adenor [Tite’s real first name]. Adenor has a life: he will continue to be a father, a grandfather. But he doesn’t want to be measured. If he wins, he is the best. If not, he is reviled. I can’t understand it. When I speak, I speak for my whole team. Nobody has a monopoly on the truth. We need to reflect on different opinions, and we are open to ideas that are well argued. It’s not about winning at any price.
Alex Ferguson says great professionals compete against themselves in constant pursuit of improvement. Do you know why? If I compare myself to someone else, I will be frustrated and hurt. On some points I will be better, but on others I will be worse. I need to keep myself healthy, with a healthy mind.
Do you feel bad when you get criticised like last year? We need time to understand. Works are best seen when they are at a distance, finished. We have results. What people are expecting? We beat the record [for the most points] in the qualifiers. We have the longest unbeaten streak: 12 games [under Tite in qualifying for the 2018 World Cup] and now 17 games without a loss [in the 2022 qualifiers]. That is 29 games.
It’s very difficult in South America qualifiers. We scored 13 more goals than Argentina in 17 games. We’re back to first in the Fifa rankings. We were champions of the  Copa América. A second place too [in 2021]. We didn’t win last time, but there was a whole process, on top of a difficult, troubled moment, full of a series of problems, that I don’t want to go deeper into [Brazil took over hosting rights from Colombia and Argentina amid the pandemic but were criticised for doing so while tens of thousands were dying in the country]. We kept a clean sheet in 13 of 17 qualifiers; our average goals scored per game was above 2.5. I would also like to point out one thing: nobody wanted to play the Copa América and everybody expressed that to the [then] president [of Brazil’s football federation, Rogério Caboclo].
Are Brazil the most envied team? I will tell you a story. An Italian coach mocked Miranda [the Brazil defender, then at Internazionale, after Brazil were knocked out of the 2018 World Cup by Belgium]: “How does it feel to be knocked out by Belgium?” I heard that from Miranda and I told Miranda that he [the Italian coach] never will know this feeling because he never coached a nation like Brazil or even his own nation. This is envy. That’s why he asked him. Many people are jealous of Brazil. They don’t admit it. Perhaps it’s most envied team in the world.
It is about lack of respect and envy. This is the legacy I carry, the legacy we carry, the history of having Pelé, Zagallo, Tostão, Garrincha. If Zagallo is criticised, how can I not be? Are Brazil the most envied? I think so, but when I go out everyone asks me how I withstand the pressure of being the coach of the Brazil team.
Recently Neymar said he was tired and this World Cup may be his last. Are you worried about Neymar? Did you talk to him about it? You said “recently”. We have to pay attention to when this happened [the interview was released last October but had been recorded months earlier, either soon after PSG had lost a Champions League semi-final or Brazil had lost the Copa final]. If I had spoken right after a cup elimination, I would have been extremely upset too. This has to be contextualised. We talk to all the players, including Neymar, about the physical, technical, tactical and mental preparation for decisive games. We pass on insights. Because of Neymar’s greatness, there will always be great expectations. But now it’s diluted. It’s Neymar, but also Vinícius, Raphinha; Thiago [Silva] is at a high level again, Paquetá, Casemiro, Fabinho too.
Is Neymar your best player or is this Vinícius’s time? Neymar is Neymar. He remains our biggest star. The difference now is that the glow is diluted by nearby stars that can also shine. Neymar’s greatness is that he understands this – about the growth of these kids. He encourages the boys to go up a level. Time and experience provide this maturity.
How will it be to play at a World Cup without your mother? She died in 2019 My mother’s naivety … it was beautiful. When we won the Copa América, she asked me if it was bigger than the World Cup. Honey … So I explained it’s not the same cup but it’s hard too. I am at peace. It’s their will too what I’m doing. [Tite gets teary-eyed.] I am doing my father’s will. He was my first coach. I know I’m making them proud. My mother always gave me a lot of faith, my father the love of sport. I’m fine, I have their light, their energy.
I can play football for only 15 minutes with my grandchildren. I can’t do more because they are very intense. Then their grandmother goes to play a little with them. I can’t turn away from football. It’s my pleasure, my satisfaction.
I have many videos and games to watch but there are moments with the family too. I like to be with Rosi, walking with her. I like books, chimarrão [maté], coffee, to be with my children and grandchildren. I like movies. I read a lot – it strengthens me. But I don’t switch off; I’m always asking to write something down.
Will this World Cup shape your future? Sure. If you win the World Cup you get an open market. You can choose. I will not lie: my idea is definitely not to work in Brazil. I want to spend a year with my family, to take a sabbatical year, to study, to not have any responsibility because the responsibility is too great. If something comes from the outside, it will happen. Now I have the responsibility and joy of being the coach of the Seleção. I’m not even going to talk to anyone.
But in the past you had offers to take over a European club? Yes, Real Madrid and Sporting. What I like is that when a European club have an interest in a professional, they have a conversation to explain what they need. This is really cool. There was another club that wanted to talk to me and I said no: PSG [after Unai Emery left in May 2018]. They wanted to talk to me and I said I won’t; I don’t want to and I won’t. I don’t want to open up that possibility of something else. I want to be focused on my work. After is another story.
At the World Cup [just before the 2018 tournament], they [Madrid] said they wanted to talk and I said no, I won’t talk, don’t come close. I want to be at peace with myself and my work. I am giving my best. When you do something in parallel, that’s not doing it to the fullest. I can’t do it. I received offers from Real Madrid, PSG and Sporting. But I didn’t want that. I want to win the World Cup. After the World Cup, I will decide my future.