"I like to have the ball and control the match," said AS Monaco FC's Portuguese creator-in-chief João Moutinho as he discussed his role with Champions Matchday.
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AS Monaco FC's Portuguese international playmaker João Moutinho discussed passing, taking things match by match and the power of self-belief with Champions Matchday.
Champions Matchday: Monaco's defensive record in this UEFA Champions League campaign is remarkable: you have conceded only four goals in eight games. How have you achieved that?
João Moutinho: We have only been able to do it because the whole team has done an extraordinary job. We maintained our unity in every match from the first minute to the last. We have kept our concentration, and that has made the difference.
Champions Matchday: The focus at the club now appears to be on youth. How important is your role in helping the younger members of the squad adapt to the UEFA Champions League?
Moutinho: It's good to pass on the calm, the confidence; that's something we players with more matches under our belts must try to convey to team-mates. With a young group you need to help the younger players stay calm so they can do their best to help the team.
Champions Matchday: What do you believe is a realistic goal for the Rouge et Blanc in this season's UEFA Champions League?
Moutinho: Every team hopes to get through each knockout round, and we start with that objective. Our objective isn't to reach the final, our objective is to take it match by match and focus on the next opponent. Only that way will we be able to win.
Champions Matchday: You made your UEFA Champions League debut for Sporting Clube de Portugal against FC Internazionale Milano in 2006 – how big a moment was that?
Moutinho: If I'm not wrong we won that match 1-0 – which was nice. The memories are good, especially because we won, but all my memories are good – playing in the Champions League is every footballer's ambition.
Champions Matchday: You have completed more passes than any other Monaco player this term. What is your first thought when you receive the ball?
Moutinho: The first thing I think when I receive the ball is to pass it to a team-mate who is better placed than I am to continue the move. Only sometimes do I think about shooting. I like to have the ball and control the game.
Champions Matchday: How important is your speed of passing?
Moutinho: Very, because if you want to unbalance your opponent, you have to move the ball quickly. Sometimes you have to take a chance, think quicker, pass the ball quicker. If we can't pass the ball well, we create more problems for ourselves. That's what we work on every day.
Champions Matchday: How much of successful passing is down to movement off the ball?
Moutinho: It's very important. When I have the ball I try to see as much of the pitch as possible, and movement off the ball helps you see where to play the pass.
Champions Matchday: How has your role developed over your career?
Moutinho: You're always learning. Every day in training you learn. I've been playing football for years, and I understand the game better with time.
Champions Matchday: What advice would you offer a young midfielder who wants to play in the UEFA Champions League?
Moutinho: To keep working. Work is essential. Believe in yourself and believe in your dreams. Follow them, never give up, that's the most important thing. If you believe you can get there, then one day you will.