In a move reminiscent of Pele’s in the late '70s, Brazilian-born Spain international Marcos Senna headed to the Big Apple earlier this year. His mission? To help revive the New York Cosmos, Pele’s former club, in the recently resuscitated North American Soccer League (NASL).
FIFA.com caught up with the UEFA EURO 2008 winner and former Villarreal holding midfielder for a chat about his decision to relocate to the States at age 37, his memories of the good and bad days with Spain and his hopes of leading the 2013 Fall champion Cosmos to Soccer Bowl glory this weekend.
FIFA.com: What made you decide to come to play in New York for the Cosmos?
Marcos Senna: I was very attracted to the project here in New York. I wanted to get to know the culture, the country, learn the language. The truth is that in these moments I realise that I’m very happy with my decision and I am living a lovely life here.
Do you remember when Pele went to play with the Cosmos in the late 70s? You must have been a young boy in Brazil.
The truth is that I don’t remember. I was too young. Later on, I learned a bit about his history from what I have experienced since arriving here, but I never got to watch Pele while he was playing with the Cosmos.
As Pele has a role with the Cosmos now, did you speak to him before joining the team? Have you had contact with him since joining?
I had no contact with Pele before coming here. My only contact was with Coach Giovanni [Savarese]. I was only able to speak with Pele and have a bit of contact with him at the team presentation.
How is it different from playing in Brazil and Spain?
Soccer is the same everywhere. The only thing that changes is the quality of each championship. I think that playing in Spain and Brazil, there is a much bigger budget than here and that means that the quality is better in Spain and Brazil. However, here in our team, the Cosmos, we play very well in our category and we’ve become champions [2013 Fall Season]. Like I said at the beginning, I am greatly enjoying myself and I want to continue to be here next year. In the time I have remaining I want to try to conquer as much as possible and continue to enjoy myself.
How does the competition measure up?
The competition is the same. The budgets are different, but I think that everyone here works hard every day to earn their place.
The Cosmos are Fall Champions and your play has been a big part of that. How does it feel to help build the game in the USA at your age?
My objective before coming here was that - to try and help the Cosmos as much as possible with my experience - all the years I’ve been in soccer. Here there are many young players, even some who have not debuted in the first division, and all things considered, the team is doing very well. I am able to help and that was always my goal - to arrive and be able to help.
How does it feel to see Villarreal, where you played for eleven years, back in La Liga?
The truth is that after eleven years of playing at Villarreal, I was left with a mixture of feelings. On one side, happiness - being able to leave through the front door because right when I left Villarreal had returned to the first division and on the other hand, it meant leaving my team-mates, the team, the country. It’s difficult but I was aware that the time would come and I was more or less prepared. Such is life. I have been cheering on Villarreal from here so that they have a great season.
You had a disappointing FIFA World Cup™ with Spain in 2006 and then you played a huge part in them winning the EURO in 2008. What changed in those two years?
I was not expecting such a big fall at the 2006 World Cup but that is soccer and that’s the World Cup; these things can happen. It was a great disappointment for us all. We wanted to go further but that wasn’t the case. Afterwards, [coach] Luis Aragones decided to make some changes to tactics and to the concept of the game and it worked out. I have been fortunate, too, in being able to be a participant in these changes of tactics and concept and style of playing. In 2008 we had a great EURO and it was one of my best years in the game.
Spain has gone on to great things since 2008. How does it feel to have been at the beginning of all that?
I feel very lucky. I think that this is a unique moment in soccer history for a team like Spain and we were able to secure the [EURO] title and that’s the point where Spain was able to jump off to more success. It was where the confidence came from, however, that was lost as Spain went through a period of not winning anything. For me, it was a privilege to be able to participate in this movement in Spanish football.