If the number of players to have the privilege of competing in a continental club competition is relatively small, fewer still achieve the desired success and manage to win the trophy on offer. Yet even among champions there is an elite band of players who have won every medal there is.
Neri Cardozo belongs to the latter category. The Argentinian has triumphed in every international club competition on the American continent, earning himself the nickname Captain America in the process. With Boca Juniors he won a hat-trick of both the Copa Sudamericana and Recopa Sudamericana titles, as well as lifting the Copa Libertadores once. With current side Monterrey he has added three CONCACAF Champions League crowns to his impressive haul of silverware.
That roll of honours has allowed Cardozo to participate at the FIFA Club World Cup in 2007, 2011 and 2012 and he will also be present at the next edition, Morocco 2013. Ahead of the tournament kick-off, FIFA.com chatted with the gifted attacker, renowned for his speed, powerful shot from distance and ability to slink past his marker.
The Boca Juniors side of 2007 was one of the best the club has produced in recent years. Between 2004 and 2007 El Xeneize won three championships and finished as runners-up three times. That made Boca regulars in the Copa Libertadores, which they won in 2007, guaranteeing them a place at the Club World Cup in Japan later that year.
With AC Milan as possible final opponents, Boca made harder work of getting past Tunisian side Etoile Sportive du Sahel than anticipated in the semi-finals and only reached the title-decider thanks to a solitary goal from Cardozo. “Obviously I have great memories of that day,” he recalled. “I hadn’t been playing because of an injury and the medical team helped me be fit just in time for that match. To score and book our place in the final was incredible.”
In 2008, after four years as a Xeneize, Cardozo departed for Mexico where he played for Jaguares for a year before joining Monterrey, his home since 2010. Just 12 months down the line Cardozo had the chance to make amends at the Club World Cup after success in the CONCACAF Champions League.
“It gives me a lot of pleasure to have won every club competition on the American continent,” said Cardozo, who was also part of Argentina’s victorious FIFA U-20 World Cup winning side alongside Lionel Messi at Netherlands 2005. “The only thing I’m missing is the Club World Cup. I went with Boca the first time and now this will be my third with Monterrey and I’m very thankful for that.”
Fourth time lucky?
Unlike his two previous experiences at the Club World Cup with Los Rayados, Victor Manuel Vucetich is no longer coach, having been replaced by Jose Guadalupe Cruz in August this year. “The team is working very well, but it’s different to before,” Cardozo explained. “Personally, he’s given me the confidence I needed. When he arrived he made me get on the ball more and he encouraged me to take on my opponent. That’s helped me raise my game.”
Monterrey’s first match at Morocco 2013 will be against the winner of the fixture between local side Raja Casablanca and Auckland City. Bayern Munich, coached by the Spaniard Pep Guardiola, are potential final opponents and are a team Cardozo knows all about, given their recent exploits: “They have very good, world-class players, many of whom are in the German national team. The only way to stand up to them, if we get that far, is to play as a team and be very well organised.”
Cardozo is keen to improve on the fifth and third-placed finishes at previous editions, while also intent on lifting the one trophy missing from his personal cabinet. “It would be very important for my career to win this title and I’ll give everything to do that,” he said. “We may have a new coach but the players out on the pitch are responsible. At the end of the day, it’s up to those of us playing to do our jobs. Hopefully we can do well.”