With a few months to the World Cup how are you? How are you managing your anxiety? How am I? I’m just looking forward. We reached the World Cup; now it’s time to reach the final and become champions. This is the truth. At the last World Cup I was in my manager due to other circumstances [Dunga was fired in 2016 and Tite took over]. Now I have the opportunity to do the full four year cycle. Expectations are high but focused on work.
I have a team with great values and credentials. And an unusual family. If I didn’t have my wife [Rosi], I would not be where I am. I lose my temper, I hit the roof, I do not sleep at night, just like everyone else. But I have a partner who supports me, a family who supports me. I draw strength from my family, my work and spirituality.
Are you afraid of anything? The pressure ahead is a problem: the responsibility, the pressure of the site, the demands. When I was a supporter, I wanted to be the best team. That’s what moves us. But mental health is important. I think of 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 was an ordinary citizen. My fears, my nightmares, my pulse is small. Fear but not fear; fear and dread are different.
I also read what Tostão [a Brazil legend who won the 1970 World Cup] said: “Heroes create human division – it builds creatures and impoverishes creation.” I have to take care of Adenor [Tite’s real first name]. Adenor has a life: he will continue to be a father, a grandfather. But he does not want to be measured. If he wins, he is the best. If not, it is reviled. I can’t understand it. When I speak, I speak for all my team. No one has a monopoly on the truth. We need to consider different views, and we are open to well – argued ideas. It’s not about winning at any price.
Alex Ferguson says that world – class professionals are constantly competing against each other in search of improvement. Do you know why? If I compare myself to someone else, I will be frustrated and hurt. At some points I will be better, but at other points I will be worse. I have to keep myself healthy, with a healthy mindset.
Do you feel bad when you are criticized like you did last year? We need time to understand. It’s best to see works when they are far from you, finished. We have results. What do people expect? We won 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 American qualifiers. We scored 13 more points than Argentina in 17 games. We are back to first place in the Fifa ranking. We were champions of the  Copa America. Second place too [in 2021]. We didn’t win last time, but it was a whole process, past a difficult, troubled moment, full of a series of problems, that I didn’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 the 17 qualifiers; our average score per game was over 2.5. I would also like to point out one thing: no one wanted to play the Copa América and everyone told the [then] president [of Brazil’s football federation, Rogério Caboclo].
Is Brazil the most jealous team? I’ll tell you a story. Miranda was ridiculed by an Italian coach [the Brazil defender, then at Internazionale, after Brazil were knocked out of the 2018 World Cup by Belgium]: “How does it feel to have reached Belgium?” I heard that from Miranda and told Miranda that it was [the Italian coach] he will not know this feeling because he did not train a nation like Brazil or even his own nation. This is jealousy. That’s why he called him. Many people are jealous of Brazil. They do not admit it. Perhaps the most jealous team in the world.
It is about a lack of respect and jealousy. This is the legacy I carry, the legacy we carry, the history of Pelé, Zagallo, Tostão, Garrincha. If Zagallo is criticized, how can I not be? Is Brazil the most jealous? I think so, but when I go out everyone asks me how I stand up to the pressure of being a coach on the Brazilian team.
Neymar recently said he was tired and this World Cup may be his last. Are you worried about Neymar? Have you talked to him about it? You said “recently”. We need 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 just spoken to end the cup, I would have been very upset too. This needs to be put into context. 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 high expectations. But now it is diluted. It is Neymar, but also Vinícius, Raphinha; Thiago [Silva] on a high level again, Paquetá, Casemiro, Fabinho too.
Is Neymar your best player or is this Vinícius’ s time? Neymar is Neymar. He is still our biggest star. The difference now is that the glow is diluted by nearby stars that can also shine. What Neymar is amazed at is that he understands this – about the growth of these children. It encourages the boys to go up a level. Time and experience provide this maturity.
How will he play at the 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 that it’s not the same cup but it’s hard too. I am at peace. Their will is also what I am doing. [Tite gets teary-eyed.] I am doing my father’s will. He was my first coach. I know I am proud of them. My mother always gave me a lot of faith, my father loved sports. I’m okay, they have the light, they have the energy.
I can only play football for 15 minutes with my grandchildren. I can do no more because they are very strict. Then her grandmother goes to play a little with them. I can’t back down from football. I am happy, my satisfaction.
I have lots of videos and games to watch but there are moments with the family too. I like being with Rosi, walking with her. I like books, chimarrão [maté], coffee, being with my kids and grandchildren. I like movies. I read a lot – it strengthens me. But I did not turn off; I always want to write something down.
Will this World Cup shape your future? Definitely. 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, take a sabbatical year, study, with no responsibility because the responsibility is too great. If something comes from outside, it will happen. Now I have the responsibility and the joy of being the coach of the Seleção. I’m not even going to talk to anyone.
But in the past have you had offers to take over a European club? Yes, Real Madrid and Sports. What I like is that when a European club is interested 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 did not say: PSG [after Unai Emery left in May 2018]. They wanted to talk to me and I said no; I do not want and I will not. I do not want to open up that possibility of something else. I want to be focused on my work. It is followed by another story.
At the World Cup [just before the 2018 tournament]they [Madrid] said they wanted to talk and I said no, I will not speak, do not come close. I want to be for peace with myself and my work. I am doing my best. When you do something in parallel, it is not done for as long as possible. I can’t do it. I have received offers from Real Madrid, PSG and Sporting. But I did not want that. I want to win the World Cup. After the World Cup, I will decide my future.