This summer saw various players depart the Primeira Liga and join the Süper Lig; Miguel Crespo joined Fenerbahçe on a permanent deal after playing a vital role in Estoril Praia’s promotion to the top-flight, whilst Famalicão captain Gustavo Assunção joined Galatasaray on loan. João Novais and Cristián Borja departed Braga and joined Alanyaspor on loan, whilst Nigerian defender Chidozie Awaziem also left Boavista on loan to reinforce Alanyaspor’s backline.
Since leaving Atlético Madrid for Famalicão, Gustavo Assunção has established himself as one of the most promising midfielders in Portugal.
In a five-part series, @zachlowy interviews Gustavo about his childhood, his ambitions, and his progression at Famalicão.
Part One: pic.twitter.com/Uc7HIVQ8F0
— Breaking The Lines (@BTLvid) June 18, 2021
One of these players who made the leap from Portugal to Turkey was Carlos Mané, who left Rio Ave after the club’s relegation and joined Kayserispor on a three-year contract. Breaking The Lines co-creator Zach Lowy had the privilege of speaking with Carlos about his childhood, his career, the importance that president Berna Gözbaşı and director Ali Naibi had in his decision to move to Kayserispor, and plenty more.
ZL: Good afternoon everyone, thank you, and welcome to our exclusive interview with Carlos Mané. I am Zach Lowy, the co-creator of Breaking The Lines and I am here today with Carlos Mané who joins us from Kayseri, Turkey. How are you today Carlos?
CM: I am well, thank you very much for the opportunity of the interview as well.
ZL: Thank you very much again. It’s been a month since you joined Kayserispor. How has it been adapting to a new country in Turkey and what are the biggest differences and the most difficult things to get used to both in the culture and football? How important has it been playing with other Portuguese players like Miguel Cardoso and Manuel Fernandes in your development?
CM: It has been a good adaptation, I like being here a lot and in the first month, the people have treated me well and made a huge effort to bring me here. Having Portuguese teammates is always good and helps me a lot to adapt. Here at the club, they have given us a lot. Manuel Fernandes has also helped me and Miguel a lot. He speaks very good Turkish, but we still don’t speak it well.
It has been good, the things here are calm and good, the people here are friendly and we have everything it takes to have a good season. We are pleased with all of the fans that have supported us in the past few games and we want to give them a lot of happiness at the end of the season.
ZL: I always noted some similarities between the Portuguese of Portugal, not so much Brazilian Portuguese, and the Turkish language. How has your experience been of learning the Turkish language?
CM: I still don’t know many words but I’ll soon take Turkish classes, I always enjoy learning languages and it’s always nice to learn. It’s another language that I am going to learn and another language that I am going to speak. Turkish is an interesting language.
ZL: Do you think it will be better than your German?
CM: I don’t know, my German also isn’t very good but I also understand and am able to say a few of the most important things.
Kayserispor have enjoyed a modest profit thanks to the sale of 18-year-old goalkeeper Dogan Alemdar to Rennes, but they've still managed to reinforce their squad with some shrewd business.
Carlos Mané was one of Rio Ave's better performers last season and could thrive in Turkey. pic.twitter.com/Bud6OvTYIs
— Zach Lowy (@ZachLowy) September 9, 2021
ZL: You’ve already played in several games for your new club, talk to me about the differences that you’ve noted between the Turkish and Portuguese leagues as well as the similarities.
CM: The two leagues are similar as their teams have very good players with plenty of quality. I think the only thing is here with the attacking transitions, there’s a lot of space throughout the games and especially during the end of games. I think this will be good for me and some of my teammates who play in attack.
ZL: We’ve already spoken about your current team, now let’s go back to your beginnings as a player. You grew up in Quinta do Mocho, one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Lisboa. What was it like to grow up in this area and how did this shape you both as a man and a footballer?
CM: I like my neighborhood a lot, a lot of people criticize it but only who he is there knows what happens there and how it helps us. My neighborhood helped me a lot to be a better person as well as a better player. It was there where I began playing football with my friends and even today, I still go back there to see my friends and spend time with them because they also helped me become what I am today.
ZL: I was researching about your life and I found a moment from your childhood where Football Manager almost saved your life. What was this moment like?
CM: It was a memorable moment because if I wasn’t playing Football Manager perhaps something could have happened to me. Thankfully it didn’t happen to me, but unfortunately, some things happened to my friends on this day. It was a very sad day for me and my friends.
Uma vénia a todos os golos e assistências! 🙌
Obrigado @CMane36 🙏
— Rio Ave FC (@RioAve_FC) August 13, 2021
ZL: How did all of this happen, you were in your friend’s house playing Football Manager?
CM: I was in my friend’s house playing Football Manager and suddenly I see a lot of people with guns drawn shooting at some of my friends. This was a memorable moment for me in a negative way. Of course, I am happy for having grown up in my neighborhood, there are people with good hearts who helped me reach where I ended up and I will keep them at the bottom of my heart forever.
ZL: At 14 years of age, you left your neighborhood and moved to Academia de Alcochete, Sporting’s residential academy. How tough was it to leave this place where you grew up, and how important was this move for your footballing development?
CM: Going to Alcochete was good because there were a lot of problems in my neighborhood, as everyone knows. Going there, I calmed down a bit. I was with my friends, but the academy was close to my neighborhood, just 30 minutes away.
I would go back to my neighborhood sometimes during the weekends after games. The journey to my neighborhood wasn’t that long, it wasn’t too bad, I could go there many times whenever I wanted to. But it’s clear that going to the academy helped me a lot, I became more focused on football and this helped me a lot to reach the first team.
ZL: After a decade in Sporting’s academy, you debuted for the first team under Leonardo Jardim. Talk to me about this experience for you, what was it like being so young and already being considered one of the best talents in the club, if not the country?
CM: It was a very nice time, it was the time where I was promoted from the juniors to the first team. I had a good coach who believed in me at the time and helped me a lot. It is a dream to play for Sporting’s first team and it happened. Thank God that it turned out well, I am very happy for having developed at Sporting and for having reached the first team, which is a dream for many kids.
ZL: What was it like playing for Leonardo Jardim, a coach that has made some incredible achievements, what did you learn the most from playing for him?
CM: I had a lot of coaches at Sporting that helped me a lot, first it was Leonardo Jardim, then Marco Silva, then Jorge Jesus, then Marcel Keizer and José Peseiro as well. They were coaches who helped me a lot. In the academy, I also had coaches who helped me a lot such as Abel Ferreira in the juniors, who is now at Palmeiras. Ricardo Sá Pinto as well, who also coached in Turkey, was one of the coaches who helped me a lot to reach the first team. I am very grateful for what they did for me.
🇵🇹 Nacional 🆚 Rio Ave
— GoalPoint.pt (@_Goalpoint) May 19, 2021
ZL: If that season under Jardim was your debut year, perhaps the following year was your confirmation year. Talk to me about this season playing under Marco Silva, what did you learn and improve the most playing under the new Fulham manager?
CM: Marco Silva is a very good coach with plenty of quality, he knows what the players need and this is always very important for a coach. He knows how to motivate all the players, those that play and those that don’t, and this is always important in a coach.
What I learned the most from him, I think in general he taught me everything. Sometimes I didn’t play, but when I played I did well. He always supported me and my best season with Sporting was with Marco Silva where we won the Taça de Portugal. And I am also very grateful for what Marco Silva did for me when I was at Sporting.
ZL: After a season under Jorge Jesus, you joined Stuttgart on loan in the summer of 2016. But in the following season, you didn’t make an appearance due to a serious injury, I think it was a knee injury. How tough was it being in a foreign country and having to deal with not just one, but two injuries that threatened your career?
CM: It was the toughest moment in my career, many people thought that I wouldn’t play like I used to before, with a lot of speed and good changes of direction. They thought I wouldn’t be able to achieve it, but thankfully I have. I am very good, I am in form now, and this is the most important thing, it’s in the past. It was one of the saddest moments of my life, and it’s something that I don’t like to remember, now I have to focus on the present and future.
ZL: Was it bittersweet to see your teams get promoted while you couldn’t play due to injuries?
CM: I played 19 games at Stuttgart, I think I had six goals and 10 assists. It was a good season, unfortunately, I couldn’t play every match but in the games I played I think I provided something to the team.
When I arrived, the team was already in first place and after that, they maintained their top spot and achieved promotion and it was a very good season for me despite the injury. I had a great season, the Stuttgart fans still send me messages to this day and ask me to return one day. I am very happy for what I achieved in Stuttgart.
Mais ⚽golos fora área Liga🇵🇹 2020/21:
3 Pedro Gonçalves
3 Carlos Mané
3 Sérgio Oliveira
3 Luther Singh
3 Ivo Rodrigues
3 EVERTON⬆ pic.twitter.com/o5MjkeM8Tv
— playmakerstats (@playmaker_PT) May 6, 2021
ZL: After two loan spells at Stuttgart and Union Berlin, you returned to Portugal in the summer of 2019 and joined Rio Ave, helping them qualify for the Europa League on the final day of the season. Talk to me about that season with Carlos Carvalhal, how important was this to recover your confidence as a player after so many serious injuries?
CM: I think it was the most important moment in my career, it was a time where I felt I was able to develop after my injury. Thank you to Rio Ave and Mr. Carvalhal for helping me get to a level where I would like to be at. Thankfully, I feel well, thanks to Rio Ave I am like this now. They treated me well, they took care of me, and they helped me get to Kayserispor.
ZL: As we’ve spoken about, you’ve been lucky to have played under various Portuguese managers, not just Leonardo Jardim or Marco Silva, but also Carlos Carvalhal, Jorge Jesus, and Abel Ferreira. I want to focus a bit on these last three. How would you describe them as coaches and as people, and what are the biggest differences between them, and what did you learn the most from each?
CM: I think they are similar coaches, coming from the coaching school in Portugal, they are very good managers. They have a lot of quality, they know how to read the game, they know how to help the players when it’s necessary.
I think that Portuguese coaches are some of the best in the world, they have a lot of quality and have proved that no matter what league they coach in, they can make the difference. I think that these three coaches are very good, they’re elite coaches.
ZL: After qualifying for Europe, the departures of Mehdi Taremi and Nuno Santos and also other players and Carlos Carvalhal saw you become the leader of Rio Ave’s attack, but it also saw you suffer relegation. From almost beating Milan to descending to the second tier, what was this roller-coaster of a year like for you?
CM: Everything was great at the start, we were in the UEFA Europa League and nearly eliminated AC Milan, but after this game, the team became a bit worse. We continued to think about the past, the Milan game, and this didn’t help us have a good season.
Foram precisos 𝟮𝟰 𝗽𝗲𝗻𝗮́𝗹𝘁𝗶𝘀 para desempatar o Rio Ave – Milan 🤯 pic.twitter.com/HRcnq8PlpZ
— B24 (@B24PT) October 1, 2020
Thankfully Rio Ave is playing well now, they’re in first place in the second division and have everything it takes to return to the top-flight, they only have victories so far. (Since this interview, Rio Ave have lost to Feirense and drew to Santa Clara in the Taça da Liga and are currently second, just two points behind Feirense). They are playing well, they have a good coach and a good team and I wish them all the luck.
ZL: Are you following all of their games whilst in Turkey?
CM: Yes, I always watch their games, like I do with Sporting too. They are clubs that shaped me a lot and whenever I can, I watch their games.
ZL: How would you describe Carlos Mané both as a player as well as a person?
CM: I am a calm and humble person, I love to learn and to win as well, obviously, and I love to work hard in order to achieve my goals.
ZL: Are there any players, any attackers who you studied in order to improve as a player?
CM: Yes, Nani played with me at Sporting, he was a very important player that also had a few characteristics that I have. He helped me a lot when I was at Sporting, he’s a player who helped me a lot. I’m very happy to have played with him, he’s a very friendly guy and whenever I can, I watch his games in the United States.
ZL: He plays for Orlando City, an incredible player that for me hasn’t gotten the credit that he deserves. There were rumors that you were thinking of switching from playing for Portugal to playing for Guinea-Bissau, we know you have played for Portugal’s youth teams. Is playing for the ‘Djurtus’ a genuine possibility that you have already considered or not?
WATCH: Nani scores a nonchalant back heel to pull Orlando level!
— MLS UK Show (@MLSUKShow) April 24, 2021
CM: Yes, I have already considered it with my family. In theory, perhaps I will go there and play for the national team of my family and mine as well. I wasn’t born in Guinea-Bissau, but my parents were and my entire family is from there. It would be nice if this happened, but I still don’t know, I’ll think it over with my family and we’ll take care of this later.
ZL: I think you’ve given Guinea-Bissau fans goosebumps with your words right now.
CM: In theory, perhaps I will go and play for the Guinea-Bissau national team, and if I do, of course, I will give my best to represent the country of my family and my country as well.
ZL: As we know, you grew up in Portugal, but what connections have you already felt with Guinea-Bissau?
CM: In my neighborhood for example there are a lot of Guineans, my entire family is from there, I went to Guinea-Bissau as well but I was very young and don’t remember many things. They are very kind people that fight for their country, and I will do this if I play for Guinea-Bissau. I will give my all and fight for my country so that it can be considered even more worldwide.
ZL: At 27 years old, you not only have the responsibility of playing football and taking care of your parents and siblings, but also your daughters. What has it been like to balance fatherhood with your playing career and how do you think this has changed you as a person?
CM: It’s very easy when you have daughters that are lovable, it becomes easier. They are the best things I have in the world, and they are close to me. It’s even more motivation to play well and be able to help them. They like to go to the Kayserispor stadium as well. It was Serena’s first time going to the stadium and Sabrina’s first as well.
Saphira had already gone to the stadium at Sporting, Rio Ave and Stuttgart as well, but the two went for the first time ad liked it a lot. They are always saying they want to go to the stadium again and they will certainly go again in the next few years.
ZL: Was it hard to get up in the middle of the night and then go to training in the morning or not?
CM: No, they sleep well, my wife and I take good care of this, they have to get to sleep early to be well the next day and behave well, which is also important.
— maisfutebol (@maisfutebol) August 12, 2021
ZL: As we know, you are playing in Turkey at the moment. Do you miss Portugal at all? What do you miss the most about your country?
CM: I just miss my friends, the rest is fine. I like being here, I had already played in Turkey twice and I liked it a lot. The people here love football a lot, as I love also, and this is very good.
ZL: As we know, a lot of Portuguese players have left the Portuguese league and joined the Turkish league such as Miguel Crespo at Fenerbahçe. Have you spoken to any Portuguese players in Turkey?
CM: Yes, before coming here I spoke to Bruma, who had played at Galatasaray, and also Edgar Ié, who had played at Trabzonspor. They said good things about Turkey and I agreed to come here. Everything they said was true, things are good here and they love football as we do, now it’s just play and give happiness to the fans.
ZL: It is an incredible passion that Turkey has for football, a bit similar to Portugal’s with football?
CM: Here, I think they are more passionate, if you go to the stadium and see the environment, it’s completely different.
ZL: You joined Kayserispor on a three-year contract. Tell me why you chose this club and what do you hope to achieve from this experience in Turkey?
CM: After the three giants of Galatasaray, Fenerbahçe, and Beşiktaş, [Kayserispor] are right after them. They are a very good team and a great club. They have the first female president in Süper Lig history (Berna Gözbaşı) who is a president who loves to win, who gives us a lot. We have to work hard to be able to achieve our goals.
For the first time since 1974, Kayserispor have defeated Galatasaray at home, thumping the Lions 3-0 thanks to a brace from Mame Thiam.
Some impressive recruitment from Ali Naibi and Berna Gozbasi is coming to fruition. pic.twitter.com/8xt6fWAq3m
— Zach Lowy (@ZachLowy) September 22, 2021
The director (Ali Naibi) was also very important for my arrival here, they had a big struggle with Rio Ave but thankfully I came here. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be here. They waited and waited a lot, and thankfully I am here thanks to them. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be here because they made a huge effort for me to join and now I am very happy to be here and want to help the club as they helped me also.
ZL: It was because of Berna [Gözbaşı] and Ali Naibi?
CM: Yes, they were very important for me coming here, they made a huge effort as I already said. I can clearly see that they believe in me a lot and now I have to work hard for them to become even happier.
By: Zach Lowy / @ZachLowy
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Rio Ave FC