Feyenoord's trip to RC Deportivo La Coruña in Group H of the UEFA Cup brings back some very fond memories for veteran striker Roy Makaay.
'Four beautiful years'
The 33-year-old enjoyed four terrific seasons at the Riazor between 1999 and 2003, scoring 79 goals in the Liga and helping Deportivo to their first and so far only title in 2000. "Obviously I'm looking forward to this match," said Makaay, who left Depor for FC Bayern München in the summer of 2003. "I played here for four years, four beautiful years.
"My son was born there, we won everything there was to win at domestic level in Spain. We celebrated winning the Spanish title, we won the Spanish Cup, and did that in Madrid on the day Real celebrated their centenary. We won two Super Cups and in my final year I was the top scorer in Europe [with 29 goals in 2003]. I'm looking forward to going back there for the first time in almost six years."
Makaay scored 22 goals in that title-winning campaign and is happy to relive the memories. "We clinched the title in our own stadium. It was a madhouse with 35,000 spectators. Over 200,000 people cheered us on when we toured the city on a double-decker afterwards. My return brings back emotions, both for me and the people here. Just going out on the pitch at the Riazor for training on Wednesday evening was very special to me. That was the moment to let all the memories and emotions take over. For me it is beautiful we drew Deportivo away, but for sporting reasons for Feyenoord it would have been better to play at home. From my own experience I know how hard it is to win here, but we will have to if we want to stay in the race."
Makaay, who was capped 43 times for the Netherlands, had a difficult start to the season after returning from the Olympics with a broken foot and in his absence Feyenoord suffered. Things, though, are beginning to look up for both the player and club, with the Rotterdam side having picked up ten points from their past four matches, with Makaay scoring in each game. "I feel fit, I've scored for four matches in a row and also set up a few, which always makes you feel good."
Feyenoord have lost both their games so far in the section, 3-0 away to AS Nancy-Lorraine and 3-1 at home to PFC CSKA Moskva. Deportivo are also yet to pick up a point, but they have played only once, so the pressure is greatest on the Rotterdam club. "If I score here, I will not celebrate much because of all my many fond memories of the place," Makaay said. "My priority, though, is to defend the Feyenoord colors. We want to have things in our own hands when we meet Lech Pôznan in our final home match. We have a lot of young players, and they can only learn from playing at this level."
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