The best of FIFA's 2020 interviews

22 Dec 2020
  • FIFA interviewed Pele and fellow legends for his 80th birthday

  • Others: Calvert-Lewin, Firmino, Neymar, Oblak, Rakitic & Richarlison

  • Former players: Baresi, Cafu, Matthaus, Milla, Taffarel & Xavi

“Pele revolutionised football. Pele stopped a war. Pele united countries, united families. There was no race problem, language problem. I was born in 1970. In 2002, I became a world champion. I was captain. I had the honour of receiving the World Cup Trophy from no less than whom? Pele! Man! If I say any more I’ll cry. It’s really emotional!” Cafu

“In Pele’s 80 years, the only thing that’s missing is to land on the moon. When there’s football on the moon, I’ll go there and have a little kickaround." Pele

“One hundred per cent football. He’s on another level. With all respect to the other greats, there’s only one number one – it’s Leo. To play 311 games next to him, it was a dream. I enjoyed it so, so much. I just want to say this: ‘Thank you for everything, Leo, because you’ll never know how much it meant to me to play next to you.’” Ivan Rakitic on Lionel Messi

“He’s a phenomenon. He’s already got everything, and at such a young age. He’s already a leader. He’s quick, robust and makes the right runs. He’s got the passion. He’s got everything a top-class striker needs.At some point he’ll follow in the footsteps of Ronaldo or Lewandowski. He’s already got a lot of attributes that others didn’t have at 20.” Lothar Matthaus on Erling Haaland

“Maradona. I’m a big fan of Maradona. The way he played was such a pleasure to watch – the way he fought for his team on the pitch, his incredible technique. If you say anything against Messi, you need a bullet in your head. Look at what he does for Barcelona. His statistics are astonishing. He’s a phenomenon. I don’t like to make comparisons. Both had their own time. Maradona was the best and now, without doubt, Messi is the best in the world. Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo have been on a different level for years. I don't like to compare, but it was a joy to watch Maradona.” Taffarel in August on the best player he’d seen in his life

“Kylian is a phenomenon. He has the potential to become one of the best players in history. To have him as a team-mate is a huge honour. We understand one another very well on the pitch and off it too. I love him!” Neymar on Kylian Mbappe

“That feeling of seeing the No9 next to my name in the dressing room and pulling on the England shirt, it was absolutely amazing. Then going on the pitch and scoring… it’s emotional, you think about how proud your family will be. It’s something I want more of. I’m addicted. I want to lead the line for England in major competitions and be the man they rely on to score goals.” Dominic Calvert-Lewin

"You look up to him obviously, but when you start sharing things with him, he is so transparent that, instead of telling him what you think of him, you feel more like asking him about his little kids or of reminding him of the time he took you out with his studs up in a Valencia-Barcelona game (laughs). When he becomes your captain, you’d go to war for him if he asked you to." Rodrigo de Paul on Lionel Messi

“Ronaldinho Gaucho. He was so unpredictable, he could do things you couldn’t even imagine. He was almost unmarkable.” Cafu on the toughest player he ever faced

“Football can arouse similar feelings to those that fire you up in an opera theatre, in some ways. In its sense of ritual, in its capacity to attract healthy fanaticism and hyped-up tribalism, football also projects life into the experience of the game. It invokes challenges to the death, impulses of generosity and heroism, fatal mishaps and magnificent victories. A game that thrills and moves, that unites and divides.” Andrea Bocelli

“I don’t like it, but only because Magda’s so annoying as a defender! Honestly, once we’re on the pitch, it’s not an issue. I forget about the fact she’s my girlfriend, and she’s the same. She definitely doesn’t hold back!” Pernille Harder on playing against Magda Eriksson

“He’s phenomenal. You simply can’t say that he’s not a magician. He has magical powers. He produces plays that don’t exist, that you couldn’t make up. You always have to watch replays of his plays to understand what he’s done. He’s an unbelievable player. He’s one of the very best players in the world.” Firmino on Philippe Coutinho

"You couldn’t describe it. There was a lot of joy obviously. We would have loved to have gone further because we really had what it took to do more. I’m convinced we could have gone all the way. We were welcomed as heroes when we returned to Cameroon and that was when you realise that you’ve achieved something big." Roger Milla on Cameroon at Italy 1990

"Absolutely incredible. What an experience. My family and I attended many of the games as well as the Final. I have never seen South Africa and all its people come together as a country like that and sadly not again since. The atmosphere was simply amazing and I thought we did a superb job as hosts." Gary Player on South Africa 2010

“That feeling of knowing you have made history is incredible. I remember the celebrations vividly, having the cup in our possession and travelling on a convertible bus through Madrid. The joy that the victory brought to everyone in Spain was immense and it is something that will live in my memory for the rest of my life.” Xavi on Spain’s South Africa 2010 triumph

“I hope they don't all get taken from me! While [Robert] Lewandowski broke my record for the most goals (scored by a foreigner in the Bundesliga), they'll have a hard time getting the record for the oldest Bundesliga player to score a hat-trick off me!” Claudio Pizarro on his records

"It’s my trademark! Of course I’ve imagined doing the pigeon dance in the World Cup. The supporters really like it, it especially appeals to kids. I’ve done it for the Seleção together with Neymar, I do it for my club, and I want to score goals and do it many times at the 2022 World Cup." Richarlison

"Real football fans know how important defenders are and they appreciate them. If I had to name names, then the one who really stands out is Virgil van Dijk, who’s shown the quality, character and strength that a defender needs to have to be a successful leader of a team like Liverpool." Franco Baresi

“Even though I understood after the World Cup that things couldn’t get any better, unless we win the EURO, I felt I owed it to our team and our fans to stay, because those fans showed so much affection and love towards the players – and myself. I believe that other job offers will always be there, but being in this position – trying once again to bring unbelievable happiness to your country – is priceless.” Zlatko Dalic on why he chose to remain Croatia coach after Russia 2018

“At Arsenal, if we had a game on Saturday, by Monday Patrick Vieira was getting dirty on the pitch. As a young player I’m thinking, ‘Ok, put the quality aside because you’re never going to be him but in terms of commitment and work ethic, there’s no way this guy is doing this and you’re not at least matching that.' I knew by doing that I would have a good chance of staying in the industry for many years.” Gael Clichy

“Cristiano is an indisputable great. What he does in matches, his statistics, say everything. Perhaps what sets him apart is that he’s good at every aspect of the game. And he’s a really cool guy. We chat about everything. He has a very human side. He’s always asking things about Brazil. For example, during COVID he’s always asking how the situation is in Brazil. He worries about it. He’s very human, really nice.” Danilo on Ronaldo

"When I was a boy, I saw Slovenia qualify for EURO 2000 and then the 2002 World Cup. We later reached the 2010 edition too. Having seen how happy people were, I'd love to bring that joy back to the country – and not just for them. For me, playing at a World Cup or EURO would be the fulfilment of a childhood dream, so I'm going to do everything I can to achieve it." Jan Oblak

“That was always going to be the biggest goal in my career, no matter what came after, because it touched so many lives and brought joy to so many people. I’ll always love it – it’s beautiful – but the goal is bigger than me as an individual. Although it happened ten years ago, it still feels like yesterday because I get reminders and messages from people about it every single day. It’s very humbling.” Siphiwe Tshabalala

“I’ve really got into it since I went to the Olympics in 2016. We could basically go and watch whatever we wanted to, and I’d never seen a soccer game on any type of real level. What better place to watch it than at the Olympics? So we went and watched Neymar and Brazil win. I knew it was going to be crazy, because it was Brazil playing in Brazil in the final. I knew it was going to be on a completely different level to an American football game or a basketball game. It was a high-level game and the crowd was just so into it. It felt like nobody ever sat down, nobody was ever quiet. It made me love the game and my curiosity about soccer grow a lot.” Jimmy Butler on how he got into the sport

"After the third goal, the goal that put it out of Italy’s reach, I was overwhelmed by emotion. I started crying and I couldn’t stop. I was thinking about everything I’d been through to get to that World Cup. I travelled across the world for surgery on my eye. I was so close to not being allowed to go and almost didn’t get called up. It was really difficult to get used to playing again. When I realised we were going to be world champions, I couldn’t stop crying." Tostao on crying during the latter stages of the Mexico 1970 Final