The return of Jorge Costa, who leads FC Porto into the UEFA Cup final tonight, has been crucial to the club.
By Onofre Costa
At 32 years of age Jorge Costa has had one of his best seasons at the heart of the FC Porto defence proving that, much like the region's wine, he is getting better with age.
The central defender, who will captain Porto against Celtic FC in the UEFA Cup final tonight, embodies the will and determination running through the team that has resulted in one of the finest seasons in the club's history: Porto have strolled to the Portuguese first division title and have a place in the Portuguese Cup final, leaving them on target for an historic treble.
It is surely no coincidence that last season, when Sporting Clube de Portugal won the title, Jorge Costa was impressing while on loan with Charlton Athletic FC in the English Premiership after falling out with the then coach Octávio Machado. The return of 'O Bicho', or 'the animal', as Jorge Costa is known to his team-mates, has seen the club's fortunes dramatically improve. Jorge Costa is without doubt one of the key players in José Mourinho's side. His experience is crucial in defence and he provides encouragement and confidence for the rest of the team.
'A bit anxious'
However, to complete part two of the treble will be no easy task as Jorge Costa, who has won seven league titles with Porto but not appeared in a European final, admits. "Now we are a little bit anxious because Porto have never reached the UEFA Cup final," he said. "We know we achieved another historic moment for this club [by winning the title], but that's not enough. We want to get to Seville, play well, give a nice show and, above all, bring the Cup back to Portugal. It's a very special moment for me. It's an historic occasion and above all it's a moment of which I always dreamt and fortunately this year it has turned into reality."
Despite the higher financial rewards associated with the UEFA Champions League, Jorge Costa believes the UEFA Cup is actually harder competition to win. "From the first to the last match, it's always knock-out rounds, there are no groups," he said. "If a team has a bad night or is unlucky in a certain moment, it's very difficult to come back and qualify for the next round."
Aware of Celtic threat
Porto have spent plenty of time studying Celtic and they are well aware of the threat posed by the British club. "We know them well," Jorge Costa said. "We played against them last season, we lost in Glasgow and we won in Antas [both in the Champions League group stage]. But in the end it's 90 minutes in which anything can happen." The captain dismissed the notion that the man he will be detailed to stop is Celtic's only threat: Henrik Larsson. "Of course Larsson is a big threat to us," he said. "But not only him, all the Celtic squad has quality. We shouldn't worry exclusively about Larsson, we have to concentrate on all their players."
Jorge Costa has a spectacular honours list to his name having won a FIFA Under-20 World Championship medal, a UEFA European Championship runners-up medal at Under-16, Under-18 and Under-21 levels, four Portuguese Cups and seven national titles. A UEFA Cup winner's medal would complete his collection very nicely indeed.