Express train still running
Wednesday, 27 August 2003
Brazilian full-back Cafu is desperate for European success with new club AC Milan.
By Paolo Menicucci
Whenever Milan coach Carlo Ancelotti has been asked why his team have not made more signings this summer, the 44-year-old has just sat back, smiled, and answered: "We are the best team in Europe, we don't need any new players."
But that is not entirely true. There was one man who Ancelotti could not resist signing: AS Roma and Brazil legend Cafu, the only player to have appeared in three World Cup finals. The 33-year-old was available on a free transfer this summer and Ancelotti fought off competition from J-League side Yokohama F Marinos to land him.
Admittedly, Milan have also snapped up Kaká from São Paulo FC and S.S. Lazio full-back Guiseppe Pancaro just in time for the UEFA Champions League deadline - but only Cafu will go straight into the starting eleven, probably at the expense of Dario Simic.
The Brazilian, for whom money was a secondary issue, accepted the challenge with relish. After six seasons without tasting European success at AS Roma he is desperate to make up for it at Milan.
Best in Europe
"It's obviously great to join a club like Milan but it's also a big responsibility," he told uefa.com. "They are already European champions and haven't signed many other players. I haven't had any problems in adapting and I am just looking forward to the new season."
The Brazilian has an immediate opportunity to break his European duck when Milan face Porto FC in the UEFA Super Cup in Monaco on Friday.
Cafu is confident Milan will consign their pre-season slumber to the past but knows the match will be tough. "It will be a difficult game against Porto as they are very strong as a team," he said. "We have seen many of their matches and they play good football. They have a lot of technically skilled players and it will be difficult to defeat them. However, I believe we will also have a good game and I really hope to win my first major trophy in a Milan shirt."
Cafu, nicknamed 'Il Pendolino' (the Express Train) in honour of his foraging runs into opposition territory, refused to single out any Porto player as the main threat, but admitted that Deco, the Brazilian-born midfielder who led Porto to the Portuguese First Division title, the Portuguese Cup and the UEFA Cup last season, was one to watch.
But Cafu believes Milan have a creative threat of their own in the extravagantly gifted playmaker Kaká. "He is a great player," he said. "Milan signed him as they know how much he can give and I only have good words to say about him. Milan didn't sell any of their key figures and have now signed a few others. I believe we are the favourites to succeed in Europe again."