By Adrian Harte
FC Porto's quest for a second UEFA Super Cup title on Friday will be aided by the presence of talismanic goalkeeper Vitor Baía. Monaco, the venue for Porto's meeting with Valencia CF, has no shortage of moneyed Midases but none can match Baía's golden touch.
The 34-year-old goalkeeper became the most successful club player in Europe last week after helping Porto to victory in the Portuguese Super Cup. Baía has now won 26 club medals in a senior career that started in 1990 when he made his debut for Porto.
Baía, however, is not resting on his laurels. "I am very happy to be remembered for winning all these competitions but the Super Cup is as important as the UEFA Champions League I won last year," he said. "I will continue to work in order to win more trophies."
As well as setting a new record for titles and appearing in the Super Cup in a momentous week, Baía was also named Best Goalkeeper of the 2003/04 season at the UEFA European Football Awards in Monaco on Thursday night. This latest accolade was the perfect reward for his pivotal performances in Porto's Champions League win last season.
"It's a fantastic moment for me," he told uefa.com. "Not only for what I did last season but for everyone who was there to help me.
I have to say that the most important thing, more than this award, was winning the Champions League last year."
The only negative in a superb season for Baía was his omission from the UEFA EURO 2004™ Portugal squad. Portugal coach Luis Felipe Scolari has overlooked Baía since taking charge, a stance that has left Baía baffled. "Any goalkeeper who has had two seasons like I have had would be in the squad but there is only one person who can say why I'm not there," he said.
His international career may be over, or in suspended animation at the very least, but his club career has thrived. He spent eight years at Porto before moving to the Spanish league with FC Barcelona in 1997. His time there was marred by a serious injury that required four operations and he returned to Porto in 1999.
For Baía it was very much a prelude to the most successful spell of his career. He said: "There is a strong bond between myself and all the people who are part of the club, from the management to the fans and I fight for and defend this club as if it were my own."
Porto's Champions League win in May saw Baía join a select band of ten players that have won all three main UEFA club competitions. His roll of honour is hugely impressive. He has won eight Portuguese titles with Porto, as well as four Portuguese Cups and seven Portuguese Super Cup titles. His spell with Barcelona also brought success: he won the 1996/97 UEFA Cup Winners' Cup, the Spanish title, two Spanish cups and the Spanish Super Cup.
His return to Porto brought yet more domestic success, particularly in recent seasons, but also further European glory. The 2003 UEFA Cup success was followed by the 2004 UEFA Champions League triumph. One notable omission from the Baía medal collection is the UEFA Super Cup. Baía missed Barça's 1997 triumph and was on the losing Porto side against AC Milan last season. But he is back seeking medal number 27 and the perfect end to a perfect week.
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