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Contra keen for challenge ahead

Published: Friday 4 January 2002, 20.00CET
Milan AC and Romania defender Cosmin Contra speaks to
Published: Friday 4 January 2002, 20.00CET

Contra keen for challenge ahead

Milan AC and Romania defender Cosmin Contra speaks to

Milan AC and Romania's Cosmin Contra speaks to

Cosmin Contra may have experienced some disappointment in 2001 as Deportivo Alavés lost in the UEFA Cup final and Romania missed out on qualifying for the 2002 FIFA World Cup, but the new year has started brightly. His continued excellence has seen him named Romanian Player of the Year and selected in the users’ Team of 2001 in the right-back category.  But Contra, now with Milan AC, is humble about his personal achievements.

First two awards
Reflecting on his selection in the team ahead of RC Deportivo La Coruña’s Manuel Pablo, Contra said: “You can imagine that I am very happy that my work in 2001 was recognised and rewarded. The year 2001 was special for me, because I won my first two awards of the career. I have not won any championships or national cups, or the UEFA Cup, either with FC Dinamo Bucaresti or Alavés. That's why I think that these awards are a good sign.”

Happy to win
“I want to thank to all those who voted me and I want to express my good feelings for Manuel Pablo,” Contra added. “He is a very, very good player. I don't know if I deserved to win, I don't know if he deserved to win, but I'm happy that I won and I wish him all the best.”

World Cup woe
But the disappointment of missing out on the World Cup still rankles with the 26-year-old. He said: “I will be disappointed when I watch the World Cup matches on television. All day long I hear my Milan team-mates who qualified for the World Cup, talking about their plans and what it will be like there and that just makes me worse.”

'Cannot forget'
”Despite the fact that I am a professional player and I have to concentrate exclusively on my job, I cannot forget that we deserved to be at the World Cup,” Contra said. “But not always the best reach such finals.”

Iordanescu welcomed
Contra, who was snapped up by Milan after starring for Alavés as they reached the UEFA Cup final in their European debut season, has welcomed the return of Anghel Iordanescu as Romanian national team coach. He said: “I started my international career when Iordanescu was national coach and I know that he, or whoever would have came in as coach, would have to confront the same problems: the change of generations and the necessity to obtain good and immediate results.”

'Everybody must trust'
And Contra believes that Romania can bounce back to reach the EURO 2004™ finals. But he told that a changing of the guard has to be accepted. “We can form a national team as good and as strong as the team of the golden generation, which qualified for three World Cups and two European Championships,” he said. “But, to accomplish this, everybody must trust our generation and support it. And, of course, everyone must accept the change of generations.”

'An excellent spirit'
His UEFA Cup disappointment is intermingled with pride at Alavés achievement. “There was an excellent spirit, beginning with the club president and finishing with the last reserve player,” he said. “The co-operation was excellent and the trainer, [José Maria Esnal] Mané, knew how to transform a little team into a great team. More than that, there were young and unknown players, who had the big ambition to become stars. And something like that is vital in order to achieve big things. It was a pity to lose the UEFA Cup final.”

Attacking instincts curbed
Contra has had to rein in his attacking instincts in the Milan system and admits the transition to Serie A has been testing. He said: “It was very difficult, especially in the first month. It was very difficult to adjust to Italian football as I was used to have more action and freedom. But I arrived at one of the biggest teams of the world and had to adjust to a more defensive style of football. Fatih Terim and, after him, Carlo Ancelotti, told me to play more defensively.”

Pleased with start
”But I am pleased with what I achieved here. I have played in almost all games, either as a starter, or as a substitute who came in, and I am sure that, in the near future, Mr Ancelotti will trust me more. I am a professional player and if the trainer says that you must play as goalkeeper, you do as he says. But he knows what he has to do.”

UEFA Cup hope
With the World Cup off the agenda, Contra’s immediate focus is achieving success with Milan. He said: “The struggle is very tight, the championship is long and we have a very good team, capable to win the scudetto. “In the UEFA Cup we are favourites. We have played better in the competition than in the championship, except in the second half of the game versus Sporting Clube de Portugal in Lisbon. It would be great for me to win the UEFA Cup just one year after losing in the final.”

Sights on scudetto
After a rollercoaster 2001, Contra’s ambitions are straightforward for 2002. He concludes: “My ambitions are to be healthy, to win the scudetto and the UEFA Cup and to have a good start with the national team in the EURO 2004™ qualifiers.”

Last updated: 15/11/12 22.56CET

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