“Jose’s my friend and always will be. I may be 50 but I’m still scoring goals!”
OK, so he’s 34 and not 50, but is still finding the net: 13 times in 17 games for Turkish side Antalyaspor this season. He’s even been manager – and now he has a taste for it
Before the appointment of Jose Morais as Antalyaspor’s new coach in January, you were the caretaker boss. Do you have the taste for management now? The club asked me to train the team even though I don’t have any coaching badges, and it was an honour. I planned some training using my experience as a footballer and all the players seemed to like it. I liked it, too, and I’d accept an offer in management if I thought I’d do it right. My philosophy is to win by playing nice football. Just winning can’t satisfy me. I need to get the licence to work as a manager, but for now I’ll remain as a player and keep playing until I get tired!
How have you found life in Turkey? The training facilities are almost perfect and Antalya is a beautiful city. It has an amazing sea and the hotels are gorgeous. I eat a kebab almost every day here! The league here is very physical – it reminds me of the Premier League. I accepted the club’s offer without even asking my wife, and now I can see that I have made the right choice.
What have been your aims with Antalyaspor? There was talk that your former Barcelona team-mate Ronaldinho was going to follow you to the club – were you disappointed when he didn’t? Why would I be disappointed? I can succeed by myself! I have never relied on other people, so nothing can disappoint me. Our primary aim this season has been to avoid relegation. If the club can do that, the plan is to then start thinking bigger.
At Chelsea, Jose Mourinho – with whom you won the Champions League at Inter – made a comment suggesting you may have been a little bit older than your professed age of 32.. Why do you think he said that? I don’t know. I may be 50 years old but I’m still scoring! Jose is my friend and he always will be. We all make mistakes sometimes; I don’t think it is right to fall out with anybody because of these little things. We had so many good memories together, and they are all very precious for me. What he said didn’t hurt me because I know he’s a good person – anyway, I may be old but I score more than all the youngsters! Mourinho is very different to what you see in the media. He is fun, kind and friendly. What happened to Jose this season was a surprise. It was a big loss for Chelsea. What did you think of your year and a half in the Premier League? Why did you leave Everton after only five months at the club? It’s an amazing league, with the best fans in the world. They always cheer, whether you’re winning or losing; they respect the game and the players, and they know so much about football. My career wouldn’t have been complete if I hadn’t played there, because playing in the Premier League is an experience that every player must have. Why did I leave Everton? Because I couldn’t get into the team! I can’t belong to any club if I am not wearing its shirt.
Tell us about meeting the film producer-turned-club president Massimo Ferrero (above) during your spell at Sampdoria last year. He seems quite a character... I’ve worked with so many presidents in my career but if I had to pick one, it would definitely be Ferrero. He’s more like a fun team-mate than a club president. I could listen to his stories about the movie business all day. What do you remember about the first time you saw Lionel Messi play, when you were at Barcelona? He was the best footballer in the world already, but no one knew. I remember speaking to Patrick Vieira on the phone. There was a game between Barcelona and Juventus, and I said to him: “There is a player in our team who will score the best goals ever for the next 25 years – he’ll be the best player in the world.” He asked me who that player was. I told him it was Messi and he replied: “Then I am going to kick him so hard that he’ll never play again!” He was joking, of course. In the game, Messi nutmegged him and he just smiled!
People talk about Barça’s current front three of Lionel Messi, Neymar and Luis Suarez maybe being the best ever. Were you, Messi and Ronaldinho just as good? We are talking about different times, different mentalities. What we did has taken its place in Barcelona history and it’s very valuable for us, considering the club also plays a big part in the history of world football. We were perfect in our time and they are perfect in theirs.
How proud were you to score in two Champions League final victories for Barcelona? Very. Those finals helped my name to shine more brightly. Not every player gets the chance to play for Barça. It’s the best club in the world.
A glittering career has produced goals and trophies galore