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Club Atlético de Madrid midfielder Maniche acknowledged the visiting reporters with a knowing smile when he took his seat to field questions ahead of his side's crucial European encounter with FC Porto – he will see a few more familiar faces over the coming days.
The 31-year-old was a member of José Mourinho's Porto side that claimed the UEFA Champions League in 2004, just 12 months after lifting the UEFA Cup. Yet old allegiances will count for nothing when Atlético's first knockout round first leg kicks off on Tuesday. "It'll be a special game because I had some wonderful years at Porto and won everything a player can win," Portuguese international Maniche said. "It was a time in my life that I'm never going to forget. Now I'm with Atlético, though, and as a professional I'm committed to these colours. I'll do everything in my power to help my team beat Porto."
For Atlético, the experience Maniche gained at Porto has been invaluable this season as Los Rojiblancos returned to Europe's élite club competition after a 12-year absence. The Spanish side came through a group containing Liverpool FC, PSV Eindhoven and Olympique de Marseille to reach the last 16, yet the midfielder expects things will only get harder from here on in. "This is going to be a difficult game, but it should also be an even one," he said. "Porto are used to being in the Champions League and they've got a great team with great individual talent. It's a huge game for both sides and both have chances of advancing."
Maniche left Porto to join FC Dinamo Moskva in 2005, then spent a season on loan at Chelsea FC before Atlético signed him for €9m in 2006. The Portuguese titleholders may be barely recognisable from his days at the Estádio do Dragão, yet Maniche believes the principles that underpin the club remain the same. "There are still three or four players there from my time but the motto of the team is the same: to win," he stressed.
The midfielder's old ties were also in evidence as the Porto squad left the Vicente Calderón pitch at the end of their eve-of-match training session and Atlético's players jogged on to begin theirs. High fives and back-slapping ensued as former club and international team-mates came into contact – with the hosts' ex-Porto contingent of Maniche, Giourkas Seitaridis and Paulo Assunção prominent alongside Portugal's Simão in the exchange of goodwill.
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