The man, the myth, the legend.The king of the Şükrü Saracoğlu has reigned supreme for 8 seasons. A tribute to Brazilian playmaker Comandante Alex
The man, the myth, the legend... on the Eastern shores of Istanbul lies a magnificent castle known as the Şükrü Saracoğlu and within its walls lies a benevolent King heralding from a far away land. Few rulers are more loved and adored by their people, having provided the masses with immense happiness for nearly a decade, he has guided his followers to new heights. We present you with 'KrAlex', the King of Fenerbahçe, the Emperor of the Yellow Canaries, Alex De Souza.
Alex De Souza began life in the small provincial town of Morretes, a short distance from the city of Curitiba in southern Brazil. He kicked off his footballing career with local club, Coritiba FC, rising through the youth ranks he made his breakthrough into the team in 1995. After two successful seasons the young playmaker was snapped up by Brazilian giants Palmeiras. During his time with the ‘Alviverde’ he went onto win the Copa Libertadores as well as the Copa de Brasil and even made it into the Brazil national team, helping them towards winning the 1999 Copa America. A rising star, Alex had started making a name for himself and after 3 impressive seasons he had a brief stint with Flamengo before making his first move to Europe. Alex was transferred to Serie A club Parma for €8 million, however, returned after just 5 games despite scoring twice and making seven assists.
Belo Horizonte was Alex’s next point of destination, Cruzeiro signed him for €6 million in 2002. Alex went onto reach new heights with 'A Raposa', he was part of arguably the greatest Cruzeiro side in club history. A team composed of the likes of Maicon, Felipe Melo and Luisao this incredibly talented team comprised of world footballs future stars went on to win the Brazilian triple in 2003. The ‘Foxes’ won the Brasileirão in such emphatic fashion that they broke the league record with an incredible 100 points. Alex thrived under the guidance of Vanderlei Luxemburgo and to this day regards him as the most influential manager he's worked with. The No.10 scored 64 goals and made 61 assists in 121 games for Cruzeiro. As if that wasn’t enough he captained Brazil to glory in the 2004 Copa America.
The very same year, in what turned out to be one of the greatest transfers in Fenerbahçe’s club history, Alex de Souza joined the Yellow Canaries for an absolute bargain price of €4 million. The move initially raised a few doubts as to whether he was suited for European football, especially after his relatively unspectacular albeit brief spell at Parma. However, even the most ardent sceptics were soon converted as Alexmania swept the country. Within his first season he had scored 14 goals, finished ‘assist king’ and helped Fener win the league. The following season he scored 19 and contributed further with 24 assists.
Alex by then was known by the Fener faithful as the, 'Doctor', due to his intelligence and the close attention he paid to the science of the game. During his time at Cruzeiro, Alex would often sit down with Luxemburgo and talk to him in-depth about tactics and footballing strategies. In an interview with FIFA, Alex was quoted as saying, "I like to have information and the more I have, the better...I've always liked the tactical side...I started thinking beyond my specific role and about the things I could do to help the team. So what I did was look for answers and try to understand the general concepts involved in a football match." In many ways Alex was the manager on the pitch, a brilliant tactical mind who helped enforce the bosses strategy on the field.
The 'Doctor', went on to become known as, 'KRALEX' in 2006-2007. 2007 marked the 100th year anniversary of the Yellow Canaries, a special year needed a special player. He was united with childhood hero, Zico, who took over as manager. King Arthur and his knights led by ‘Captain Alex’ went on to win the double in this most memorable of years for the Istanbul giants. In a season of records, with 20 goals and 15 assists Alex went onto became the first foreign player in club history to be awarded with the title of ‘goal king’. The following season Fenerbahçe started making a name for themselves on the European scene by reaching the quarter finals of the Champions League and yes you guessed it Alex played a key role in their European run aswell and wrapped up a star-studded year as the Champions League assist king.
Alex De Souza has consistently performed at the highest level, his statistics are simply staggering over the course of 8 seasons Alex has played 302 games, scored 152 goals and made 136 assists, he has contributed to more goals than he's played games and has a strike rate most striker would be jealous of. Alex in many respects is a footballing genius, his close ball control is of the highest level, his vision in spotting forward runs and playing in killer through balls is brilliant. His passes are often beautifully weighted and he has a wonderful crossing technique. The Fener talisman is also a set-piece specialist, whether he's got his eye on goal or is trying to pick out a man in the box, the opposition know they're in for a tough time. In addition to his midfield qualities, Alex is a prolific goal scorer, lethal in a one on one situation and capable of punishing teams who give him too much space outside the penalty area.
The style of football Alex represents is turning into a rarity in the modern game, Alex is the archetypal playmaker, using technique, skill and intelligence rather than power to dictate the play. He is the brains of the team, pulling the strings from the centre of the park and controls the tempo of play. Alex often sits behind the striker, working his magic ‘in the hole’. For admirers of this position, Alex is one of the best in the business, infact 20 year old Paul Henrique Ganso, one of the biggest prospects in Brazilian football describes himself as being a huge fan. Ganso who plays a similar playing role responded to concerns over whether his position had become outdated or even redundant in the modern game by pointing out the virtues of Alex De Souza and his successes at club and international level.
His style of play is one of the key reasons he's been able to maintain his level of output despite being 34. In an interview with FIFA he said, "Even when I was 18 I wasn’t that fast or strong, so I never had anything to lose in the first place…Anyone who values the kind of football I play is always going to put a lot more emphasis on the technical side of the game than the physical.”
Captain Alex leads by example, his very presence on the field is enough to lift the spirit of his teammates and he is renowned for raising his game when the team are most in need of inspiration. A true leader on the pitch Alex is statesman like off it. Good players are loved by their clubs fans, but legends are held in the highest acclaim by all irrespective of team affiliation. Even the most hardcore Galatasaray fan has a mutual respect for Alex, there is a saying in Turkish, ‘yiğidi öldür hakkını ver’ which literally translates as, ‘kill the hero but give him his credit’, the true meaning gets lost in translation but ‘credit where credit’s due’ basically sums it up. Alex has a cool, composed and humble character and always talks in a dignified manner. First and foremost Alex is a family man and has always kept on the straight and narrow, you won’t hear of late night binges, scandalous affairs and any other off the field frolics. Alex has won over the hearts and minds of the Turkish masses during his time with the Istanbul giants. Such is the level of reverence for the Fenerbahçe No.10 that fans are in the midst of trying to get a statue erected in honour of their beloved captain.
With Alex reaching the twilight of his career, the Fener talisman has said that a move back to where it all started, Curitiba FC is on the cards for his final year in football. However, he has not ruled out staying on or returning to Fenerbahçe as an assistant manager and potential future manager. In a recent interview with Brazilian media outlet, ‘Globesporte’ he said, "One idea I've considered is becoming a coach. I have to see if it's right for me, but I got this idea in Turkey. The staff there is always telling me to consider it”.
Whatever decision Alex makes the hottest topic in Fenerbahçe circles right now is who will replace Alex? Do Fener opt for another traditional playmaker or change their system altogether. They say lightening doesn’t striker twice and to be honest there isn’t much chance of signing a player of his quality in the same position for €4 million. The most likely option is transitioning to a 4-3-3 formation, quite a bold step considering they have played a 4-2-3-1 for the past 8 seasons. This will mark one of the biggest tactical and strategic changes in the past decade for the club and getting it to work will be current Fener manager Aykut Kocaman’s biggest test yet.
Alex de Souza will without a shadow of a doubt go down as one of the all time greats of Turkish football. The greatest foreign player to have graced the league since ‘The Maradona of the Carpathians’, Gheorghe Hagi of Galatasaray. Alex will leave the legacy of a legend if he decides to hang up his boots when his contract expires at the end of the season. In his illustrious career he has scored 363 goals and made 254 assists in 896 games. Alex has won almost everything there is to win in Brazil and South America. He has 49 caps for the Seleção, helped win the 1998 Copa America and captained his nation to win the 2004 Copa America.
Despite being 34 performance wise Alex is showing no signs of slowing down. In his 8th season with the Istanbul giants he has already contributed 7 assists and scored 14 goals, including a goal of the season candidate against rivals Galatasray, in the mother of all Turkish footballing matches, the Intercontinental derby. The Fenerbahçe hero will live on in the memories of football lovers years who will go on in the memories of football lovers years who will go on to tell their grandchildren about his footballing exploits. It’s been a tough season for the Yellow Canaries, club legend Lefter Küçükandonyadis passed away earlier this year and it looks like Alex de Souza their living legend could be on his way out. Whether he decides to stay or leave you can be sure of this, the king of the Şükrü Saracoğlu will never be forgotten.