Kaká has spoken to MilanTV ahead of the Rossoneri’s crucial Champions League game on Wednesday, discussing his past in the competition.
On Wednesday Milan step on the pitch of Wanda Metropolitano and they know that everything but a win sends the Rossoneri out of the Champions League already before the Group Stage even ends.
Ahead of the game, Milan legend Kaká, one of the most important players in the history of the Diavolo, especially in the UCL, sat down for an interview with MilanTV:
On his best memories from Europe: “My memory of the Champions League consist of the anthem, the fans at the stadium, the games… I remember everything about the Champions League atmosphere.”
On his debut goal against Club Brugge: “That goal at the end of the match… Cafu played in a cross and I scored it in trademark fashion. Afterwards, I’d typically strike the ball in that manner. That was my first goal in the Champions League and in came in Bruges. Unforgettable. I think I can say it was much better than I’d dreamed of, I scored my first Milan goal in a Derby and then my first Champions League goal arrived in this manner. I never imagined that those things could happen to me.”
On the defeat in 2005 against Liverpool: “I think the 2005 final was one of the best ever in the Champions League. Unfortunately, we lost it. Not winning it at that time was very difficult for me because I knew how difficult it was to reach a Champions League final, that defeat was really tough. It taught me a lot, it made me grow a lot both as a person and on a professional level but there was always that doubt – will I play a Champions League final again? Will it be possible for me to win this trophy? The year after, in 2006, we lost to Barcelona in the semis. These two years really were difficult. The doubts were there about whether we could win the Champions League again; it was a rollercoaster ride of emotions that culminated in the victory in Athens.”
On winning in 2007: “2007 was the best year of my career in terms of results both on a collective and personal level. Finishing as the Top Scorer wasn’t my primary objective but Sheva had left in 2006 and Carlo Ancelotti had changed my role a bit, allowing me to play a bit higher up the pitch and nearer to Pippo Inzaghi. Therefore, I’d become a second striker and I finished the 2006/07 campaign as the top goalscorer in the Champions League. This is wonderful because I see all these players who become top goalscorers today and it’s really difficult to reach 10 goals like I did and win the Champions League as well as being the top scorer so it’s great that I can talk about this.”
On the semi-finals against Manchester United in 2007: “That semi-final was really special. Scoring two goals at Old Trafford and not winning that game shows just how tough and difficult it is to play in the Champions League but it was certainly one of the best goals of my career, a very special goal for me. The good thing about not seeing out the first leg was the fact that it gave us extra motivation for the return fixture at San Siro. We knew we were up against a very strong side, with many talented individuals but we were very confident we could do it, so ‘the perfect game’, as it’s been called in Italy, really was an unforgettable match for all Milan fans.”
On the final in 2007: “Finals are always complicated affairs with lots of emotions. There were doubts after what had happened in 2005. The fear was that it could happen again against the same opponents. When we managed to score the first goal at the end of the first half there was already a rush of exhilarating emotions but we knew that the game wasn’t over and then I played the ball through to Pippo who scored that goal where the ball went under the goalkeeper and when it went in, we were all so tired, that Pippo and I were the only one who initially celebrated together. Then, we encountered all of our other teammates as we made our way to our half of the pitch. Everyone wanted to win that game and avoid a repeat of what had happened in Istanbul so we needed to remain very focused because we knew what could happen, but this time it didn’t… even if Kuijt scored and there was that worry about what could happen. However, the final whistle was blown five minutes later and Milan had won the Champions League in 2007.”
On the Champions League emotions: “Lifting the trophy is the final act, it’s all over at that point. Ultimately, the best thing about the Champions League is the games. The group stage, playing and taking to the pitch away from home, being up against these obstacles, managing to win and overcome them. When you have the trophy in your hands, you can say you’ve done it: ‘This is mine and my name is now part of history’, and this applies to the team, the country and on a European and international level. ‘I am part of football history’. It’s fantastic to have it in your hands and be able to say: ‘I have won it’.”
On the current Milan: “It was difficult and, at a certain point, horrible, to watch the Champions League without Milan. The best thing is that Milan are becoming a protagonist again, both in Europe and in Italy and it’s absolutely fantastic to see Milan in the Champions League again and to be able to watch matches with a full crowd as Milan return to the European stage where they should always be. I like these guys, they’re great. I think that this year’s Champions League experience has been good for these guys in terms of understanding what it means to play in the Champions League. I really like the mix of experience and youth. We had the same mix back when I played and the more experienced players helped us understand what it was all about: ‘Here is what it is like to play against Manchester United, against Barcelona and Real Madrid’… Because it’s not easy for a young player, it’s very difficult when you step foot into a historic stadium with the fans, the opponents and all the rest of it. If you’re not supported by the guys who know what it all means it really is very hard. This season, I think it’s been like this for these guys, they’ve been gaining an understanding of what I means to play in the Champions League. Let’s hope – and surely it will happen – that Milan qualify for the Champions League next year. Their results will be completely different because they already know what it means to be involved in a Champions League campaign.”
On Ibrahimović: “It’s great to see Champions play as long as they can and make the most of these moments on the pitch, as is the case with Zlatan. Watching him still playing in the Champions League really is a please.”
On the Milan shirt: “Wearing the Milan shirt is still special. Every time I put it on at home or when I’m out and about, wearing the Rossoneri jersey is a unique feeling and playing a Champions League match makes it even more special because you know just how important it is for the fans, for the team and in terms of what the Champions League is all about. When you wear this shirt, you need to go above and beyond with your performance, because you’re representing one of the biggest clubs in the world.”