Rivaldo is enjoying a new lease of life with Olympiacos CFP. The FIFA World Cup winner and former FIFA World Player of the Year has been the inspiration behind his side's domination of the Greek first division and a major reason why they go into Sunday's Athens derby six points clear of second-placed AEK Athens FC. uefa.com caught up with the 32-year-old Brazilian and discovered why Greece has captured a little piece of his heart.
uefa.com: You are considered the best player to have played in the Greek league. How do you cope with your star billing?
Rivaldo: I have had a long and successful career, in very demanding teams: [FC] Barcelona, [AC] Milan, Brazil. I’ve grown used to the responsibilities that come with my name. My aim, though, is to work hard and just be one of the players. Nothing more, nothing less.
uefa.com: You have a special relationship with the Olympiacos fans …
Rivaldo: I like it very much when the fans chant my name, whenever I go to take a corner or a free-kick. It shows they like my skills as a player. I feel very close to them.
uefa.com: Which player do you most enjoy watching?
I really enjoy watching Zinedine Zidane. His elegance of movement on the pitch and his skills are uncanny. Apart from being an impressive player, he is also very humble and very likeable as a person. A great man. It was a great joy and honour to play alongside Ronaldo and Ronaldinho Gaucho in the 2002 World Cup. Our teamwork was great and it showed through the results. Great players both of them.
uefa.com: Who is the best coach you have played under?
Rivaldo: The three years under Vanderlei Luxemburgo at [SE] Palmeiras were special. We still have a great relationship, we talk regularly on the phone, I seek his advice on various issues. I also have a great regard for Carlos Alberto Parreira, the coach who called me up to the Brazil squad for the first time in 1993.
uefa.com: What has been the highlight of your career?
Rivaldo: [Winning] The FIFA World Player of the Year award in 1999. To be considered No1 among millions of players in the world is special. It guarantees you a place in the history of the sport.
uefa.com: Do you want to stay at Olympiacos?
Rivaldo: My contract expires next June. By 30 March
Olympiacos are bound by contract to tell me if they intend to extend the deal or not. The ball is in their court. However, I have two kids that live with my ex-wife in Brazil … I miss them very much. I have mixed feelings. I want to be near my kids, but I am also waiting for the call from the Olympiacos president to tell me if he wants to continue our co-operation or not. We’ll see.
uefa.com: You have two new-born babies, twins, so a total of four children ...
Rivaldo: Five, next September! We just learned that my wife is pregnant again. Five children! That's life. I am very happy.
uefa.com: Has your life changed since August, when your twins were born?
Rivaldo: It's normal to feel more fulfilled as a person. My life here in Greece is wonderful and now this place will be dear to me forever, because I will associate it with the birth of my children. However, I also feel a bit homesick, especially as my other children are in Brazil.
uefa.com: How do you explain Olympiacos’s failure to make it to the knockout stages of the UEFA Champions League? It is seven years since they last got that far.
Rivaldo: It's difficult to explain. I was used to playing in squads that almost always made it to the knockout stages, like Barcelona and Milan. In Olympiacos, we must improve several aspects of our game and especially our mentality. We have to make European competition our main focus.
uefa.com: What are your chances of making the Brazil squad this summer?
Rivaldo: It's getting more difficult every day, but I haven't lost hope. I do my job as best as I can, hoping I can finish my international career next summer in Germany. I want to prove I deserve a place among the 23, that I can contribute, but I am a down-to-earth person and I know it's been a long time since I was last called up to the national team. Taking part in World Cups are among my fondest memories.
uefa.com: Are Brazil favorites to win the World Cup?
Rivaldo: Considering the tradition, the quality of the players and their performance in recent competitions, yes. This year it’s going to be very difficult, because everybody is determined to see Brazil lose for a change.
Argentina are the main rivals. They have very good players and a determination to do well this time.
uefa.com: Have you thought of retiring?
Rivaldo: As long as my legs can cope with the responsibilities of professional football, I will be here. I will stop the day when I realise that, by continuing, I am embarrassing myself. My body will dictate when I retire.
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