There are few modern-day footballers who make the game look quite as simple as the inimitable Deco.
When the likes of Ronaldinho or Lionel Messi strut their flamboyant stuff, the diminutive Portuguese can often go unnoticed. Not that his opponents can afford to take their eyes off him for a second. The latest side to succumb to the scurrying midfielder's deceptive wiles were Club America, on the receiving end of a vintage Deco performance as the Catalans swept to a 4-0 semi-final win at the FIFA Club World Cup 2006.
Sporting a black woolly hat to keep out the cold of Yokohama, the affable Deco was in typically relaxed mood as he gave FIFA.com his exclusive, not to say revealing, thoughts on the eve of the eagerly awaited showdown with Brazil's Internacional.
FIFA.com: Deco, that was quite a performance against America. Did you find it easier to sleep that night?
Deco: (Laughs). Yes, for sure. We wanted to get through to the final and we achieved our goal. Obviously you feel better about things when you win and, with all due respect to our opponents, you enjoy yourself too. It's easier to sleep when you're happy!
Are the team ever surprised at how well they can play sometimes?
It's hard to tell when you're going to have an easy or a difficult game and it depends to some extent on how we feel when we walk out onto the pitch. If we get an early goal like we did the other day then things usually become easier for us. We can play the way we want to and knock the ball around. Getting an early lead takes the pressure off you and makes things easier.
The Internacional players have said that America gave Barcelona too much space and that they are going to be "snapping" at you all over the pitch. What do you make of that?
I don't necessarily agree that America gave us space. I think it was more a case of us moving the ball around well, which is vital if you want to stop your opponents from denying you room to manoeuvre. We know Inter will be going all out for the win, but so will we. We need to focus on our game and not on theirs. What's more, we also know how to bite into tackles when we have to. We're a pretty responsible bunch and we like to play good football too. All the same, our number-one goal is to win, but if you play well you've got a much better chance of doing that.
Do you think Inter will be out to play a typically Brazilian game against Barcelona?
I certainly hope so! (Laughs) It'll be much better for us if they come out and play an open game. There's no question, though, that if they sit back they'll make life much harder for us. Obviously they'll have to score if they want to win and to do that they'll need to attack at some point.
Do you really not feel like favourites? It seems a little hard to believe.
Whether we feel we're favourites or not, it's not going to change the way we approach the game one little bit. It doesn't make us feel any more confident if people say we're going to win, we're really not bothered about it. It's something we are used to now and it won't affect our mental approach. Being the favourite or having a great team doesn't guarantee you anything these days, and even less so in a final because that's when teams raise their game and excel themselves.
What does it mean to you to play a Brazilian side for the title?
The Club World Cup is very important in South America. They've been talking about it in Brazil for the last three months now and that all adds a little extra spice to the game. Personally, the fact I come from Brazil doesn't make the game any more special.
Do you enjoy playing with so many stars?
Yes, absolutely. Fortunately, Barca have signed some great players while bringing on some of the youth team, who've adapted really quickly. Messi is just brilliant and Iniesta is the finished article. It's hard to achieve the kind of chemistry we've got both on the pitch and in the dressing room. Let's hope it lasts a long time.
By the way, how did you react to the news that you had been drawn against Liverpool in the last sixteen of the UEFA Champions League?
I didn't spend too much time worrying about who we might get drawn against because we finished second in our group and we knew we'd be facing a top team. Liverpool are a strong side and they are going to make things very difficult for us, particularly in England. We have to win at home, even if it's only 1-0. At the very least we have to keep a clean sheet.
One last question. What would it mean to Barcelona to win the FIFA Club World Cup?
In Europe it's seen as a fairly important competition if you win. But if you lose, then it's really important. (Smiles) The fact is, we want to win it just as much as the Champions League. It's important to the club because we've never won it, and if we win tomorrow we'll go down in the club's history.