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Long Hair, Don’t Care: Filipe Luís’ “Crooked Path” to the Top, Part II

Filipe nearly ended up at Barcelona and had a spell at Real Madrid B before he became a star.

Atletico Madrid v Athletic Club - La Liga Photo by Denis Doyle/Getty Images

Read Part I here.

Another reason Filipe Luís is Atlético Madrid’s wild card: no player who isn’t 100 percent sure of his place in Diego Simeone’s team would ever admit to “not working hard,” even in air quotes.

After a season at Ajax, Filipe’s rights were technically transferred to the Uruguayan club Rentistas. However, he never played for the Montevideo side, immediately going out on loan to Real Madrid. He found Spain much more to his liking — the climate and the culture were similar to Brazil, especially compared to the prim, proper, and organized Dutch ethos.

“Let’s just say they (Real Madrid) enjoyed the Brazilians more,” Filipe joked.

Finding opportunities with Real Madrid’s B team, the individualistic Filipe had his own apartment within a week. He sang the praises of the food, the lifestyle, the football. He teamed with players like Álvaro Negredo, Roberto Soldado, Javi García and Álvaro Arbeloa. Despite impressing his coaches at Real Madrid, Rentistas’s option to buy was too rich for the club’s blood and Los Blancos returned Filipe to sender after the season.

After his season with Real Madrid B, Rentistas loaned Filipe to Deportivo La Coruña. In his first season at Riazor — the 2006/07 campaign — Fili served as an understudy to legendary Spanish international Joan Capdevila, making 26 appearances. Despite a so-so season from the left back, Depor were confident in what they had in Filipe. The club allowed Capdevila to move to Villarreal in the summer despite him being near the peak of his powers.

During the 2007/08 campaign, Filipe cemented himself as a first-choice full back. Depor officially purchased Filipe from Rentistas that summer and signed him to a five-year deal. The following season was Filipe’s breakout, as he played every minute of every game in La Liga and the UEFA Cup. He even made one of UEFA’s “Best 11” lists at the end of the season.

It was at this point that Filipe caught the eye of Pep Guardiola. The Barcelona manager dreamt of Dani Alvés and Filipe dominating their respective flanks, a dream setup at full back for the foreseeable future. Filipe wanted the move and tried to force it through.

Augusto César Lendoiro — notorious for his obstinance as the president of Depor — wanted €20 million, the full sum of Filipe’s release clause. Barcelona wouldn’t budge from €11 million and various players. No deal. Lendoiro ensured that the saga spoiled Filipe’s relation with Depor’s fanbase, portraying the Brazilian as a traitor who didn’t bleed blue and white.

Filipe’s life in Galicia would become still more difficult during the following season. Having now failed in different ways to secure moves to both Barça and Madrid, Filipe displayed professionalism that would have shocked his younger self, reaching a career high in goals through the first half of the 2009-10 season.

Near the season’s midpoint, Depor took on Athletic Bilbao at Riazor. In the 49th minute, Filipe raided down the left wing, shrugging off a defender before playing an intelligent cutback to an unmarked teammate. After a deflection and a failed clearance, Filipe and Athletic keeper Gorka Iraizoz found themselves both selling out to reach a 50/50 aerial ball. Iraizoz whiffed, and Filipe muscled the ball over the line with his golden left foot. A scrappy and brave goal if there ever was one.

After Iraizoz missed the ball, his entire weight landed on Filipe’s right leg. Filipe’s fibula was shattered and he was on the shelf for the next four months.

Warning: the following video is pretty gruesome.

Though Filipe’s rehab went perfectly — remarkably, he returned before the end of the season — his future was still up in the air. Nobody knew if he could recapture his previous form.

Around this time, Atlético began to circle, pondering a high-risk, high-reward swoop for Filipe in the summer window. Though Lendoiro played hardball again, Atleti were able to use Filipe’s uncertain future as leverage. Atleti sought competition at left back for academy graduate Antonio López and were willing to take a chance on Filipe. Lendoiro parted with him for €12 million. Filipe finally had his chance with a big club.

In 2010, one-time party animal Filipe took another step toward settling down. Once he moved to Madrid, he met his future wife, Patricia. Patricia is very low-key, shying away from the cameras and focusing full-time on motherhood. Filipe’s three children — Tiago (born 2013), Sara (born 2014) and Lucas (born 2018) — have since become the center of his life. Based on his Instagram posts, Filipe has transformed into the classic proud and doting dad, somewhat surprising for the player who once loved bars and a good time.

⚽️ ❤️

A post shared by Filipe Luís Kasmirski (@filipeluis) on

Tiago — a big-time Atleti fan — even looks like he inherited his father’s wicked left foot:

Lo firmamos ya @atleticodemadrid ?

A post shared by Filipe Luís Kasmirski (@filipeluis) on

Atleti fans know the rest of the story. Since 2010, Filipe has won everything Simeone has won (and even an additional Supercopa): LaLiga, the Europa League, two Supercopas de España and a UEFA Super Cup. Throughout his tenure with the club, Filipe has become one of Cholo’s most trusted lieutenants despite marked personality differences.

After Atlético signed Guilherme Siqueira — a player that Filipe named as one of the best left backs in the world, along with Marcelo — in the summer 2014 window, Filipe was free to try out something new at another world-class club in Chelsea. Filipe followed Diego Costa and Thibaut Courtois along the Calderón-to-Stamford-Bridge pipeline, with Atleti receiving £15.8 million as compensation.

During his only season in blue, Filipe never managed to dislodge Cesar Azpilicueta, Chelsea’s rugged, consistent, and versatile fullback. Azpilicueta’s unfussy, defense-first style convinced José Mourinho more than Filipe’s expressive, attack-oriented game. At the end of the season, Filipe joined a long list of talented players — Kevin De Bruyne, Mohamed Salah, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Leonardo Bonucci, Arjen Robben — whom Mourinho hasn’t been able to fit into his plans.

Filipe returned to Madrid during the 2015 summer window for an undisclosed fee. He’s been dynamite ever since.

“I believe in destiny and I know that I ended up Atlético for a reason,” Filipe stated, as Atleti are now clearly the club of his life.

Filipe Luis is now injured, out for the season after fracturing his fibula again during a freak play against Lokomotiv Moscow. Éder swung his boot through the Brazilian’s leg while he was making a last-ditch tackle. The inadvertent nature of the injury doesn’t make it better: Lucas Hernández is an awesome defender, but he is not a true left back and possesses little of Filipe’s verve going forward. Atleti’s succession plan went out the window when young Theo forced his way to the Bernabéu and started rocking Gucci baseball hats and camouflage Nike sweatsuits.

It seems as though we’ve been waiting for the other shoe to drop with Filipe for a while. Juanfran absolutely fell off a cliff during his age-32 season last year, and although he’s occasionally proved capable of rolling back the years — exhibit A: his through ball to Antoine Griezmann against Las Palmas — the Canary Islanders are probably the caliber of competition he can play against these days. Anecdotally, Filipe also completely deteriorates after 2018 in FIFA 18 Career Mode, so EA Sports is clearly forecasting the decline.

That said, I’m still holding out hope. Filipe’s game has always been more about technical ability, guile and intelligence than raw power. A ball roll here, a one-two there, occasionally a cheeky nutmeg. In theory, those qualities won’t fade as much with age.

Plus, if Filipe’s story has taught us anything, it’s that he does pretty much nothing conventionally. If there’s one player whom I’d bet on to play until his late 30s, it’s the man who’s experienced different degrees of failure at Ajax, Real Madrid and Barça, suffered a potentially career-altering injury at Depor and come back stronger every single time.

Ánimo, Filipe.