After a stop-start freshman year in the Kuip, Leonardo dos Santos is all geared up for a more consistent 2002-3 campaign in the red and white of Feyenoord. Last season did not turn out how he might have hoped, but the Brazilian returned from his holiday recently raring to go. The youngster is clearly brimming with confidence ahead of the season’s competitive opener at home to Fenerbahçe. ‘There’s no place for doubts anymore.’

‘For many footballers a new season means a new start. That’s how I feel too. Last season didn’t bring what I had hoped, that’s clear, but I’m not starting this year negatively by looking back, but positively by looking forward. Everything is going great for me now. I’ve been able to show a couple of things in preseason. The doubts and feeling that I mustn’t fail have gone. I believe in myself again. Feyenoord brought me to Rotterdam for a reason after all. How many people wouldn’t like to be in my shoes and play for Feyenoord? But it’s me that’s here and that says enough. ‘My aim continues to be a place in the first 18. It’s no fun to sit in the stands. Last year I was on the bench almost every week, but when it really mattered in the UEFA Cup final I was in the stands. That was really awful and I did ask the trainer for an explanation afterwards. He explained why and I now understand why he made the decision he did. ‘Obviously I’d prefer to play in the first eleven. But what I failed to understand last year was that trainer Van Marwijk always plays the best player. It might be Kalou, it might be Elmander, but it might be me. Names and reputations have nothing to do with it; it’s what you do in matches and during training. That’s something else I didn’t get last season: how important the training sessions are. It’s on the training pitch you have to show what you can do. ‘I’m not the new boy at Feyenoord any more. I know how everything works, so I’ll be able to perform better that I did last season. Maybe I need that period of adjustment. Thinking back to my first year at Groningen, it was a real letdown. I’m well motivated now. I have to put something right for myself and that’s what I’m going to do.’

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Feyenoord Business CLub