André, first in the name of Bayer 04, belated greetings on your 30th birthday. How have you spent the day?
Ramalho: Thank you, I'm happy to hear that. In the morning I first did everything relating to my work and rehab. In the afternoon I was able enjoy my time with the family.
You signed for PSV Eindhoven last summer. What's your assessment of your six months in the Netherlands and how have you settled in there?
Ramalho: I really feel at home. All my teammates, the fans and management have been great to me. Of course, it also depends on how often you're on the pitch – that's also worked out really well (17 appearances on the first 18 matchdays, ed.). It was a perfect six months up to my injury in December.
You touched on your ankle injury. You went off injured in the last match before the winter break. What's the current situation and when can we expect to see you back on the pitch?
Ramalho: I'm out for around 12 weeks and I've already done half of them. Therefore, I hope to be able to train with the team at the start of April. I'm doing all I can to make my comeback and I’m working very hard on it every day.
What were the reasons for your move to Eindhoven?
Ramalho: PSV are a big club and known all over the world. I knew the club very well above all from the many Brazilian predecessors – be that the legendary keeper Heurelho Gomes, Romário, Alex and Ronaldo of course…
The coach Roger Schmidt also has a Black and Red past. He was also your coach at Salzburg. What role has he played for you?
Ramalho: He is one of the most important people in my career, without a doubt. I'm incredibly grateful for what he's done for me and my career. I've played for four clubs as a professional up to now – he was my coach at three of them. (He laughs) Roger always had confidence in me and made me better every day. In response, I always knew what he expected from me. It all fits together perfectly
What are your memories of your time at Bayer 04?
Ramalho: I started there as a relatively young player at 23 and I was able to learn a lot. I would have been happy to have had the experience then I do now. The first year was okay but I wanted more. More time on the pitch. Unfortunately, that wasn't always possible. Nevertheless, it was a brilliant and instructive time. I'm still in touch with some of them from back then, be that Wendell, who is now at Porto, Lucas Alario and the fitness coach Daniel Jouvin. I was on holiday with him last year.
On Friday, the Werkself play Mainz 05, your second German club. What makes Mainz stand out and what was your time like there?
Ramalho: That was also a great experience for me – even though it didn't start so well with my injury in the first friendly. I wanted to gain match practice at Mainz and that worked out for me in the end (20 appearances in 2016/17, ed.). The club and the city remain close to my heart.
Back to the Black and Reds: What's your assessment of the current form of the Werkself who are currently third in the Bundesliga?
Ramalho: At the moment, they are playing brilliantly with attacking and high quality football. It's been a great season for Bayer 04 up to now. I'm convinced they will end up qualifying for the Champions League.
Will you watch the game between Mainz and Leverkusen?
Ramalho: Of course, I follow all the games of both teams. On top of that, they’re playing under floodlights on Friday – those are always the most fantastic games. But I don't want to name a favourite because I have too many friends at both clubs. Let's agree on a draw. Then you can happily go on and win every other game. (He laughs)
On André Ramalho:
Born in February 1992 in Ibiúna, a municipality in the Brazilian state of Sao Paulo, André Ramalho moved to Europe at the age of 18. The central defender went from the Brazilian Red Bull feeder club RB Brasil to Austria where he progressed through the RB youth set-up before establishing himself with the RB Salzburg first team in 2013. The move to Bayer 04 followed two years later - the next Brazilian in Black and Red. He played for the Werkself for two and a half years with one season on loan at Mainz 05. Ramalho returned to Salzburg after his time in Germany. He won six Austrian league titles and five domestic cups in Austria before joining top Dutch club PSV Eindhoven last summer.
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