Once dubbed 'Harry Potter' for his trickery, Ricardo Quaresma talks UEFA.com through his loyalty to FC Porto and how his mother ensured hockey's loss was football's gain.
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Part of the FC Internazionale Milano squad that won the 2009/10 UEFA Champions League, Ricardo Quaresma has little left to prove in Europe's top competition, but at 31 the winger is thrilled to still be performing at the elite level with FC Porto, the club where he learned his most valuable footballing lessons.
UEFA.com: Which players inspired you most as a youngster?
Ricardo Quaresma: I really admire Luís Figo, because [like Quaresma] he started out at Sporting Lisbon with the youth team. Then he went to Barcelona, achieved what he did there, and then went to Real Madrid. He had a really admirable career, and that inspired me to follow in his footsteps.
UEFA.com: Was there ever a time you thought you might not be a professional footballer?
Quaresma: There was a time when I wanted to play hockey instead of football, but I think at that time everyone in my school – in my neighbourhood – played hockey. It was a good thing that my mum didn't let me, and now I am who I am.
UEFA.com: What is the best piece of footballing advice you have received?
Quaresma: There's one person I will never forget who sadly is no longer with us, João de Silva, who treated me like I was his son, always giving me advice. One thing he told me was that you should never change – never change from the person you are. I always tried to stay true to that advice.
UEFA.com: Much was expected of you when you were a young player; what was that like?
Quaresma: It was fine. I'm a person who knows how to handle pressure. I've had more difficulties in my life living with being famous than with the pressure you feel during the week or during a match of having to show your abilities. I think it was much harder to live with fame.
UEFA.com: You first played in the UEFA Champions League with Porto in 2004/05; what can you remember about that?
Quaresma: It was great for me, because they were the holders and it was a pleasure and source of pride to pull on the shirt for the first time. When I signed for Porto in 2004, I'd come from Barcelona. I didn't know the city or the club very well, but I had captains who always supported me and taught me what I know today: players like Jorge Costa, Vítor Baía, Costinha, Maniche, Nuno Valente. And I think they passed onto me everything I feel now for the club.
Signing for them was the best thing I could have done because – in terms of trophies and growing up as a man and not just a player – it all happened at Porto. I try to give everything on the pitch to pay back what I got, and to return that admiration.
UEFA.com: At 31, you have played for a lot of big teams and won various trophies. How would you assess your career as a whole?
Quaresma: I'm happy with what I've managed to achieve so far. Perhaps I could have done more, but there are opportunities in life that you either take or you don't – sometimes you miss some. But I don't regret anything I have done. I'm 31. I know that here in Portugal you're already considered old when you get to 30, but in Spain, England and Italy there are players much older than me still playing. I'm still having a fantastic time – I don't think age should be a problem. While I have strength in my legs, I feel I can give a lot to the club. I'll continue to work hard, but I'm very happy with what I've done so far.
UEFA.com: Is there still something special about playing in the UEFA Champions League?
Quaresma: Pride – pride at being able to go out on the pitch once again and represent a club that I love. It's a source of pride for any player, because it's something different. It really is a unique competition, I think it's the best competition in football.