For­mer Real Madrid and Brazil de­fender tells why ev­ery foot­baller cher­ishes the event, to be held this year in Abu Dhabi from De­cem­ber 12-22, re­ports

The National - News - - SPORT - Amith Pas­sela

Brazil­ian great Roberto Car­los reck­ons win­ning the Fifa Club World Cup was a “high­light in my ca­reer” and car­ries the same level of pres­tige as win­ning the Uefa Cham­pi­ons League.

Abu Dhabi will host Fifa’s pre­mier club foot­ball tour­na­ment for a sec­ond suc­ces­sive year – and fourth over­all – when the cham­pi­ons of ev­ery con­ti­nent ar­rive in the cap­i­tal for the De­cem­ber 12-22 tour­na­ment.

The Brazil­ian won the tour­na­ment twice in its pre­vi­ous guise as the In­ter­con­ti­nen­tal Cup, in 1998 and 2002, dur­ing a tro­phy-laden nine-year ca­reer at Real Madrid that also saw him lift the Cham­pi­ons League on three oc­ca­sions as well as four La Liga ti­tles.

“It’s a medal­lion ev­ery foot­baller would want to have,” the for­mer Brazil de­fender told a news con­fer­ence at Yas Ho­tel in Abu Dhabi on Satur­day.

“Play­ing in in­ter­na­tional club com­pe­ti­tions and win­ning in­ter­na­tional tro­phies for my club was a truly spe­cial ex­pe­ri­ence for me.

“I was lucky enough to win the In­ter­con­ti­nen­tal Cup twice and I know first-hand how im­por­tant in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tions like the Fifa Club World Cup are to both play­ers and fans. To be cham­pi­ons of the world is most im­por­tant for a foot­baller. I par­tic­i­pated in three In­ter­con­ti­nen­tal Cups and won twice. This has been a high­light in my ca­reer.”

Real Madrid, who qual­ify for this year’s event af­ter win­ning a third straight Cham­pi­ons League ti­tle in May, be­came the first team to suc­cess­fully de­fend the tro­phy when Zinedine Zidane’s side beat Brazil’s Gremio in last year’s fi­nal at Zayed Sports City.

Car­los, who won 125 Brazil caps as a player and lifted the 2002 World Cup, is con­fi­dent the Span­ish giants can chal­lenge for the ti­tle again.

“Great play­ers and great teams want to show they are the very best at ev­ery op­por­tu­nity and I know Real Madrid will want to win this tro­phy for a third straight year,” Car­los said.

“The other teams and con­ti­nen­tal cham­pi­ons will also be ea­ger to test them­selves against the best, to seize their chance and win a tour­na­ment that rep­re­sents the pin­na­cle of in­ter­na­tional club foot­ball.”

While Real Madrid will be favourites to re­tain the ti­tle, one player will be con­spic­u­ous by his ab­sence from the side that lifted the tro­phy 10 months ago.

In July, Cris­tiano Ron­aldo, the club’s all-time lead­ing scorer, swapped the Bern­abeu for the chal­lenge of Serie A, join­ing Ju­ven­tus in a €100 mil­lion (Dh425m) trans­fer.

“Ev­ery player has the choice to change club and that was Cris­tiano’s de­ci­sion to leave,” Car­los said.

“He was play­ing for Real Madrid and we want to thank what he did for the club. We wish him the best of luck with his ca­reer at Ju­ven­tus. Cris­tiano is the best in the world. Cris­tiano is Cris­tiano.

Without Ron­aldo and Zidane, who stepped down as man­ager soon af­ter guid­ing Madrid to a 13th Eu­ro­pean Cup in May, re­sults have been mixed this sea­son. Julen Lopetegui’s side sit fourth in the Primera Liga af­ter draw­ing two and los­ing two of their open­ing eight matches, al­though they are only two points off lead­ers Sevilla.

In Europe, vic­tory over Roma in their open­ing Cham­pi­ons League group game was fol­lowed by a de­feat away to CSKA Moscow on Match­day 2.

“It’s a long sea­son and I think they are per­form­ing well. They have a new coach and tech­niques, and very im­por­tant to im­prove slowly,” Car­los said of his old club’s form. “Real Madrid usu­ally per­form slowly but then pick up. It hap­pens ev­ery sea­son and Real will chal­lenge to be the cham­pi­ons.”

Along­side Real Madrid, oth­ers al­ready con­firmed for the Club World Cup in­clude Al Ain, the UAE cham­pi­ons, and Ocea­nia cham­pi­ons Team Welling­ton of New Zealand, who meet in a play-off.

Mex­i­can club Guadala­jara will rep­re­sent Con­ca­caf, with the win­ners of the Asian and African Cham­pi­ons Leagues still to be con­firmed, as well as the win­ners of the Copa Lib­er­ta­dores, South Amer­ica’s equiv­a­lent. Car­los, who says he has watched Al Ain in ac­tion sev­eral times, believes their pres­ence along­side teams like Real Madrid is im­por­tant for their de­vel­op­ment.

“I watch matches from all around the world and have watched Al Ain,” he said. “I have been to Al Ain and the Hazza bin Zayed sta­dium. Al Ain are a good team and there are lot of Brazil­ian play­ers. It will be great to see Al Ain and Real Madrid play in this com­pe­ti­tion.”

I was lucky enough to play in three In­ter­con­ti­nen­tal Cups and won twice. To be cham­pi­ons of the world is most im­por­tant for a foot­baller

Roberto Car­los is in Abu Dhabi as a two-time win­ner of the In­ter­con­ti­nen­tal Cup, the pre­vi­ous guise of the Club World Cup Vic­tor Besa / The Na­tional

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