Interviews

The big interview: Cafu – "It's true we were celebrating at half-time in Istanbul... but Liverpool deserved that comeback"

Cafu
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When you decided to climb on the podium to lift the 2002 World Cup, did you worry about falling off? It looked pretty precarious. That could have been embarrassing…
Naomi James, via email

For sure! It was made of glass and I was wearing my boots. It could have cracked at any moment! But I was just blind – I told Sepp Blatter and Pele to hold me up there because I was a world champion. When I felt it was steady enough, all I could think of was lifting that trophy as high as I could. It was the best moment of my life.

Which World Cup victory felt better: 1994 in the USA or 2002 in South Korea and Japan?
Matt Abbott, via Twitter

No contest – 2002. In the first I was led, but in the second I was leading. To be the captain – to be responsible for so many different things happening at so many different times – makes a big difference.

How close were you to moving to Japan before joining Milan?
Luigi Mazzanti, Rome

I had a pre-contract with Yokohoma and they had already sent me part of the money

I was definitely going to Yokohama. I was 32 years old and thinking of the future – I was interested in one last big contract. I had a pre-contract with them and they had already sent me part of the money.

But then Milan told me they wanted me, 15 days before my presentation in Japan was due to take place. I wouldn’t have been able to live with myself if I’d refused a club like Milan. I called Yokohama, explained what had happened and asked how I could send that money back. They were very understanding; they even sent me a letter to thank me for reimbursing them. I told them that Milan would pay me less money, but that the experience is unparalleled.

I expected to play for a couple of years – it ended up being five. Most people said when I arrived that I was going to play 10 matches per season; after all, they’d just won the 2003 Champions League – they were a great side. But during pre-season I was like a rocket. I didn’t go to Milan for a stroll; if I wanted to enjoy myself I would go to Japan. I stayed in the team for three-and-a-half years. When I wanted to rest, Carlo Ancelotti would say: “Nooo, Marcooo.”

Cafu

Cafu felt the chance to join Milan was too good to turn down

HONOURS

  • Club: Brasileiro Serie A 1991; Copa Libertadores 1992, 1993; Copa CONMEBOL 1994; UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup 1995; Italian Serie A 2001, 2004; UEFA Champions League 2007; FIFA Club World Cup 2007
  • International: FIFA World Cup 1994, 2002; Copa America 1997, 1999; FIFA Confederations Cup 1997
  • Individual: South American Footballer of the Year 1994; FIFA World Cup All-Star XI 2002; FIFPro World XI 2005

What was the situation with you being accused of having a forged Italian passport? Was that the most difficult situation you faced in your career?
Ben Wilkinson, via Facebook

Not at all – I knew it was just because of one small detail. There was a typo in my passport. My surname was wrong. Italian Justice had some issues with Roma president Franco Sensi. Because Sensi had the passport made, this little mess appeared. I went to court, explained myself to the judge for five hours, and a week later they dismissed the case.

Is it true that a lot of the Milan players were celebrating ‘victory’ at half-time in the 2005 Champions League Final?
Louis Walmsley, via Twitter

It's true, yes. We scored three great goals against a Liverpool team that was one of the most tactically aware sides I have ever faced – we thought it was our day, and we relaxed. When they scored the first two, we felt the impact. When they netted the third we just couldn’t believe it.

It wasn’t Milan’s fault; Liverpool deserved that comeback. I have big admiration for Liverpool: maybe another team wouldn’t show so much character to get level after trailing 3-0 at half-time. Actually I realised it was all lost even before the penalty shootout started, when [Andriy] Shevchenko missed that clear opportunity right in front of [Jerzy] Dudek during extra time.

How much did revenge for Istanbul in 2005 play a part in the 2007 Champions League victory over Liverpool in Athens?
Ross Grosvenor, via Twitter

We didn’t play thinking of revenge at all. It was a very experienced team. I was 36, [Paolo] Maldini 38, [Alessandro] Costacurta 41 and Serginho 35. We knew it was our last chance to win that trophy, but we were very calm. Not many teams could play with that tranquility.

After Pippo [Inzaghi] scored with [Andrea] Pirlo’s assist, I knew this time it was ours: in the 2005 final that kind of opportunity would definitely have been squandered.

What was it like working for owner Silvio Berlusconi at Milan? When was the angriest he ever got? Or did he invite you and the Rossoneri squad to some of his parties?
Paolo Lombardi, via email

He really embraced my family and me; he even wanted me to start a special academy for full-backs at Milanello

I went to one of his parties, but it was in a restaurant. He's such a character. I used to call him ‘the doctor’. He loves Brazilian players and we got along very well. He really embraced my family and me; he even wanted me to start a special academy for full-backs at Milanello. His private business is his private business. With us he was like a daddy. He knows a lot of football and had suggestions, but was never invasive. He knew how to behave.

Of all the fantastic players you played with for the Brazilian national team, which one was your favourite?
Danny Kay, via Twitter

Rivaldo. He did amazing things in 1998 and in 2002. He’s so shy, he has no idea of how fantastic he was. When I heard Rivaldo was fit before any match, I knew that was a big step towards Brazil being able to beat anyone.

Silvio Berlusconi

Silvio Berlusconi: a man who knew how to behave, apparently

Is there any player you wish you could have played with but didn’t get the chance?
Kay Finlay, Ayr

Zinedine Zidane and Diego Maradona. I did get to play with Pele in a friendly in 1990, so that’s pretty substantial compensation! There's nothing like playing with the biggest icon in our sport. I was shaking. Pele was always very generous with me.

Is it really true that you’re a fan of Liverpool’s Jon Flanagan? Are there any other English players you like the look of?
Cheekyric, via Twitter

Sure! I paid him a visit not long ago; we had lunch and took some pictures together. He's very fit and has everything required to be one of the best full-backs in the world. The English players that I like the most are those from my generation. I am a big fan of Frank Lampard – his movement is so elegant. Steven Gerrard is also a great example of character for me.

Jon Flanagan

Cafu's a big fan of Jon Flanagan, currently on loan at Burnley

Did you ever consider playing in England during your career? Did you get a concrete offer from a Premier League side?
‘Venky32’, via Twitter

I never did. It would have been great to play in England. I would have loved to play for Liverpool, Manchester United or Chelsea.

Were you surprised to be chucked out of the Brazil dressing room last year after going in to offer consolations following the 7-1 defeat to Germany? It seemed a bit harsh!
Michael Raynor, via Facebook

I’d never seen anything like it and I don’t think we will see another game like that any time soon

The only memory from that day is the shock of that defeat. It's incomprehensible. Brazil were tactically pathetic, and Germany were tactically perfect. They took advantage of our mistakes and didn’t waste a single chance. We have a lot to learn from them – they are much more disciplined than us. But it was a match in which one team didn’t get anything right and the other got everything right. I’d never seen anything like it and I don’t think we will see another game like that any time soon.

Brazil Germany

Cafu believes Brazil can learn from the German team that thrashed them in 2014

What do you make of the current Brazil national team? Do you think Neymar makes a good Seleção captain?
Conor Riggs, via Twitter

Brazil have what it takes to be great again in 2018. Most of the team are young, but they already have plenty of experience. The shocking defeat in the World Cup has made us more aware that we need to improve tactically, and those players have it in them to do that. They are surely on the rise.

However, I’m actually against Neymar being captain. He doesn’t have the profile of a leader. We need to take responsibility off him. We have to let him enjoy himself. He doesn’t have to talk to the referee, to be the middleman between players and the coach. That's what a captain's for. He's the biggest icon in Brazilian football in 10 years, but for now he has to play, not lead. Miranda and David Luiz have better profiles for a captain.

How long will your record of being the most capped Brazil player (142 games) stand?
Paulo Oliveira Rocha, via Facebook

It will take a while, but Neymar can get there eventually – he has three more World Cups ahead of him yet. What won’t happen quite so soon is anyone playing in three consecutive World Cup finals – that one's mine! [laughs] I’m just kidding. If that does happen then I'll be there to celebrate.

If you would like more information on Cafu’s foundation, visit FundacaoCafu.org.br

This feature originally appeared in the November 2015 issue of FourFourTwo. Subscribe!

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