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Rothen's cup fantasy

Published: Wednesday 26 May 2004, 11.56CET
Jérôme Rothen has been haunted by dreams of lifting the UEFA Champions League trophy.

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Published: Wednesday 26 May 2004, 11.56CET

Rothen's cup fantasy

Jérôme Rothen has been haunted by dreams of lifting the UEFA Champions League trophy.
By Darren Tulett

AS Monaco FC winger Jérôme Rothen has told his team-mates to make the most of their chance for UEFA Champions League glory as they may never play in another final after their showdown with FC Porto.

'Our only chance'
"For some of us, maybe all of us, it might be our only chance," he told uefa.com. "We're playing a final and that won't be the case every year. It's all too good."

Improbable campaign
Rothen has been a key figure in Monaco's surprise march to Gelsenkirchen and admitted that the focus on European success has come at the expense of a higher finish in Ligue 1, which ended last weekend with Didier Deschamps' side in third place. "At the start of the season, playing in Europe was just a bonus. But little by little it became the number one objective," said Rothen.

French support
Now the French international is just 90 minutes away from fulfilling his boyhood dream of becoming a European champion. "We will have the whole of France behind us and ever since I was a child, I've dreamt of moments like this," the 26-year-old said.

Trophy superstition
Though the trophy is literally within their grasp, Rothen refuses go anywhere near the silverware before the match. "Out of superstition, I won't touch it before the game," he said. "I will have a good look at it, though, and will give everything to win it. I try not to, but I can't help picturing myself lifting the trophy. I can't help but think of winning the European Cup."

Superb results
Lifting the trophy became a possibility after an astonishing quarter-final victory against Real Madrid CF - and even more likely after the semi-final triumph against Chelsea FC, where Rothen stood out as the player of the tie. "Lots of people this season said that Madrid were the best team in the world," he said. "We knocked them out and we couldn't be any closer. We can't spoil it all now."

Unpredictable opponents
Rothen warned that Monaco are at their most dangerous when opponents underestimate them. "One of the things that struck me was that the Madrid players seemed to think they had done enough to get through against us," he said. "We showed them that can be a dangerous way of thinking."

Recovery position
Confidence is high in the Monaco camp, mainly because the French side have such mental strength. Their camaraderie and team spirit have been strengthened by the club's financial tribulations off the pitch, as well as their triumphs on it. "The best thing about us is that we are able to react to turn situations around," Rothen explained. "There have been times this season when we've played badly for one half of a game but we've never had two bad halves.

Fighting spirit
"That's what happened in the second leg against Chelsea. When we conceded the second goal, I saw some heads go down. I tried to shake everybody up but it didn't last long. We were soon back fighting. We reached the final with our heart, with our guts. We deserve to be there."

Forbidden wine
Rothen's preparations for the final have even affected his home life, with his wife having to curtail her fondness for a certain drink. "I don't like port wine but my wife does," he said. "I have forbidden her from drinking any before the final!"

Last updated: 26/05/04 20.47CET

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