Saturday, September 19, 2009

Kaka to AS


"The team is improving and we see the progress"
Kaka sat down with sports newspaper AS for an in-depth interview about his first couple of months in Madrid, the importance of team unity and how the squad has gelled.

How have your first two months in Madrid been?

Great in every way possible. I love the team, the club, the city and my teammates. It has all been perfect. Believe me. I am very happy to be here.

Instead of living in the suburbs you decided to stay in the center of Madrid.

I think it was the right choice. It allows me to discover the city and it is good for my family. I will choose to live in a more relaxed area in due time, but it is great for my wife because she can get around easily and it is good for my kid, who has much more to do. I will have time to live further out. Here there is a lot of traffic, life, people on the streets…

Have you had the chance to see your new city?

I’m getting more and more familiar with it. I’m in my learning phase. I like to go out to restaurants and the cinema. I haven’t gone to see a movie yet, but I will. I like to be on the street, see people, soak in the atmosphere…

Let’s talk about the team. Pellegrini’s tactics have raised a few eyebrows. What do you think about it? 

I love the 4-2-2-2 because it gives forwards the chance to move wherever they want to although they later have to return to their position. When we have the ball at our feet the coach allows us to move around. We don’t have to hold out position during the entire match. We all have the task of scoring. It is crucial in football today that everyone chips in to try to score.

One of your teammates said that Real Madrid’s goal is to be on the opponent’s half of the pitch, to attack when in possession and to pressure, and for all that to turn out perfectly you needed to work on it a lot. Right now you must be in the learning stage.

We are. It is essential that forwards and attacking midfielders learn because it isn’t easy for us. I fouled an opponent in the last match and was booked, and we must improve on that. Fouling and stealing balls isn’t easy for some of usEveryone is talking about Cristiano Ronaldo’s two goals against Zurich.

Cristiano is very important to us. Many matches can come down to free kicks, so having a specialist like Cristiano is key. We were having a tough time against Zurich, but the match was over after one of his shots. It is important to have such a decisive player and Cristiano is just that. I am sure we will win many matches that way this season.

There are many complaints about the Champions League ball, especially from goalkeepers. Are you for or against it?

I understand how it can be a problem for keepers, but for offensive players it is great. I don’t know how it is made or what the process entails, but we really enjoy playing with it. It leaves your foot very fast when you strike it well. It is incredible.

Cristiano’s shot was clocked at 103 kilometers an hour!

I know. Field players really like it, but goalkeepers can’t be too happy.

It was surprising to see six booking against Zurich.

The problem is that we were booked six times and Zurich only twice. I don’t like speaking about referees because it is hard to make split second calls like they have to.

The Zurich coach did complain and said that Cristiano Ronaldo was being protected by the referees.

That wasn’t the case. No one was. In fact, everyone saw how hard he was been tackled. I do not agree with what he said.

What are your thoughts on the rotation process?

 I really like it because I have always thought that the entire squad is more important than just eleven players. A strong team is comprised of at least fifteen, sixteen or seventeen players, not eleven. It is paramount. Everyone must feel important, which is why rotations are essential. Every player gets time to rest, play and feel usefulIt looks like it might be your turn to rest against Xerez.

That’s fine. My teammates already went through it. I have no problem sitting on the bench. I just hope it isn’t frequent (laughs).

Pellegrini however has told the team that this is his method this year. 

Of course. I was joking about it being frequent. It is vital that everyone feels useful. Madrid will be stronger that way; not just a group of talented players.

Earlier this week Iker Casillas said the team is a disaster at defending set pieces.

Not in defense. Just in set pieces. We need to change that. I think we have defended well in our three matches, but we most improve at set pieces because that is how we have conceded most of our goals. We must change before it becomes a problem.

In our first interview you told me that you began playing as a forward but were moved to attacking midfielder because of your size. 

That was the case and it is where I feel most comfortable playing. I love the position. It is where I am really able to display all my skills.

Seeing you gallop forward with the ball is incredible. 

It is one of my best characteristics and virtues. I like to do it when I am allowed to. When I have the chance of getting the ball and running forward, I do it. I start off slow and gain a lot of speed within hundredths of a second. But I must work hard and improve.

You have yet to score this season. Are you bothered by providing assists and not scoring?

I already told you I couldn’t promise a certain number of goals and I am still at zero, but my first will come. I also like to pass and provide assists because that is my main job. I don’t deny that I like to score, but I am not worried about not doing so yetBut it is the goal-scorers who capture headlines.

It isn’t an issue for me. I am fine. I have provided many assists and am fine like that. We are winning matches and that it all that counts. I will score at some point, but fans shouldn’t worry.

Do you feel like you are stuck in Cristiano Ronaldo’s shadow?

I can assure you that I am not. I have the job of providing goal assists and have three to my name so far. Everyone must understand what his role is. Everything Cristiano has done in recent days was his own doing. He has performed his job well and the team has benefitted.

Who do you connect with the best on the pitch so far?

Everyone. Not just one player. This team has a lot of talent. I have an easy time playing with Xabi Alonso, Cristiano, Benzema, Raul, Higuain and Lass. I mention them because they are who play closest to me. I forgot to mention Granero. He is great. We have scored two goals together.

On Thursday Pele said that Messi is the best player in the world and that you are the most complete player.

Pele is a legend and right now Messi is the best. Football goes in phases and Messi won everything with Barcelona this year and was the best. I won it all two years ago and Cristiano last year. I hope I win another Player of the Year award. I have a lot of respect for Pele’s opinion.

He also said that Di Stefano was the best player of all time. What do you think? 

Pele, Maradona and Di Stefano were all great. It’s a matter of opinion. If I had to choose, Iwould say Pele was the best

The YouTube video of your wife saying that God brought you to Madrid has received a lot of news.

We are Evangelicals and always speak about Jesus, God and the Bible. It is an important part of our lives. That is why we think we are in Madrid and why I am playing for Real Madrid. We think it was God’s intention.

There has also been a rumor that you want to open an Evangelical church in Madrid.

That is a rumor that has snowballed. We haven’t done anything. We always try to help and collaborate with the Church. We believe the communion, being with other brothers, praying together and reading the Bible are important.

Do you perform a religious ritual before every match?

No, but I do read the Bible and pray during moments of personal reflection before matches.

We’ve seen that the team has had trouble scoring the first goal, but once it falls it is much easier to score.

The team is improving and we see the progress. We need to be strong and have the ability to decide matches at any moment. There are also times that the ball doesn’t want to go in, which is why we need to create chances until it does. Team strength is the most important aspect. I have played for talented teams that didn’t accomplish anything. I have learned that the group is what matters most to a team.

Is there plenty of harmony on the team?

We are all friends, which is important because we are young and eager to win many titles. We all celebrate when one of us scores, and that proves that we are a tight-knit group. 

Let it stay that way.

Hopefully we win it all.

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