By Greg Demetriou
Derlei lit up the European stage for FC Porto last season with a dozen UEFA Cup goals including the decisive strike in the 3-2 final victory against Celtic FC.
Eye for goal
However, the 28-year-old Brazilian is not getting carried away about his chances of repeating such personal heroics in the UEFA Champions League. Speaking to uefa.com about the upcoming campaign, Derlei's commitment to team play suggests that he is far more than an isolated finisher with an eye on goalscoring records.
Above all else, Derlei plays for his colleagues. While he may have grabbed the UEFA Cup headlines with two goals in the quarter-finals, two in the semi-finals and two in the final, he prefers to direct the praise on to those around him. "
All the team works together to score," he said. "The basic thing is always the team. If the team works, then I work and we score goals."
Derlei played for several clubs in his homeland, including Madureira and Guarani FC, before being enticed to the SuperLiga by UD Leiria midway through the 1999/00 season. He was quick to establish himself, scoring eight goals in his first season in the Portuguese top flight. He continued to flourish under the coaching of José Mourinho at the Dr Maghãles Pessoa stadium, scoring a splendid 21 goals in 33 matches in 2001/02 to announce himself as a player of huge talent.
When Mourinho left to take charge of Porto, Derlei followed and he has repaid his coach's faith several times over. Now, he is contemplating his first taste of the Champions League, a competition he said was "an honour" to compete in.
I want to do a good job in the Champions League," he added. We want to reach the second phase and anything can happen at that point." It will be a difficult task. Porto get Group F under way with a fixture in Belgrade on Tuesday night against FK Partizan but will also have to face the might of Real Madrid CF and Olympique de Marseille.
On the up
Reaching the knockout stage promises to be a tougher prospect for the 1987 European champions than retaining their domestic crown. The treble winners are already riding high with ten points from their first four fixtures, having won 3-1 at Leiria on Saturday. The first goal came from Derlei on the half-hour mark, heading in a cross from Nuno Valente, another former Leiria man. Derlei already has three goals from four games and is forging a useful partnership with summer arrival Benni McCarthy.
Derlei said: "My ambition and the club's ambition is the same. First, we want to win the [Portuguese] league and cup again. In Europe, it is going to be a little more difficult. It is not the UEFA Cup, it is the Champions League which is much stronger. We know it will be almost impossible to win everything again."
So Derlei has his feet firmly on the ground but his cautious air should not be read as a lack of determination. If the goals keep flowing and the likes of Deco and McCarthy also do their bit, Porto will be more than a match for anyone. "If the best is to go all the way, then so be it," the prolific striker added.
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