Paul Williams speaks to Diogo about having no regrets over his storied career and his hopes for the future with Thai giants Buriram United.
They say a week is a long time in football, so ten years must be like an eternity.
If we cast our minds back ten years to 2008, Manchester City had only just been bought by the Abu Dhabi United Group, PSG only just avoided relegation in Ligue 1 and – in Thailand – Buriram United were still known as Provincial Electricity Authority.
Also in 2008, there was a 21-year-old Brazilian on the books of Greek giants Olympiacos who was just starting to create waves at some of Europe’s biggest clubs.
Diogo Luis Santo, more commonly known as just Diogo, burst onto the scene with Portuguesa in Brazil’s second division in 2007 and quickly attracted the attention of some of Europe’s biggest clubs, including Fiorentina and Arsenal.
The Gunners had an initial offer for the Brazilian rejected, with Portuguesa club director Andre Heleno telling local media: “We have already refused an offer from Arsenal because it was too low.
“Until now, the biggest offer made to us came from Italy, with £9million. We will only start to think of selling him from £12m.”
Just a few months later and Diogo was on his way to Greece after signing a five-year deal for a transfer fee worth an estimated £7m.
His standout season in 2008/09, in which he scored 16 goals in 42 matches, alerted the likes of Chelsea and Liverpool to his talents and he was one of Europe’s hottest young talents.
But it remains an unfulfilled talent.
He was never able to replicate that 2008/09 season and returned to Brazil on loan in 2010, joining Flamengo and Santos, before returning to his childhood club Portuguesa in 2013.
In 2015, Buriram United jumped at the chance to sign the former wunderkid, still only 27 at the time, and the Brazilian has proven to be a standout for the Thai club with 93 goals in 109 games.
Same may look back at the opportunities missed in their career and think of all the ‘what ifs’, but not Diogo, who regrets nothing and says he is loving life in Thailand.
“[I have] no regrets,” he told FOX Sports Asia.
“Some losses mature us and make us learn in life. I am happy with my career and I am happy to be here at Buriram United.”
And the reigning Thai League 1 champions are certainly happy to have a fit and healthy Diogo back firing on all cylinders.
The Brazilian was a key plank of the Buriram United side that stormed their way to the title in 2017, with 26 goals in 29 matches.
This came after he missed a large chunk of 2016 through injury, during which time Buriram United struggled, finishing a lowly fourth, and Diogo is hoping to replicate his form from 2015 and 2017 and help Buriram United retain their domestic crown this year.
Both he and the club have started the season on the right note, with three wins from three matches in the league, in which Diogo has found the net three times, while they also pushed Guangzhou Evergrande all the way in a thrilling 1-1 draw in their opening match of this year’s AFC Champions League.
“We played against a successful team in Asia and we achieved an important point,” he said of the draw against the two-time Asian champions.
“We have to think positive and think that we can achieve greater things. Our aim is to qualify [for the knockout rounds of the ACL], we have to think big. Trust and courage are everything in football.”
Their only hiccup so far in 2018 came at home last week when they had a disappointing loss against South Korea’s Jeju United at home in the AFC Champions League.
“We suffered two quick goals and it made our game more difficult,” he said.
“Jeju has a very disciplined team and they played very well. It was disappointing because we played at home and it was important to score the three points.”
Despite that loss, however, Diogo has been happy with both his and Buriram’s start to the season.
“It is a positive start to the season,” he said. “I am happy with both wins in the Thai League, but we have to do better and we can do it.”