Vincent Candela announced his return to Italian football in dramatic style by thumping a shot off the crossbar in only the second minute of his first match for Udinese Calcio last Wednesday.
The former AS Roma defender enjoyed an excellent debut following his summer move from Bolton Wanderers FC as Udinese defeated Sporting Clube de Portugal 1-0 in the first leg of their UEFA Champions League third qualifying round tie.
Udinese have changed markedly from the side that finished a surprise fourth in Serie A last season. Serse Cosmi has taken over as coach and the 31-year-old Candela was just one of four new faces included in the starting line up at the Estádio José Alvalade.
World Cup winner
With Cosmi relying heavily on youth this season, the French 1998 FIFA World Cup and UEFA EURO 2000™ winner's experience will prove invaluable. And as Candela told uefa.com, he is eager to do whatever he can to ensure Udinese's first experience of the Champions League is a successful one.
uefa.com: You hit the crossbar in the second minute of your first game for Udinese. It was almost the perfect return to Italian football...
Vincent Candela: Yes it really did start well, we hit the bar, but the most important thing was that we won 1-0 and that is only the beginning because the return match will be very difficult. Sporting are a very good team who play very well. We have to work hard again. But we'll be ready for them in Udine at our stadium with our supporters behind us and we hope that it will be easier for us.
uefa.com: Are you happy to be back in Italy?
Candela: Very happy. I chose Italy specifically because I have played here for nine years and I really wanted to return to this championship. I hadn't played that well over the past year. I made this choice because Udinese are a very good team, aiming for the Champions League, who play very well.
uefa.com: What did you learn from your time at Bolton?
Candela: I learned about the English championship which is very physical. I visited all the stadiums which are magnificent. It is a very difficult league, more physical than in Italy, but I prefer the Italian league because it is better technically and tactically.
uefa.com: Will the English experience hold you in good stead?
Candela: Absolutely because it wasn't easy. Physically I worked a lot and even at 31 years old I learnt to harden myself on the pitch because over there the game is tough from the first to the 90th minute.
uefa.com: There are so many new faces at Udinese. Has it been hard to adjust?
Candela: It's always going to be hard after the year they had. They were fantastic last year. It's not easy, with a new coach and new players you have to start again. To start again from zero is never easy when there have been an enormous amount of changes, but we have had a month and a half to work together and we have to continue like that.
uefa.com: What's Cosmi like as a coach?
Candela: What you get is what you see. He's someone who is always angry, who has a lot of character. As I said, after such a fantastic year last year at Udinese, we needed someone to shout a lot and give us lots of advice to motivate us. It is human for all players who have done well that the next year you have the tendency to relax a bit and with Cosmi we have no time to relax.
uefa.com: Have you been asked to help out with some of the younger players?
Candela: Of course I try and bring them my professionalism and experience and it's true that I talk a lot with the coach and the players. It's true that there are a lot of young players, but there is a lot of quality as well.
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