Liverpool and Flamengo face off in Saturday’s FIFA Club World Cup™ final
The two sides contested the 1981 Intercontinental Cup, with Fla winning 3-0
Diego Ribas, the Brazilian side’s captain, is just back from serious injury
Diego Ribas has had an emotional rollercoaster of a year, one in which he suffered the worst injury of his career, while his club enjoyed a historic season.
His personal setback dates to 25 July, when he suffered a broken left ankle and ligament damage as a result of a heavy tackle during the second leg of Flamengo’s Copa Libertadores last-16 tie with Emelec. Surgery and a long layoff followed.
Date and place of birth: 28/02/1985, Ribeirao Preto, Brazil
Position: Attacking midfielder
Clubs: Santos, Porto, Werder Bremen, Wolfsburg, Atletico Madrid, Fenerbahce, Flamengo
Honours: Three Brazilian championships, one Spanish championship, one Portuguese championship, one Intercontinental Cup, one Copa Libertadores, one UEFA Europa League, two Copa Americas and one Olympic bronze medal.
“I haven’t watched the tackle again,” he told FIFA.com. “It’s too painful.” But with less than 48 hours to go before he steps out against Liverpool in the final of the FIFA Club World Cup Qatar 2019™, the Mengao captain at least has the satisfaction of knowing that this unhappy chapter of his career is over.
“It’s been really tough because it was a whole new experience for me, the biggest injury of my career,” said the 34-year-old, who doubted at times if he would make a full recovery. “Yes, there have been moments when I’ve been unsure about things, but also some special and truly moving moments too.” One of those moments came when he pulled on a pair of football boots again for the first time.
“It’s been hard but it’s made this season even more special,” said the Fla skipper with a smile. He returned to action just in time to help his side secure the Brazilian championship and made a crucial contribution to their Copa Libertadores triumph after coming on in the 66th minute of the final.
“There are a lot of images that are going to stay with me forever,” he said of that comeback win against River Plate, “like how my team-mates reacted when we got the second goal, all the excitement, the tears and the laughter. Then, when we got back to Brazil, there was the welcome party they gave us. We’re never going to forget that and it made all the effort worthwhile.”
Can Fla now put the icing on the cake? “We can’t wait for Saturday to come around,” said Diego in reference to the Club World Cup decider. It is, after all, the trophy that South America covets most.
There is, as he went on to explain, genuine belief in the Fla camp that they can defy the odds: “No, it’s not impossible. We’re coming up against a really strong team, one of the best in the world. We do have a chance, though. We’re a quality side and we believe in the work we do. We need to be totally focused, on top of our game and tactically disciplined. We know that and that’s what we want to do. We have to be organised and totally focused because these games are decided by little details. And when we have the ball, we have to take our chances.”
The Brazilian knows how it feels to win the Intercontinental Cup, a trophy he lifted with Porto in 2004, and is anxious to savour the experience again: “Winning the Club World Cup with Flamengo would be special because it’s an incredible club. I couldn’t put into words how it would feel to win the world title here, but we’re definitely dreaming of it.”
A million fans took to the streets of Rio de Janeiro to celebrate the Libertadores win with their heroes. But what will happen if they prevail again on Saturday? Diego smiled and said: “I can pretty much imagine it! That’s another reason why we want to win. It’s another source of motivation.”