EXCLUSIVE: Fulham midfielder Joao Palhinha on his failed Bayern move & Euro 2024 hopes

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EXCLUSIVE: Fulham midfielder Joao Palhinha on his failed Bayern move & Euro 2024 hopes

Joao Palhinha will feature for Portugal at the Euros
Joao Palhinha will feature for Portugal at the EurosAFP
At the age of 28, Joao Palhinha is one of Roberto Martinez's key players in the Portugal team as they prepare for the European Championships this summer in Germany.

In this exclusive interview with Flashscore, the midfielder, who completed his second season at Fulham in the Premier League, recalls his failed move to Bayern Munich in January, discusses his future under manager Marco Silva and, of course, the league title won by his former club Sporting, before turning his attention to Euro 2024.

Hello Joao, thank you for accepting Flashscore's invitation.

"Thank you for inviting me, it's a pleasure."

You were the player in the Premier League who made the most tackles this season. How would you rate the campaign you just had? 

"In collective terms, it was a very good season, just like the first one. In personal terms it was also good, I felt I did well and evolved, that's the most important thing. Overall, I look back on it as a very positive season. Fulham's goal was to stay up, we mustn't forget that.

"It was achieved quickly and at one stage of the season, we even thought we could fight for something more. But with the great competitiveness of the Premier League, it wasn't easy to push towards Europe, even though we tried to fight for it."

This has been your second season at Fulham, although a lot of people think that your first season was much better after getting promoted from the Championship. Do you think that too, and that things could have gone differently? 

"Yes, of course. Everyone realises how competitive it is in England so you mustn't always compare the two seasons. In the first season, we scored more points, if you look at it that way, the facts don't lie. We almost beat Fulham's points record in the Premier League, so in that sense, it was a better season.

"But then you look at the results against big teams and this season we've beaten Arsenal, Tottenham, Manchester United... so we've had several games where we've given a different image of ourselves compared to the previous season, at least as far as the big teams are concerned.

"The positive season we've had comes from that, we've taken a step forward. There have been changes to the team, but we've managed to maintain a base."

Palhinha had another good season at Fulham
Palhinha had another good season at FulhamProfimedia

And next year, do you want to stay at Fulham? 

"Yes, so far the outlook is to continue. In football, you never know what tomorrow will bring. I have dreams, goals as a player. Since I started my career I've always dreamed of playing on the big stages of world football. I've already had a chance, as is publicly known. 

"At the moment, today, the likelihood is I stay at Fulham, but we'll see what happens. I have immense respect for the Fulham organisation, people know what a professional I am and that's the example I want to pass on to the many kids who follow me and look up to me."

The failed transfer to Bayern Munich put you in the limelight. Is it completely behind you now? With all the changes that have taken place at Bayern, is it something that could remain on the table? I ask because there are many people who say that Palhinha has to be at a club that plays in the Champions League. Is Bayern a closed door?

"I don't know if it's a closed door or not, everything in football is very uncertain. I can't say it's a closed or open door. I can't put myself in a position like that either. Today I want to focus more on the European Championships because that's the goal, to leave a good impression at the Euros, and then everything else will follow.

"People already know me. The fact that I'm in the Premier League means I'm in a very big shop window, probably the biggest of them all. The Euros is also a showcase that everyone is following all over the world."

Fulham's Joao Palhinha on his potential move to Bayern
Fulham's Joao Palhinha on his potential move to BayernAFP, Flashscore

Even before we touch on the Euros, I can't not talk about the Portuguese players in the Premier League. Manchester City were champions, United were disappointing even though Diogo Dalot was considered the best player on their team and Bruno Fernandes was the one who created the most goals for them. Are you happy for City and sad about what happened to Dalot and Bruno, even though United won the FA Cup?

"It depends... Being colleagues on both sides, you're a bit heartbroken. You always hope for the best. In practical terms, it was very good for Bruno and Dalot to win the cup because of the question of Europe, it would be really bad for a club as big as United to miss out on European competition.

"So in that respect, maybe I was rooting more for Bruno and Dalot, not least because Bernardo (Silva), Ruben (Dias) and Matheus (Nunes) were champions, so the season was sort of 50/50, even though United didn't manage to achieve a European position in the league.

"But in football, people only remember the last instant. The fact that United beat City came as a surprise to everyone, they gave a great response and deserved to win the cup."

Were you happy to see Sporting crowned champions? Maybe not so much after losing the Portuguese Cup final...

"Yes, the double was a goal for the whole organisation but it hasn't happened for years. Ruben Amorim himself said that not winning the cup made it less special. I understand what he means a little. When you're a player, being able to win two titles in one season makes it much more special than just one.

"But that doesn't erase the great season Sporting had and they thoroughly deserved this championship. The cup final was a knockout game, which FC Porto were fortunate to win."

Sporting won the league title
Sporting won the league titleAFP

Do you agree with those who say that the Premier League is a competition tailor-made for Ruben Amorim? 

"Yes, Ruben has that ability, I've said it before. I don't know if it will happen, but he has the ability and potential to do it, he's already been a big topic at the end of the season and he'll probably continue to be one in the near future. That will be his choice."

If you're an outsider, you get the feeling that every Premier League club is paying more and more attention to Portuguese football. Sometimes there are even some unexpected signings. Being in the most competitive league in the world, do you also feel that the Portuguese are always on the radar?

"I think so, the fact that we have so many players coming here and having success is due to this growing attention from clubs to our league. The truth is that nowadays, not only English football, but also other markets, are paying more and more attention to our football and that's also very good for Portuguese players."

Turning to the European Championships, when you heard Roberto Martinez say your name, how did it feel? Was it like the first time?

"Of course, it was very special for me. It's a competition I've been fortunate enough to attend and it's something unique, the feeling of representing your country. I want to go all out to achieve great things for our country."

The whole group must know how they are seen and that the football world puts Portugal among the favourites. Is that pressure for you or are you used to it?

"When you represent your country, there's always pressure to be there. We all realise what we can achieve and we have to focus on ourselves and not so much on the external factors that try to interfere with the group.

"As a group, we have to hold each other's hands and focus on our work, everything else we have to put behind us and go with the thought of representing the country."

There's a huge Portuguese community in Germany, are you prepared for the outpouring of support you'll get there? Not only at the matches but also in Marienfeld (the training centre)?

"Of course, we know we'll have the support of many Portuguese people and we're counting on that. It's always very special when we can count on them, and I hope they make us feel at home during the matches."

There are two unavoidable names in the team: Pepe and Cristiano Ronaldo. How important are they to the team?

"They're very important because of their experience and the legacy they've left in the national team, and for that reason alone they deserve to be in the squad. They are living examples who continue to give their best at club level. For my generation and the younger ones, it's always a source of pride to be able to share this space with them."

Palhinha alongside Ronaldo
Palhinha alongside RonaldoAFP

And they're also the ones who go deep down to find the motivation for the team to click into gear?

"They certainly know how. When we talk about experience it's very much about that, it's always good to have a mix of youth and experience because it gives the group a different competitiveness. Combining that in a place like the national team is extremely good and we're fortunate to have that mix."

Thank you very much for this chat with Flashscore and all the best for the European Championships.

"Thank you very much, too, and all the best."

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