By Fergus O'Shea
Costinha was a second division player in Portugal until fairly late in his career when he was plucked from relative obscurity by AS Monaco FC - the club he will face in the UEFA Champions League final tonight.
Even though he flourished at the Stade Louis II under coach Claude Puel, helping Monaco win the French title in 1999/00, the FC Porto midfield player will have no mixed emotions at the Arena AufSchalke, focusing only on lifting the ultimate prize.
"I am glad Monaco are in the final, but I will forget about the four years I had there because all I want to do is win the Champions League," he told uefa.com. "I don't follow them anymore because most of my friends have left the club, but I think they play more as a team than when I was with them."
Excellent team play has characterised both finalists' progress in the Champions League. Certainly, Costinha could see parallels between the no-nonsense Porto style and Monaco's approach. "They don't consider themselves superstars," the 29-year-old said. "They just play the game and respect their opponents."
A tough tackler in midfield, Costinha embodies the commitment and work-rate of José Mourinho's side. He was superb in the semi-finals as Porto almost completely stifled RC Deportivo La Coruña as an attacking force, denying Juan Carlos Valerón the space to create anything of note.
The Portuguese international was rightly praised for that performance, but had his own reasons for wanting to lead the team to the final in Gelsenkirchen. He won the league and Portuguese Cup with Porto in 2002/03, but because of injury, played only nine minutes of the UEFA Cup final triumph against Celtic FC.
"I really wanted to play in that game, and when I told my wife afterwards that I would play in another final she just started laughing at me," he said. "But here I am in this final with Porto. I am not laughing, I want to be laughing after the game."
Last season, Porto's final success was preceded by victory in the Portuguese Cup, but defeat by SL Benfica in last week's domestic showpiece has been considered by some to be a bad omen for Mourinho's men. Costinha, however, is not one of them.
"The Benfica game is already out of our heads," he said. "We didn't enjoy losing it but that is football. The important thing is that we win the next game. We know we have to work very hard to prepare for this match."
The final is occupying Costinha's thoughts at present, but he is already planning ahead. He will turn 30 at the end of the year and is keen to fulfil a personal ambition of playing in Serie A. "I have two years left on my contract with Porto," he said. "To play in Italy is something that I would like to try because I like that style of football, but this is not only about me. The club will have something to say about it. Maybe we will see at the end of the season."
If he performs as brilliantly on Wednesday as he did against Deportivo, the biggest names in Serie A could be beating a path to Costinha's door by the end of the summer.
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