Ricardinho may be the biggest name in European futsal but he is yet to aid Portugal to the continental title. However, he tells UEFA.com he is at the top of his game and ready for glory.
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All eyes at UEFA Futsal EURO 2016 in Belgrade will be on Ricardinho, with the game's biggest European name aiming to inspire Portugal to a long-awaited first major title.
The 30-year-old, who led Benfica to the UEFA Futsal Cup in 2010, enjoyed a year to remember in 2015, guiding his Inter FS team to the Spanish Liga and Cup success and being voted as best player in the world in the process. UEFA.com spoke with the 'magician' ahead of the finals in Serbia and found out that Ricardinho feels at the top of his game and ready to finally fulfill his dream of lifting a trophy with Portugal, who open against Slovenia on Thursday.
UEFA.com: You've been the golden player of the tournament, scored some amazing goals and fans show up just to watch you play but that final step continues to elude you. Is this finally going to be Ricardinho's EURO?
Ricardinho: Above all I hope this will be Portugal's EURO. If that happens than of course there's a bigger chance that it will also be Ricardinho's EURO. Individual accolades only happen when the collective also succeeds. I really hope that this will turn out to be our tournament and I think we're on the right track to achieve that goal. We have an excellent blend of experience and youth and I feel that we are closer than ever to that objective. Having said that, I don't want to put too much pressure on myself or my team-mates. We simply have to prepare ourselves in the best way possible and deliver when the time comes.
UEFA.com: Portugal are known for their dazzling technique and flair but have always struggled with one aspect of the game that is even more decisive at a final tournament: efficiency in front of goal. Are you ready to finally overtake that handicap and score when it counts?
Ricardinho: I always say the same thing: against us the opponent goalkeeper is always the man of the match. Sometimes it even feels like our main objective is to make sure the ball hits the goalkeeper instead of scoring. It's not a question of luck. What we need to do is to improve and to work even harder. If you look at the best players in the best leagues, efficiency is the rule and that makes all the difference. I think that we are getting there and we are certainly working very hard for that to happen but we can't also forget to defend well. It all starts there.
UEFA.com: You arrive at this EURO as the best player in the world and with the extra pressure of having to try and reward all the fans who always expect something special from you in every single match. How do you cope with that responsibility?
Ricardinho: I know that many fans come to our matches in the hope of seeing something different. This Portuguese team has a lot of quality and as for me all I can say is that I feel really good whenever I have the chance to reward their support with a trick or a beautiful goal. I don't like to play in a full but silent venue so those moments are also important to bring the fans closer to the match. What is also important to stress is the fact that that aspect of my game comes naturally. I never plan when or what I'm going to do. I just let it flow.
UEFA.com: You have won everything that is possible to win at club level but just how badly do you want to emulate those successes with Portugal?
Ricardinho: It hurts every single day that I haven't done it yet but even more whenever I'm called to play for my country. I always think to myself: "Is it this time around that we're going to do it?" We have the quality, there's absolutely no question about it, but we also need to find a way to get past our biggest problem: our mentality. We have to focus on ourselves and in our belief that we can beat anyone rather than thinking about whom we are facing, if it's Spain, Italy, Russia or whoever.
UEFA.com: Will we see the best Ricardinho ever in Belgrade?
Ricardinho: I've been feeling at the top of my game for the past three years, ever since I joined Inter. I couldn't be happier with the way things are going and now I just hope to win even more trophies. I expect to play at my highest level in Serbia and hopefully avoid any kind of injury. I just want to go out there and do what I love most.