Giuliano arrived at Zenit from Grêmio last summer, eager for a second chance in Europe having had a mixed spell at Dnipro between 2011 and 2014.
I’ve settled really quickly this time, arriving in a more mature phase of my life and career. I’d been in eastern Europe before, and that prepared me. In Ukraine I suffered a bit during my first year, when I was getting used to everything – a change of language, country. I’d never been out of Brazil before!
He hit the ground running in Russia, weighing in with 14 goals in 23 outings before the winter break. It helped fill the void left by the departure of Hulk, whose vacant No7 shirt Giuliano unknowingly adopted.
It’s been a very special year. When I went back to Brazil from Ukraine in 2014, my goal was to get back in the national team. Soon after joining Zenit I received the call-up. Things immediately started going really well for me here. I scored a lot of goals, was always in the starting line-up, and my season took off.
The 26-year-old forward saved his best for the UEFA Europa League, with six goals and four assists in the group stage.
Those numbers, in that time frame, is not something I’m used to. I’m not normally a player who scores a lot of goals; I’m a player who provides assists. But since I’ve been playing as a second striker, with freedom to create and get into the box, things have changed. I consider myself a player who’s always involved. I don’t give up on anything, and I think because of all that I’ve been rewarded.
The first goal came on the opening day in a remarkable recovery at Maccabi Tel-Aviv – an uncomfortable start to a group campaign that ended with Zenit advancing with relative ease.
We played at a really high level during the group stage. Our first match served as a wake-up call and completely changed our trajectory. We were 3-0 down after 70 minutes and managed an incredible turnaround to win 4-3. That inspired and motivated us. We played really well but now, starting with Anderlecht, it gets a lot more difficult.
Tale of the tape: Why does Giuliano wear blue bands on his wrists?
I used to have problems with my wrists after once falling and spraining them when I was little. I ended up wrapping tape around to make them a bit firmer, but now it’s become a sort of ritual.
UEFA Europa League group stage stats