Rivaldonever won the Champions League with Barça but he left us with some unforgettable performances and goals – among them, his hat trick in San Siro and a stunning overhead kick against United. He did eventually get his hands on ‘Ol’ Big Ears’ – in 2003, during his time atAC Milan. The Brazilian sat down with AS to talk about how this season’s Champions League could pan out.
You scored some wonderful goals in the Champions League with Barça, but you never won the trophy during your time at Camp Nou, is that a regret?
My memories of Barça will always be good but I would have liked to have won it with them. We reached the semi-finals twice – against Valencia and Real Madrid, when I missed one of the legs with a knee injury. We were eliminated along the way.
This competition is a special one for you though, isn’t it?
Yes, it’s different to all of the rest. Every player wants to come to Europ and play in the Champions League because it’s such an amazing thing. And everyone dreams of winning the Champions League. I got a winners’ medal with Milan, but I was a bit sad that I didn’t get to play the final against Juventus in Manchester. I was on the bench in the final and I wanted to come on. It’s sad because, out of everything else I did in football, all I wanted was to play that game. I’d played in other games on the way to the final but unfortunately not at Old Trafford…
Before we chat more about the Champions League, I’d like to ask you what you think about Arthur’s situation at Barcelona?
For me, Arthur should be with the squad because he is not a Juventus player yet. He should be with the team. I don’t know what exactly has happened with Arthur but I don’t think a player flies out Brazil for nothing, or because he doesn’t want to play. He is a very calm person, a really nice guy. I don’t what was has gone on between Barça and Arthur, none of us do. It’s a situation which should have been spoken about before things came to a head because it’s not good for him or Barça.
Do you think Barça are making a mistake in letting Arthur leave?
For me, Arthur should stay at Barça. As I’ve said before, he’s a great player. The press said he was a good player, that he was similar to Xavi… Everybody spoke well of him. He had a very easy, relaxed way if playing, with the ball at his feet. He brought the team a sense of serenity, he passed the ball around well. I don’t know what has happened because Arthur has got years ahead of him at Barça. In my opinion, he should stay at Barça for many years.
You have experience of playing World Cup finals and you won with Brazil in 2002, and played the final in 1998… Everything is decided in one game, what is the difference when playing this format?
Well first of all Barça need to get past Napoli and that’s not going to be easy. It’s going to be a difficult game and extra tough playing with no public. If they get through to the next round, then they can start thinking about the format. I don’t think either team start out as favourites. What is different with this format is that there is no second game and so a side with great tradition and experience can easily find themselves knocked out. Over two games, you can play badly in the first leg and redeem yourself in the return – but that’s not the case in a one-off tie. You could be the favourite, have an off day and be out of the competition.
Messi has warned that sometimes, Barcelona’s performances are not good enough if they want to win the Champions League. Do you think this Barça is good enough to win it this year?
When you have just finished playing a game and your adrenaline is pumping, you say things like Messi did. Since then, he’s had a chance to rest and put it behind him and the team will be going out to win. We you are beaten at home by a smaller team, it’s easy to get worked up about it. I am sure that Messi has confidence in the team and the players. I’m sure he would love nothing else that to win the Champions League and for the team to play well. But to win the Champions League, they are going to have to play better than they did in LaLiga. And this year is going to be different because all of the game are behind closed doors. Some players can adapt to that and others need the fans. Barça have to play well all of the time, always. Messi is someone who always plays well – if he isn’t scoring himself, he is passing the ball for his team mates to score.
Compared to the other teams, how much do you see Barça as favourites?
It’s not about that. For everything that has happened this season, it’s not going to be simple for them. But then football can change from one day to the next. If they put in a great game against Napoli, maybe the mood will change for the better. But right now it’s difficult to say they could win the Champions League. Other teams are being touted as favourites. We’ll have to wait and see. Sometimes, everything can turn on its head – like we saw in LaLiga with Real Madrid – nobody thought they would win every game and win the title.
So who would your money be on?
Favourites? You’ve got Bayern, City. It’s not easy but I think the team with a tradition in the tournament go out as favourites, it’s going to be a strange Champions League and a difficult one to win.