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Carboni keeps eyes on the prize

He may be approaching his 40th birthday, but Amedeo Carboni is as hungry as ever for success.

When Amedeo Carboni left AS Roma for Valencia CF in 1997 many in Italy reasoned the defender had chosen a warm climate in which to see out his playing days in comfort.

Centre stage
But Carboni, already a veteran then at 32, had other ideas. Seven years, two Spanish titles and a UEFA Cup winners' medal later, retirement is still not an issue. Quite the opposite, the veteran remains on centre stage as Valencia prepare to take on FC Porto in the UEFA Super Cup.

Italian flavour
Both sides have changed significantly since winning the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Cup respectively last season. New coaches have taken over and Claudio Ranieri has ushered in a distinctly Italian flavour at Valencia with the signings of Stefano Fiore, Bernardo Corradi, Marco Di Vaio and left-back Emiliano Moretti.

Starting role
But while the faces change around him, Carboni remains the same. He signed a new two-year contract in March and after featuring in 33 league matches and eleven times in Europe last season has every intention of continuing well beyond his 40th year.
Trophy first
Carboni is a hugely popular figure in Spain and is expected to stay on at the club in some capacity when his playing days do eventually come to an end. When they do, he is already assured of going down in history as the oldest player - at the age of 39 years and 43 days - to win a European final after lifting the UEFA Cup last June.

His tough-tackling no-nonsense approach epitomised another typically miserly defensive performance from the Spanish champions against Olympique de Marseille, and it is safe to expect more of the same against Porto at the Stade Louis II tonight.

No let-up
"I have not one thought of when I will end my playing career because I just adore football," Carboni told uefa.com. "So far my physique has withstood everything and I'm in shape to keep on playing. I don't intend retiring until I get my hands on few more trophies and we are very close to getting another one now!"

Phenomenal achievement
The defender's athleticism is proof that football players can thrive well into their late 30s - something that would have seemed freakish ten years ago. The former Roma player has now made the best part of 550 appearances in Serie A and the Primera División - a phenomenal achievement.

More than sport
"Football started as a sport but now it is no longer that," explained Carbone, who also won the UEFA Cup Winners' Cup with UC Sampdoria in 1990 as well as reaching the Champions League final with Valencia. "It's work and to me it is the greatest work I could possibly find. I love it. Within this job you suffer, you earn good money, you do a mountain of things.

Unsociable hours
"You lose out to a degree because for 18, 20 or in my case probably 22 years you don't have a weekend because you are either playing the game or you are tucked away in some hotel or other. But, in the end, if you love football then it is no sacrifice."

Burning ambition
Carboni continues to give everything to Valencia and he still has much to play for. The Mestalla club returns to the Champions League this season and Carboni has some unfinished business to attend to. His season starts with a European trophy at stake, if Carboni has his way it may end with another piece of silverware on the line as well.