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McCarthy ready for Milan

South African striker Benni McCarthy is hungry for success at FC Porto.

By Carlos Carvalho

Stepping into a side already laden with silverware is not always the easiest of jobs. But in joining UEFA Cup winners and Portgueuse champions FC Porto this summer, Benni McCarthy was returning to familiar territory.

Celta move
The South African international striker was signed for €3.5m from RC Celta de Vigo as a replacement for Tottenham Hotspur FC-bound Hélder Postiga, but it was not his first arrival at Das Antas.

Spectacular spell
McCarthy had a spectacular loan spell at Porto in 2001/02, scoring 12 goals in ten matches - and just to prove he had not lost any of his ability, he took just 22 minutes to open his account on his league return for the club, a 2-0 win against SC Braga earlier this month.

Milan meeting
But now his - and Porto's - focus is on the UEFA Super Cup against AC Milan at Monaco on 29 August, as they seek a fifth piece of silverware in 2003 to add to the UEFA Cup, Portuguese championship, Portuguese Cup and Portuguese Super Cup.

Ready for success
The Cape Town-born attacker was only at Porto for the latter triumph, having helped Celta to a UEFA Champions League berth last season. His career, even at age 25, has not been short of landmarks. Discovered playing for Seven Stars FC in his homeland, in 1997 McCarthy moved to AFC Ajax, who were later to take over his original side.

Fully focused
After 20 league goals in two years, he switched to Celta, and has also racked up close to 50 international caps, playing in both the 1998 and 2002 FIFA World Cup finals. Now, though, McCarthy is fully focused on winning another honour to add to his already-successful first month back at Porto, as well as signalling his club’s intentions for their Champions League campaign.

Perfect opportunity
He said: "Porto must show that they are competitive in the UEFA Champions League. So this match with AC Milan is perfect to prove we should be there, that we can cause some upsets and do spectacular things."

Porto underdogs
Real Madrid CF last season became the first Champions League winners in four years to claim the Super Cup. However, the holders of the European Champion Clubs' Cup traditionally go into the fixture as favourites, and McCarthy believes this time will be no different.

'We will certainly fight'
"For all of us it will be a great privilege to play against one of the best teams in the world," he said. "But we will certainly fight to win the match." McCarthy said that Milan were tipped to win because "they are stronger and the history of both teams is not comparable".

Upsetting the odds
Porto coach José Mourinho was determined to have McCarthy on board this season, and the team spirit inspired by the trainer could help his side overcome the odds, McCarthy believes. 

'Nothing is impossible'
"I will not say it will be a walk over for AC Milan, because if we do our job correctly, if we want to win really badly, we can do it," McCarthy said. "The ambition is there and in football nothing is impossible anymore."