Nottingham Forest's Murillo: Maybe I could be better than Beckenbauer!

Murillo - Forest's Murillo on ‘Beckenbauer’ tag: Maybe I could become an even better player

Nottingham Forest have signed more than 40 players since their long-awaited return to the Premier League, and it appears they have struck gold with Murillo Santiago Costa dos Santos.

Signed from Brazilian giants Corinthians for £10.3 million in August, Murillo is the 21-year-old centre-back who is already turning heads and capturing the imagination.

Powerfully built, yet with explosive speed, he was given the nickname ‘Beckenbauer’ at his former club for the long, laser-precision passes that have become his trademark.

It became evident in Murillo’s first week of training that Forest had a serious talent on their hands, and some supporters are already adopting the mindset of enjoying him while it lasts.

Murillo has quickly adapted to life at Nottingham Forest
Murillo has quickly adapted to life at Nottingham Forest - Ritchie Sumpter/Getty Images

“I’ve always wanted to play in the Premier League and it’s what I’ve prepared for,” he says, in his first national newspaper interview. “I never imagined it would happen as quickly as it has done, but now I’m here I want to be at my best in the best league.

“I’ve watched these players on television and now I’m learning from them. I can do even more, this is just the start of my career.”

‘I’m looking forward to facing Haaland

It is remarkable to consider that Murillo only made his senior first-team debut at Corinthians in April, for he already appears a footballer designed for the modern game.

He is not even 22 until July but is strikingly mature, always positive, and clearly focused on the pursuit of constant improvement. These are early days, but Forest are already preparing for substantial interest from bigger clubs next year.

Murillo first emerged to a wider audience in the televised game against Crystal Palace last month, when he produced an outstanding run and dribble from the halfway line (watch below).

There was also a moment towards the end of last weekend’s chaotic encounter with Brighton when Murillo, seemingly tiring, suddenly accelerated into the penalty area and put in a perfect tackle to prevent Joao Pedro from securing his hat-trick.

“My objective is to come out on top and be the best, whoever I am up against,” he says.

“I have already marked Mo Salah, and my mum loves him! I’m also looking forward to facing Richarlison and [Erling] Haaland. These are the players you want to test yourself against. I hate losing and winning is everything.”

Murillo is already a popular member of the dressing room, which already includes a number of Brazilians in Felipe, Danilo and Chelsea loanee Andrey Santos.

He is also close with another defender, Willy Boly, who is the squad’s unofficial translator as he speaks fluent Portuguese.

Steve Cooper, the Forest head coach, has established a reputation for improving young talent and though he is determined to stay cautious, believes Murillo’s potential is limitless.

“The coach has shown faith in me and I want to repay him with my personality on the pitch,” says Murillo.

“We have a quality team that can achieve a lot. It’s still very early in the season and if we click, and stay united, we can even compete for European competition.”

‘It was tragic to lose my dad at such a young age’

Murillo’s journey to the Premier League has been an unpredictable one, and tainted by tragedy. He grew up in São Paulo and initially started playing futsal at the age of six, with his father, Fabio, a huge influence in those early years.

Yet when Murillo was 10, Fabio passed away. Talking about it today remains very difficult.

“It was tragic to lose him at such a young age, and at the time I really felt that I knew so little about life,” he says.

“It’s always devastating to lose a parent whatever your age but afterwards I later discovered Jesus and learned that life has a purpose.

“My brother and agent were like father figures for me, and my grandparents helped me to get where I am. I really owe these people, and my mum [Dona Rosa] for being so supportive.

“If my father was still here, maybe I wouldn’t be where I am now. My life could have taken a different direction.”

Murillo (centre) has caught the eye of plenty already with his performances this season
Murillo (centre) has caught the eye of plenty already with his performances this season - Darren Staples

‘People thought I was in the wrong age group’

Murillo’s focus on becoming a professional footballer only became more intense, and he bounced around club academies in São Paulo. One of his first experiences was with Fut Talentos, a football school located in the east of the city. His strength and pace were clear to see from a young age.

“Because of my size the mums of the other players always used to question whether I belonged in the higher age group,” he says, laughing.

“When I first started playing I was a left-back. I even played goalkeeper once – there were two penalties in the game and I actually saved one of them.”

The turning point came in 2019, when he joined the academy at Corinthians. It fulfilled a burning ambition, for his father was a massive fan of the club.

Four years later, the first-team debut arrived and though he only made 13 league appearances, word was travelling around Europe. The Beckenbauer nickname brings a smile to his face.

“It came from my former team-mate Giuliano and a comparison with a footballing legend like that is surreal, and obviously an honour,” he says.

“I was told he was an excellent centre-back who was really good in the build-up of play, and brilliant on the ball.

“I wouldn’t want to copy him, I’d want to absorb what he does and use it to enhance my qualities and strengths. Who knows, maybe I could become an even better player!”

‘I know my father is above, helping me’

Napoli made at least one bid for Murillo this summer, while Torino were also keen, and Forest owner Evangelos Marinakis was pressed into action by the club’s recruitment team. Forest will pay an additional £2.5million on appearances and other instalments, while Corinthians negotiated a hefty sell-on clause.

Out of all Forest’s signings since promotion, Murillo is arguably the one who stands out the most.

He is set to face Everton this weekend, in another significant game for the club, and the last few months have been a whirlwind.

In the recent international break, he proposed to his partner, Mabili, in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

“I was waiting for the right moment. Everything was planned before, I had a lot of help from Pablo [Uribe, Forest’s head of player care] and it went perfectly,” he says.

“We’re going to have a wonderful life together under God.”

With a bright future seemingly assured, Murillo’s thoughts of his father will never be far away.

“I’d love it if he was here seeing me realising the dream of becoming a professional footballer. I know he is above, supporting me and helping me.”