A star performer in the UEFA Champions League and Bundesliga, Douglas Costa has won an army of new admirers in his first season with Bayern München.
Yet without his formative experiences in futsal, the brilliant Brazilian international winger would not be the player he is today. Just as the extravagantly gifted Pelé, Socrates and Zico once cited the positive influence of 'futebol de salão' on their game, so too does Douglas Costa.
"I started playing aged ten and stopped at 15, but it helped my development – especially trying to get out of small spaces when you are man-marked and with no time to spare," he says.
The small-sided sport actually originated in Uruguay but Brazil has done its best to claim it as its own. Douglas Costa acknowledges its legacy, both for his country and for him on a personal level.
"Players like Ronaldinho and Neymar started in futsal schools," the 25-year-old said. "Denílson loved playing too, looking for things to take onto the soccer pitch. Doing everything quickly, that's what I try to do on the field today, that's what I learned from futsal. The way you have to move in futsal also impresses me."
A decade ago Douglas Costa was establishing himself in Grêmio's youth ranks, making his senior debut three years later. Come 2010 he joined Shakhtar Donetsk in Ukraine, where his trophy haul included a domestic treble and he went on to earn international recognition ... and a €30m transfer to Bayern last summer.
Along the way, he has mixed it with the very best – and he names Manuel Neuer, Xavi Hernández, Neymar and Robert Lewandowski among his favourite modern footballers. However, he remains unequivocal about the value of a futsal education.
"I think all children like futsal," Costa concludes. "Making quick decisions, moving fast when you're in difficulties on the pitch; it teaches you a lot. I'm passionate about this sport."
This article appears in the official UEFA Futsal Cup finals programme. Download your copy here.
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