Danilo: I'll be there if Tite needs me

  • Danilo, 20, picked up the adidas Bronze Ball at the Club World Cup

  • Clash with Chelsea showed the Brazilian can compete at very highest level

  • Palmeiras star began career as an attacking midfielder, inspired by Ronaldinho

Danilo's performance at the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2021™ certainly made waves. Despite finishing runner-up with Palmeiras, the 20-year-old midfielder departed the tournament with the adidas Bronze Ball and encouraged by his display against the celebrated midfielders of Chelsea, winners of last year’s UEFA Champions League. Danilo was the only midfielder to pick up an individual award in the UAE, the adidas Golden Ball going to Chelsea defender Thiago Silva and the Silver Ball to Palmeiras winger Dudu. Keep in mind that the young Brazilian was competing against players of the calibre of N'Golo Kante, Jorginho and Mateo Kovacic.

"It was very important, not just for me but also the club, to showcase someone who had come through the ranks," Danilo told FIFA. "I'm delighted too and cannot believe I won the award. It's added motivation to return to Brazil focused and with my feet on the ground to continue the work." After winning back-to-back Copa Libertadores titles, Danilo got the chance to face the winners of the UEFA Champions League at the second time of asking, after Palmeiras's loss to Mexico’s Tigres in the semi-final of the 2020 edition. The showdown with Chelsea's vaunted midfielders has left Danilo confident that one day he too can play with the elite of world football. "Before you take to the field it's all new, seeing people who’ve won the Champions League or World Cup," he said. "But once you start playing, all that changes and everyone respects their opponents – me respecting them, and them respecting Palmeiras. "I think with the progress I'm making, if I can continue along the same path, with the same intensity, mindset and intelligence, then I'll able to compete with them, either as opponents or team-mates. Knowing my quality and potential, I believe I can attain the same level."

After finishing second at the Club World Cup, Danilo wasted no time in helping Palmeiras to further silverware back home. Earlier this month, he showed his resourcefulness by scoring the second goal in his side’s 2–0 second-leg victory over Athletico Paranaense (the first game ended 2-2) to lift the Recopa Sudamericana. Danilo started the match operating as a defensive midfielder, before being given more freedom in the second half, when he played further forward and got the goal that wrapped up the victory. "It's finding that balance, knowing what you have to do both as a defensive and attacking midfielder," he said. "Sometimes you chip in with a goal, like in the final, and other times it can just be defending. I think it helps the team a lot." When freed up to help with forward duties, the left-footed Danilo prefers the right flank more, using his trademark stepovers to shake off markers and create room. The Salvador native began his career as an attacking midfielder, inspired by Ronaldinho Gaucho. Today, however, he enjoys watching Sergio Busquets, N'Golo Kante and Casemiro for inspiration. "I really like going down the right wing, as that's where I started out," he said. "I'm more comfortable there trying to dribble, having never played on the opposite side."

In 2002, when Brazil last won the World Cup, Danilo was only a year old. Donning the famous canary-yellow of his country at the world’s premier competition has been a goal of his since childhood. "It's every kid's dream to play at a World Cup, but you have leave it up to God," he said. "Maybe one day." Perhaps for Danilo, Qatar 2022 will come too soon, especially as A Seleção have established names like Casemiro and Fabinho available in this position. "Playing for your national team is always difficult, and whoever plays needs to be prepared. I think Tite will be able to call on the best to become world champions. Of course, if needed, I’ll be there," he concluded with a laugh.