Opinion: Can Alex de Souza repeat Fenerbahce success at Coritiba?
Alexsandro de Souza started his career as a youth player with his hometown team Coritiba, before going on to become a club legend at Turkish side Fenerbahçe during his peak footballing years.
Having rejoined Coritiba for the 2013 season it is likely that he will end his career where it all started, and his performances so far have show that he hasn’t just returned home to casually wind down.
Alex, who turns 36 next month, began his second stint with Coritiba by helping the club to their fourth consecutive Paranaense state championship. He finished the 2013 tournament as top scorer, with an impressive 15 goals in 17 appearances.
This was a sign of things to come from the midfielder as he immediately stamped his mark on the team with great technique, set piece expertise, and an invaluable knack of being in the right place at the right time to score and create goals.
Alex seems to have picked up where he left off at Fener with six goals in 10 league games this season, after scoring a total of 172 goals in 346 games in all competitions for the Turkish club. In the Super Lig he averaged more than a goal every other game, and his status within the team was so valued that he became captain in 2007.
Further to this, a statue of Alex was erected in Istanbul during his final season there, which was mainly funded by the Fenerbahçe fans. This honour just shows the legendary status he earned during his time at Fener, and is an indication of the impact he makes as a player and as a person.
And if he can maintain his fitness and stay injury free into his late thirties, then he has a good chance of becoming even more of an icon in his hometown too. Alex is already highly regarded at Coritiba and the club's impressive start to the 2013 season has been largely down to the way he has gelled the team together.
His performances have led to praise from fellow players and opposing team managers, with Santos boss Claudinei Oliveira describing him as the best player in Brazil after he scored both Coritiba goals as the sides drew 2-2 earlier in the season.
Alex is just one of a number of experienced players who have found a new lease of life in Brazil though. Coritiba have been challenged at the top of the table so far, by a Clarence Seedorf inspired Botafogo side.
The 37-year-old Dutchman has been another of the standout players and it’s likely that he and Alex will be challenging for individual and team honours this season, provided their advancing years allow them to keep up this form.
Coritiba were without Alex for Saturday's game against Cruzeiro, and his side fell to a 1-0 defeat having been largely ineffective in front of goal. This just shows how important he will be if they are to challenge at the top of the table and push for a qualification place in next year’s Copa Libertadores.
Alex was a Copa Libertadores winner early in his career with Palmeiras, and returning to South America’s premier competition with his hometown club would be a great opportunity and a fitting way to round off his career. As we recently saw with Atlético Miniero, the competition has the potential to make dreams a reality, and there would be no bigger dream for Alex and Coritiba.