Deco: Watch here for the champions
With his baby face and twinkling toes, Deco has set the footballing world alight over the past few years. Having grabbed glory with Jose Mourinho's Porto last season, the Brazilian-born Portugal star is hoping to repeat the dose with Barcelona, the club he chose over Chelsea in the summer. And with his mentor Mourinho now coaching the London aristocrats, it makes Deco the central figure on the pitch in Wednesday's Champions League Big Match: Barcelona V Chelsea. Last season's player of the competition, reveals to FIFA.com why he chose Barca over Chelsea, what Mourinho means to him and who his favourites are this time round.
FIFA.com: Chelsea have conceded less than ten goals so far this season. What must Barcelona do to beat them?
Deco: That's not easy to say. Chelsea have some really good players, and as much as you know a team and the way they play, it is still very difficult to beat them. Games are decided on the tiniest of incidents such as a decision going your way or a player doing something extra special. It will be a monumental team effort to defeat them. You can learn a lot of things in training, but it's on the night when it counts.
Why did you choose to play for Barcelona at the end of last season?
I always wanted to go to Barcelona because it was a club I adored as a child. I used to watch their games and saw many Brazilian players triumphing. But there is no specific reason, just that I promised myself that if I ever got the chance to make a decision between Barca and another club, I would always choose Barca.
At that time Chelsea, who Mourinho had just joined, were after you too.
Yeah, it probably would have been easier to opt for Chelsea with a coach I already knew and who knew me and the way I play, but I also saw it as a challenge to go to a new club with a new manager to demonstrate my abilities. If I had gone to Chelsea, some people may have thought 'hey look this guy is only playing because he's Mourinho's favourite'. For me, it was a bigger challenge to go to Barcelona than to Chelsea.
Have you been surprised by Chelsea's success this season?
Not especially. None of the Chelsea players have surprised me. I already knew that Lampard (Frank), Terry (John) and Robben (Arjen) were excellent players, but it's the team that is the most important and that they are playing together well.
And their Portuguese players?
Paulo Ferreira is fantastic. For me, he is the best defender around. Tiago has started well and Carvalho (Ricardo) too. English teams play a different style of course but I think much also depends on the coach. I watch a lot of Chelsea games and they remind a lot of Porto. That's why I'm sure it will be a great game because both sides are playing the attacking style of football I love. I'd say the winners between Barcelona and Chelsea have the best chance of becoming Champions. I'm not saying they will win it, but that they have the best chance of doing so.
Tell us about your former Porto coach and current Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho?
Mourinho's been very important to Chelsea's rise. I think he's special because he is one of the few people able to change the mentality of a lot of players. Personally he helped me a lot. He was the first to notice me in the youth teams and then helped me to bring my abilities to the fore. He has vision, knows exactly what he wants and how to communicate it. He makes a team play well, to gel, has clear objectives and he is a very strong character.
He has come across as very confident, some say to the point of arrogance?
Mourinho may come across as a hard man to the press but not to the players. He is extremely well organised before matches so players know what's expected of them every moment of the match.
Porto won the Champions League last season. What does it take then to win it?
Well, we had Mourinho, who is a great coach, a fine team and a lot of will to win. We were up against it on so many occasions during the competition, but we had the right character to come through each test.
What is the priority this season for Barcelona: Champions League or Spanish title?
The Spanish league is very important to win. A club has to be great in its own country before it can attempt to win anything in Europe. For Barca five years without winning the Liga is a lot of time, so for us it is fundamental. The Champions League can depend on many things but our priority has to be the league.
Is the league more important then?
I wouldn't say that, but you could get to the final of the Champions League and lose and then you are left with nothing.
After a period of Dutch domination, Barcelona seems to have regained its Brazilian heart.
Yes, but I think Barca have signed wisely because although there are quite a few Brazilians now, they have all been in Europe for a while and have got used to the culture and the way of playing here. Edmilson, Belletti, Motta, Ronaldinho have all been here for four or five years. It's very difficult for a player to come directly from Brazil and integrate so quickly.
For Porto against Celtic in the UEFA Cup in 2003, for Portugal against England last year, you have had a lot of success against British teams in the past.
As I said, British teams have a very distinct way of playing. The only way to beat an English team is to keep hold of the football as much as possible and keep it away from them.
Would you consider playing there one day?
Without doubt I would love to play in England because the fans live and breathe football in such an intense way. They get behind their teams and give them their everything to urge the players on. And for me the English league has improved a lot since more and more foreign players started going there. Now it is much more open and there has been a huge leap in quality.
But at the moment I'm happy at Barca and I want to complete my contract and the challenges that I've set myself. I want to leave an impression here, rather than be just a player who passed by and collected his money. I want to leave Barca having left my mark and won titles.
You have won almost everything recently: Champions League, Portuguese title, UEFA cup and you picked up a runners-up medal at Euro 2004, so how come you didn't claim any of the football prizes at the end of the year?
I don't know, but I don't lose too much sleep over it. It's not about injustice because in football there are many things that help or hinder a person fairly or unfairly. And I don't blame anyone. The votes were cast and that's the end of it.