By Matthew Spiro
Dado Pršo is preparing himself for "an emotional night" when he lines up for AS Monaco FC for the last time against FC Porto in the UEFA Champions League final in Gelsenkirchen on Wednesday.
The Croatian forward has been in outstanding form this season and his seven Champions League goals - including a memorable four-goal blast against RC Deportivo La Coruna - have been a key factor behind Monaco's impressive run. But the French club's high debts have left them unable to renew Pršo's contract, prompting the player agree to join Scottish side Rangers FC this summer. "It's going to be a strange, emotional night," Pršo told uefa.com. "Right now I'm finding it hard to come to terms with the fact that I am leaving Monaco."
The striker was playing for Stade Raphaelois in the French fourth division when Monaco offered him a trial in 1996, and he said: "I owe so much to Monaco. They took a gamble on me and I will be eternally grateful. I just hope I can turn the page on a positive note - and that means beating Porto on Wednesday."
Praise for Porto
The 29-year-old knows this will be no easy task, however. "In my opinion Porto are the most complete team in Europe," he said. "They are so solid and they have some excellent technical players. Deco is the player who stands out and we have to make sure we stop him getting the ball."
Pršo is also looking forward to facing an old friend. "Costinha and I used to be close friends when he was at Monaco," the Croatian international explained. "We had a chat on the phone last week and he seemed very excited about playing Monaco. It'll be nice to see him but I'd rather he wasn't playing against us because he's a terrific player. He has such a big presence in midfield and he covers every blade of grass."
Monaco have upset some big teams on their way to the final - none more so than Real Madrid CF in the quarter-finals - and Pršo is confident that their attacking style will unsettle Porto. "We've played without pressure all season because no one expected us to get this far," he pointed out. "It'll be the same in Germany.
Porto are big favourites and that suits us because it allows us to play with a bit more freedom."
Pršo is set to line up in attack alongside the competition's top goalscorer Fernando Morientes, a player he describes as "the engine of this Monaco team". He said: "Every match I play with Morientes is a pure pleasure for me. He is world class, he has won the Champions League three times, and he is the man we have looked to in the European games this year. Yes, he is a great goalscorer, but he contributes so much more to the team."
Pride of France
The Spanish striker, on loan from Madrid, is one of several players likely to leave Monaco this summer, and Pršo admitted: "I may have been the first to announce my departure, but I won't be the last." Before then there is the chance to make history for the club. "
It is the end of the road for this particular group but we've got a wonderful opportunity to finish the adventure in style," Pršo said. "The whole of France is behind us and we'll do our best to make the people proud of us."
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