West Ham record signing Felipe Anderson said his admiration for Carlos Tevez, Javier Mascherano and club legend Paolo Di Canio meant that he “didn’t think twice” about joining the club.
Anderson midfielder progressed through the youth ranks of the prolific Santos academy before joining Lazio in 2013. The Brazilian had five successful campaigns in Serie A — scoring 34 goals in 177 appearances — but the 25-year-old admits that his long-term goal was always to play in the Premier League.
“It has been wonderful [since I arrived at West Ham],” Anderson told ESPN Brasil. “It’s being better than I expected because I always believed it was going to be the best place to play football.
“Since I arrived, that’s been confirmed. I was very well welcomed by the new teammates, the manager and the whole club. I’m very happy here.
“Since I was a kid I knew that this [the Premier League] was the most important championship. Then when I started playing all the players said that it was the best, the most difficult, the most competitive. I wanted to come here to be among the best. [I already knew many things about West Ham] I was following Tevez, Mascherano … I also followed Di Canio who played here a long time ago.
“I always followed the English championship a lot so when they told me about the possibility of coming here I did not think twice. I followed players like [Thierry] Henry, who made history here. When I was young, I would watch them and then Tevez, who did what he did and became an idol. I dream of reaching that kind of level.”
Anderson had been linked with other Premier League clubs in the past and West Ham finally managed to lure him away from Lazio in the summer after agreeing to pay around £40 million for his services to make him their club record signing.
Anderson was not concerned about that price tag and is determined to use his experience from Italian football to prove himself in England.
“[Being the club record signing] shows that they have confidence in your football and your work,” he said. “That gives you more confidence to work. Knowing that everyone trusts you and your talent is something that everyone likes. I hope to return that confidence to prove my work on the pitch.
“I arrived in Italy at the age of 20 and I spent five very good years there. I grew a lot as a person and as a player. I learned many things. I also went through a difficult time that helped me grow. Now I think I’m ready to show my level here.
“In Italy it’s difficult for players, especially for Brazilians who are used to playing a lot with the ball. You have to be very strong and there is a lot of pressure. In Brazil you are used to always training with the ball. It was a bit difficult [for me to adapt to Italy], but it was what I wanted. I had to work to adapt as quickly as possible. The first two years in Lazio were complicated. Also the last one. But I think that all in all, it was good for me because now I have arrived here with everyone’s trust.”
Anderson said that he has the support of Neymar, with the Paris Saint-Germain star having played with him both at Santos and the Brazil national team that won the Olympic gold medal in Rio in 2016.
“Many players and many friends who are still in contact sent me messages [after the signing by West Ham]. They wished me luck for the new season,” the West Ham midfielder said. “Yes [I also had spoken with Neymar about it], we are always joking. I wished him well for second season and hope it goes as well as he hopes.
“We talk, we mess around, but he is always wishing me good things so that one day I can show everything he hopes for and that he knows I am capable of doing. He always spoke about aiming for the top. He always said I have qualities which could make the difference, so he is always saying nice things.”