Best of Meleiro – Luan Polli

By Louis Smith.

Meleiro, a small Brazilian municipality in the state of Santa Catarina, was known for its hives filled to the brim with honey and as a place where Italian immigrants made their home in the late 19th century.

As with most places in Brazil, football is popular and has several local amateur teams, but without major ties to major cities it can be difficult to discover talent in these areas.

In 2009, Meleiro-born goalkeeper Luan Polli signed with Figueirense, one of the biggest clubs in the state.

His reason for saving goals instead of scoring them is heartwarming.

“It all started with my father, who was an amateur goalkeeper,” Luan Polli told WFi.

“He died, I was very young, so I found an old football boot, which my mother hid from him.

“From then on, I told him that I wanted to be a goalkeeper, like him.”

In 2012, Polli was loaned out to Flamengo’s youth side to continue his development, but he ended up eclipsing that by making an appearance for the Rubro-Nègre senior team in 2013 in a state championship game.

Upon his return to Figueirense, he made his debut for Brazilian football’s top flight aged 21, as they drew 1-1 with Fluminense.

Polli would go on to make seven more appearances for the club before leaving on another loan, this time joining Boa Esporte.

At the end of 2017, Polli came to an end, which meant he had to explore new ideas. He decided to leave not only for a new country but a new continent…

“I was going through a difficult period in Brazil, without a club, the opportunity arose to go to Malta to play for the Naxxar Lions,” he says.

“I did not know Maltese football, I knew that the best placed entered the Europa League and the Champions League qualifiers. I thought it was a good opportunity to enter Europe.

Polli’s time in Malta was unfortunately hampered by injury, which saw him manage just three appearances for the club.

However, despite the negatives, he was lucky to get off the football pitch.

“It was a great experience,” he adds. “Living in a different culture, learning a new language and seeing how football is treated outside of Brazil but professionally I got to the end of the season, I ended up getting injured, I saw that football doesn’t was not as structured as in Brazil, so I chose to come back.

“Going back to Brazil was a choice to be able to have more competitive training and get back in shape for the match.

“In Malta, compared to Brazil, it is much lower. Despite being an amazing country to live in.

“Going back to Europe is something I would like to do in the future. I am also an Italian citizen — I have dual citizenship.

“My big goal is to come back to Europe in a strong league, and after my career, maybe even live there.”

After a short stay in Malta, Polli returned to the comforts of his home by joining north-eastern team Sport Recife.

In 2019, he helped the club secure promotion to Serie A by finishing second, losing just four league games during the season.

Then, a year later, mixing it up with Brazil’s best, Sport Recife and Polli had a wonderful season providing safety, with Polli making several key saves along the way.

“2020 was the year where my career took a leap forward, where I had a national projection with great performances and mainly by helping the club achieve its objectives,” he recalls.

“It was the best season of my career. I had an exceptional series of games. I was very well received by the club, the fans and the city. I have great affection for Sport Recife.

Polli now plays for Atlético Goianiense which he joined in mid-2021. He got off to a good start in the Campeonato Goiano and Copa do Brasil.

As the Copa Sudamericana and the Brasileirão approach, he seems to be in excellent condition to face the challenges ahead.

“My goals for the future are to consolidate my name on the Brazilian scene more and more, as well as the goals of Atlético Goianiense and to replicate my 2020 season with outstanding performances,” he concludes.

“My long-term ambition is to win an opportunity to come back to Europe, to a big club.”


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