Deco inspired FC Porto's UEFA Cup win - and now aims to repeat the trick in Monaco.
By Carlos Carvalho
When you are described on a fans website as a 'near deity' and nicknamed SuperDeco, you must be doing something right. That is the status Brazilian-born playmaker Anderson Luís de Souza - aka Deco - enjoys at UEFA Cup holders FC Porto.
It was no surprise, then, when Porto rejected a €19m bid from Paris Saint-Germain FC this summer, as well as interest from FC Barcelona, to hold on to the Portuguese international as they prepare for another tilt at European silverware - starting with Friday's UEFA Super Cup against AC Milan in Monaco.
Anyone questioning the importance of Deco to Porto need only watch a video of the 2002/03 UEFA Cup final against Celtic FC. With the score at 1-1, he sent a sublime pass to the feet of Dmitri Alenichev for Porto's second goal - typical of a superb individual performance.
After the game, Porto coach José Mourinho said of the former SC Corinthians Paulista, SL Benfica, FC Alverca and SC Salgueiros player: "He was fantastic. It was a very difficult match for him because [Neil] Lennon was picking him up man to man. But the way he moved, the way he allowed us to switch to 4-3-3, the way he played in the middle and sometimes on the left or right, he created many problems for them. He was very important for the shape of our team."
Now, with a UEFA Champions League campaign around the corner, and four trophies already won this calendar year, Deco is ready to inspire Porto against Milan. He knows the match will be tight, but believes the right attitude to the occasion could be decisive.
Players the key
To win, Deco says, Porto must play "with the same ambition and courage we did last season. Those with no motivation, ambition or will to win are fools." Furthermore, Deco believes the two teams "are defensively and tactically very similar, but the individuals, the great players will decide the match".
The European champions will doubtless be difficult to break down. But as the creative force in Porto's midfield, Deco aims to be the undoing of Milan, and he has a plan in mind to upset the Italians. "AC Milan will probably have a more tactical approach," said Deco. "For us it will be important to keep up the pressure, have more possession and pass the ball - always looking to score and obviously win the match."
A one-man total footballer, Deco has come a long way since Benfica judged him surplus to requirements. Last season, he was awarded a fast-track Portuguese passport under a clause rewarding those "performing relevant services", and on his national team debut in March against - ironically - Brazil he scored a spectacular free-kick to give his adopted country a 2-1 victory.
Now he intends to lead the club he joined in 1999 to more European success - starting with the Super Cup, two days after his 26th birthday. Another performance like that seen in the UEFA Cup final, and it will be a long celebration indeed.