Liverpool striker Djibril Cisse has come a long way since joining the Merseysiders as a record signing from Auxerre in July 2004. After making a miraculous return from an injury that threatened his career, the France international now finds himself competing for place in Rafael Benitez's starting line-up with fellow internationals Fernando Morientes and Peter Crouch. He reveals his hopes for the future and glances back on Liverpool's historic UEFA Champions League victory against AC Milan in the company of FIFA.com.
When Vladimir Smicer fired in what turned out to be the winning penalty to hand Liverpool their fifth European crown in a truly astonishing final against AC Milan back in May, few had more reasons to celebrate than the 24-year-old frontman. The previous October, Cisse had suffered a brutal injury during a league meeting with Blackburn Rovers that left him with a shattered shinbone.
Doctors even warned that his career as a player could be at an end as a result of the injury. However, several months later, he had astounded medical experts by making a complete recovery. "I don't really know how to explain it," Cisse told FIFA.com, "but I think I am stronger now mentally after having gone through that injury. Being out for six months was terrible for me and I am just thankful that I made a full recovery."
The Frenchman was back just in time for a night that has gone down in Liverpool folklore and European football history. Going into the Champions League final as underdogs against the mighty AC Milan, Rafael Benitez's Liverpool side managed to scramble their way back into the game after leaking three first half goals. With five minutes of normal time to go and the score standing at 3-3, Cisse was seen limbering up on the touchline to a crescendo of applause from the Anfield faithful.
He replaced Milan Baros and converted Liverpool's second spot-kick in a shoot-out finale, but despite his ice-cool exterior, the former Auxerre star admitted to a few butterflies:
"I was so nervous," the Arles-born hitman explained, "I don't believe anyone who would say otherwise! I was really focused on the area where I wanted to put it and luckily for me it went in. The relief I felt was amazing.
"Winning the way we did was simply unbelievable and it is something that is still hard to explain. I think half a million people were on the streets of Liverpool the day after - that was just mind blowing. Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher told me that it was going to be special, but it was more than special - it was a great day."
Cisse capped another cup win - the UEFA Super Cup with two goals as Liverpool had to turn the table again, this time against CSKA Moscow in August. And the player admits that he now has the taste for victory. "I want more medals" he continued. I want to experience more nights like Istanbul. As a footballer, you live for those moments and I am proud to be a part of Liverpool and the Champions League win.
Now Cisse has his eyes focussed on winning the FIFA Club World Championship TOYOTA Cup Japan 2005 - a trophy that curiously the five-times European champions have never won after failing to take part in the 1970's and losing their only two appearances in 1981 and 1984.
"I am always proud to represent Liverpool in any competition, but I must stress that we are going to this competition to win it - not just to take part and play a few matches. I really want to win it and be part of the first English team to win it," he said.
"We have to respect every team we play against in Japan and we are not going into this expecting easy games. We have to be focused and treat the opposition like we would Juventus or AC Milan - after all they won their version of the Champions League. I can't imagine what the tournament will be like, I just know that winning it would be amazing," he concluded.