- Gremio won their third Copa Libertadores crown late last month
- *Forward Lucas Barrios scored six goals en route to the title *
- Barrios: "Our dream is to return home with the trophy"
Any team that lifts the Copa Libertadores is, by weight of history and the expectations of their fans, under the obligation to reach the final of the FIFA Club World Cup. Newly-crowned South American champions Gremio are no exception to that rule.
“Playing for a big club like Gremio always brings obligations with it,” acknowledged Lucas Barrios, one of the Brazilian club’s star men, in conversation with FIFA.com. “It’s a huge responsibility to be representing the club and South American football, but you have to live with that pressure. It’s a great responsibility to have too.”
The front man is not in any way underestimating their first opponents at UAE 2017, however: “We know that some people are expecting us to make the final, but if we’re going to make it, we have to think about the semi-final first. That’s how we approached every tie in the Libertadores and it worked well for us.”
Unlike previous years, when Copa Libertadores winners had to wait the best part of five months before tackling the Club World Cup, Gremio will head into their opening match against Pachuca or Wydad Athletic Club buoyed by their newly acquired status as continental champions.
“It’s not an advantage,” said Barrios. “The important thing in a semi-final is to be at your very best on the day.”
And what about tired legs at the end of a long season? “There is that, but we’re so delighted at having won the Copa and reached the Club World Cup. We want to play a big part.”
Pointing out two other key factors in Gremio’s Libertadores triumph, which could also prove useful at UAE 2017, Barrios said: “First, there’s the team, which is strong and tightly knit, with no individual egos. And then there’s the fact we play better away than we do at home. That shows how mature we are as a team.”
Barrios has no qualms about voicing his desire to face Spanish giants Real Madrid. He believes Gremio have what it takes to topple them as well.
“Of course, we do,” he said without a hint of doubt in his voice. “Even with the players they’ve got and with everything they’ve won, we’ll compete with them, if we get the chance. We haven’t come to the Club World Cup to make up the numbers. Our dream is to return home with the trophy.”
*Barrios in the 2017 Copa Libertadores *
- Played in 13 of his side’s 14 matches en route to the title
- Gremio’s second-highest scorer with six goals, behind Luan, who scored eight
- Provided one assist
- Played a part in setting up two other goals
- Had a hand in 36 per cent of Gremio’s goals (nine out of 25)
The Renato Gaucho effect
“By the time you reach the age of 33, you know how you need to do things, but Renato helped me get my confidence back. As a coach, he reminds me of (Jurgen) Klopp, who asked me to 'attack by defending' when I was at Borussia [Dortmund]. That’s what the modern game is all about – the centre-forward can’t just stand there waiting for the ball to come to him.”
18 - Barrios is Gremio’s leading goalscorer in 2017 with 18 goals in 43 appearances, 33 of them starts.
Did you know?
- Barrios was born in San Fernando, Argentina, on 13 November 1984
- He made his professional debut in 2003 with Argentinos Juniors
- Gremio are his 13th club (he has previously played in Chile, Mexico, Germany, Russia, France and China PR)
- A naturalised Paraguayan, he played for his adopted country at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™