With his side holding a 2-1 aggregate lead in the final of the Copa Libertadores 2010, having picked up a vital first-leg away victory over Mexican outfit Guadalajara, Internacional's defensive stalwart Indio is on the cusp of a tenth winners’ medal in just six years at the club.
Therefore, even before Wednesday’s all-important second leg in Porto Alegre, the veteran defender’s achievements have already guaranteed him a berth among the greatest players in O Colorado’s history. There he joins the likes of Falcao, Paulo Cesar Carpegiani, Elias Figueroa, Lula, Valdomiro and Batista, part of an Inter dynasty which amassed three national and eight regional titles during the 1970s.
“It’s his timing in the tackle and sheer determination which make Indio an exceptional defender,” said Inter’s footballing vice-president Fernando Carvalho. “In my opinion, with the exception of Figueroa he’s the best defender the club's ever had,” added Carvalho of a player who, like the Chilean legend, has notched 26 goals in the famous red shirt.
What is more, the 35-year-old centre-back remains modest almost to a fault, having grown accustomed to grafting away in the shadows while more glamorous names hog the limelight. “I didn’t even know I’d won so many titles,” said Indio, who was also part of Inter’s Libertadores and FIFA Club World Cup-winning squads in 2006.
“Whenever I’m involved in a competition, my only thought is to go all the way, however difficult that may be. I’m really happy that we’re in the running for another trophy. A lot of people have doubted me throughout my career, but I’ve always just stayed humble and kept working hard.”
Plenty still to offer
That quiet determination has characterised Indio’s time with Internacional, with the player’s performances following the 2006 Libertadores triumph underlining why he is held in such high regard by both club and supporters. Having made just four appearances during Inter’s successful continental campaign, with Bolivar and Fabiano Eller the first-choice central defensive pairing, Indio stepped into the breach following the former’s transfer to French side Monaco.
Thus it was that in the final of the FIFA Club World Cup Japan 2006 Indio played an integral role in keeping favourites Barcelona at bay, when he bravely battled on despite sustaining a broken nose in the first half of the 1-0 success in Yokohama. In 2010 too he has needed all his willpower to reach this stage as a first-choice starter, having begun Inter’s Libertadores bid on the bench under then coach Jorge Fossati.
After winning back a place in the Uruguayan supremo’s first XI, in April Indio was again sidelined following cuts to his arm and wrists but had returned by the time the Brazilian national championship restarted after the 2010 FIFA World Cup™. Alongside captain Bolivar, who drew an end to his time in Ligue 1 in 2009, the duo have brought some much-needed stability to the Inter defence under new coach Celso Roth as well as offering a threat in attack.
Indeed, it was Bolivar whose header sealed O Colorado’s comeback victory in Mexico on 11 August, with Las Chivas having opened the scoring just after the interval. “We picked up an important win, but we mustn’t think that the title’s in the bag,” said Indio on the importance of not getting carried away. “We’ve got a lead but we have to play as if the tie’s level at 0-0 and we still need a positive result.”
Wise words from the vastly experienced defender, who is determined to help Inter clinch the Libertadores crown and earn a shot at December’s FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2010. “I’ve got enough ambition and desire to play for a few more years, and I won’t stop trying to win silverware,” said Indio as the interview concluded. “Now I want to win my tenth title (with Inter), so I can continue passing on my will to win to the rest of the squad.”