Nissan Trophy Tour 2020

‘You shall not pass,’ Cafu tells Ronaldo

In this series of interviews, five champions talk fans, glory and getting their hands on club football’s biggest prize

INTERVIEW Paolo Menicucci

Cristiano Ronaldo was 20 when he came up against veteran AC Milan defender Cafu in the Champions League last 16 in 2005. Cafu, twice a World Cup winner with Brazil, had his eyes on the one major honour still missing from his collection and was not going to let Manchester United’s wonderkid prevent him. “Kid, here, no. You won’t pass,” the right-back recalls telling the winger, this time accompanied by a big laugh. In a tight second leg at San Siro, the then 34-year-old even swung in the cross for Hernán Crespo's winning header as the Rossoneri prevailed – though it would take Cafu another two years to finally get his hands on the prize. Here, in the second of a series of interviews with five former winners on the UEFA Champions League Trophy Tour driven by Nissan LEAF, the Brazilian discusses what the trophy, the fans and the atmosphere on a Champions League night mean to him.

After losing that dramatic final to Liverpool in heartbreaking fashion in 2005, how did it feel to finally lift the trophy in 2007?

You said it. I really thought, “Finally I’ve won it!” It was the only trophy missing from my cabinet. In 2005 we had one hand on the trophy before letting it slip away. In 2007 we really did everything we had to. At the moment when we were declared champions, I told the guys, “We’ve finally got to be where we should have been two years ago.” Every time I watch how we won – the sacrifices, the football we played – it’s beautiful to have that feeling of being champions.

What does it mean to win this trophy?

It’s difficult to sleep when you win a normal title – after winning the Champions League, you can’t sleep for three nights in a row. You go to bed, you put your head on the pillow and you start dreaming of how you won it. Not every player has managed to do that. There are great champions who have never won it. I feel privileged because I did.

Cafu takes his turn with the trophy in 2007

Winning this trophy means everything for a player. But can a player really appreciate what it means to the fans?

We saw everything the fans did for us. The fans were bouncing, crying, laughing, celebrating. It was impressive. When we were on the streets, when we went to show the trophy in the square [Piazza del Duomo] and the fans cried, you feel how important you are to people you don’t even know. I understood I was making those people happy, making them smile. We’re aware of our responsibilities and the joy we give the fans when we bring home a cup like this.

Sadly, there are no fans in stadiums now, but can you remember a game you played in where the supporters really made the difference?

Fans are always decisive when you play at home. When we played at San Siro, the fans made the difference. Looking at those huge flags, watching the people, the banners, the fans screaming and singing the Milan anthem, I think it really made the difference for our opponents. When we went out onto the pitch, they were saying,“Milan have arrived. We have to be careful.”  

How do you watch football these days? From the sofa?

Watching football like this is very sad for both fans and footballers. Unfortunately, there is this pandemic, Covid-19, and we have to follow the recommendations of health authorities. We have to stay home, watching games like the Champions League quarter-finals, semi-finals and even the final with no fans, with no support… I always watch from my sofa with a glass by my side and popcorn. We can’t do much more than that. It’s very sad, but we hope that sooner or later this virus will pass and people will be able to return to the stadiums. Everything will become more beautiful.

During your playing days, you redefined the role of the full-back by attacking down the wing. Have the likes of Trent Alexander-Arnold and Alphonso Davies now taken that on to a new level?

It’s true. Both Trent Alexander-Arnold and Alphonso Davies are great players. I feel proud because I was a pioneer playing this role with this attacking style, always going up and down the flank. I’m very happy to see them doing exactly the same things I was doing, now for Bayern and Liverpool. Today the right-back and left-back are weapons for every team. We attack, we defend, we cover the defence, we run down to make crosses for midfielders and forwards… We’re not afraid to play. I always attacked without caring what was happening behind me. It was our tactic, because our opponents had to care about us, not the opposite way around. Those two lads are the best in the world right now and they can go very far. I hope they can continue to play this role the same way, without fear.

Do you feel you changed the way that position is played?

Yes, I changed the way to play right-back. Before, the right-back always stayed in the defensive line. He could go as far as midfield and then go back. They would pass the ball up front to the forwards with long balls. I said, “No. I’m in great physical shape. Do you know what I’m doing now? I’m going forward with the ball. I don’t want to hang back, I’m going.” I’m very happy that later everybody started training like that and it became an important weapon in modern football.

Cafu and Ronaldo lock horns at San Siro

And tell us about this Trophy Tour experience. A Rossoneri fan is surprised by a knock on the door and is presented with the Champions League trophy. Then he goes online and finds you – a winner with Milan in 2007 – ready to talk through the final. As a fan, it doesn’t get much better than that…

I think it was a very beautiful experience for them. If it was me and the cup was arriving here with, let’s say Pelé, it would be as good as it gets. I want to congratulate both Nissan and UEFA for this initiative and the joy they gave to this fan. I think this day will always remain his best ever in terms of football.

This article is one in a series of five interviews conducted by Champions Journal with former winners Ashley Cole, Cafu, Éric Abidal, Christian Karembeu and Marcel Desailly. They were taking part in the UEFA Champions League Trophy Tour driven by Nissan LEAF, whereby five Nissan LEAF-owning fans enjoyed the surprise delivery of the cup with the big ears. The fans then linked up online with one of the above legends to watch clips and talk about a final they played in – and won. Follow this year's Trophy Tour @nissansports on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

Best of the best
Cafu’s Champions League Best of the Best…

Game

That match against Manchester United [in 2005] I remember really well. I had some duels with Ronaldo in that game. He was very young; I was much older than him, but we had a great battle. I didn’t want to let him get by me. I was saying: “Kid, here, no. You won’t pass.” He replied: “Yes, I will.” Then me again. “No!” I remember that game very well because United are always United. They had a very strong team. But Milan were really playing some great football, playing as a team, in which every player had known each other for so many years. That was the best atmosphere we experienced.

Season

That entire 2004/05 season because we played an incredible campaign. I don’t think about the final because you can lose finals, even in the way we did. But that year we were already an experienced side, a great side. I was 34 and I played almost every game. It was beautiful.

Goal

I’ve seen a lot. Zidane scored that crazy goal against Leverkusen [in the 2002 final], an incredible goal. And then Inzaghi’s first against Liverpool in the 2007 final. It was very important. It was beautiful and he scored with his shoulder, I think. [Laughs]

Opponent

Ronaldinho Gaúcho. I played against him at his peak, when he was in top form at Barcelona. He was flying. It was impossible to mark him.

Team-mate

Many. I have played with so many champions. But I think Pirlo was one of the best, my favourite.

Stadium

San Siro.

Cristiano Ronaldo was 20 when he came up against veteran AC Milan defender Cafu in the Champions League last 16 in 2005. Cafu, twice a World Cup winner with Brazil, had his eyes on the one major honour still missing from his collection and was not going to let Manchester United’s wonderkid prevent him. “Kid, here, no. You won’t pass,” the right-back recalls telling the winger, this time accompanied by a big laugh. In a tight second leg at San Siro, the then 34-year-old even swung in the cross for Hernán Crespo's winning header as the Rossoneri prevailed – though it would take Cafu another two years to finally get his hands on the prize. Here, in the second of a series of interviews with five former winners on the UEFA Champions League Trophy Tour driven by Nissan LEAF, the Brazilian discusses what the trophy, the fans and the atmosphere on a Champions League night mean to him.

After losing that dramatic final to Liverpool in heartbreaking fashion in 2005, how did it feel to finally lift the trophy in 2007?

You said it. I really thought, “Finally I’ve won it!” It was the only trophy missing from my cabinet. In 2005 we had one hand on the trophy before letting it slip away. In 2007 we really did everything we had to. At the moment when we were declared champions, I told the guys, “We’ve finally got to be where we should have been two years ago.” Every time I watch how we won – the sacrifices, the football we played – it’s beautiful to have that feeling of being champions.

What does it mean to win this trophy?

It’s difficult to sleep when you win a normal title – after winning the Champions League, you can’t sleep for three nights in a row. You go to bed, you put your head on the pillow and you start dreaming of how you won it. Not every player has managed to do that. There are great champions who have never won it. I feel privileged because I did.

Cafu takes his turn with the trophy in 2007

Winning this trophy means everything for a player. But can a player really appreciate what it means to the fans?

We saw everything the fans did for us. The fans were bouncing, crying, laughing, celebrating. It was impressive. When we were on the streets, when we went to show the trophy in the square [Piazza del Duomo] and the fans cried, you feel how important you are to people you don’t even know. I understood I was making those people happy, making them smile. We’re aware of our responsibilities and the joy we give the fans when we bring home a cup like this.

Sadly, there are no fans in stadiums now, but can you remember a game you played in where the supporters really made the difference?

Fans are always decisive when you play at home. When we played at San Siro, the fans made the difference. Looking at those huge flags, watching the people, the banners, the fans screaming and singing the Milan anthem, I think it really made the difference for our opponents. When we went out onto the pitch, they were saying,“Milan have arrived. We have to be careful.”  

How do you watch football these days? From the sofa?

Watching football like this is very sad for both fans and footballers. Unfortunately, there is this pandemic, Covid-19, and we have to follow the recommendations of health authorities. We have to stay home, watching games like the Champions League quarter-finals, semi-finals and even the final with no fans, with no support… I always watch from my sofa with a glass by my side and popcorn. We can’t do much more than that. It’s very sad, but we hope that sooner or later this virus will pass and people will be able to return to the stadiums. Everything will become more beautiful.

During your playing days, you redefined the role of the full-back by attacking down the wing. Have the likes of Trent Alexander-Arnold and Alphonso Davies now taken that on to a new level?

It’s true. Both Trent Alexander-Arnold and Alphonso Davies are great players. I feel proud because I was a pioneer playing this role with this attacking style, always going up and down the flank. I’m very happy to see them doing exactly the same things I was doing, now for Bayern and Liverpool. Today the right-back and left-back are weapons for every team. We attack, we defend, we cover the defence, we run down to make crosses for midfielders and forwards… We’re not afraid to play. I always attacked without caring what was happening behind me. It was our tactic, because our opponents had to care about us, not the opposite way around. Those two lads are the best in the world right now and they can go very far. I hope they can continue to play this role the same way, without fear.

Do you feel you changed the way that position is played?

Yes, I changed the way to play right-back. Before, the right-back always stayed in the defensive line. He could go as far as midfield and then go back. They would pass the ball up front to the forwards with long balls. I said, “No. I’m in great physical shape. Do you know what I’m doing now? I’m going forward with the ball. I don’t want to hang back, I’m going.” I’m very happy that later everybody started training like that and it became an important weapon in modern football.

Cafu and Ronaldo lock horns at San Siro

And tell us about this Trophy Tour experience. A Rossoneri fan is surprised by a knock on the door and is presented with the Champions League trophy. Then he goes online and finds you – a winner with Milan in 2007 – ready to talk through the final. As a fan, it doesn’t get much better than that…

I think it was a very beautiful experience for them. If it was me and the cup was arriving here with, let’s say Pelé, it would be as good as it gets. I want to congratulate both Nissan and UEFA for this initiative and the joy they gave to this fan. I think this day will always remain his best ever in terms of football.

This article is one in a series of five interviews conducted by Champions Journal with former winners Ashley Cole, Cafu, Éric Abidal, Christian Karembeu and Marcel Desailly. They were taking part in the UEFA Champions League Trophy Tour driven by Nissan LEAF, whereby five Nissan LEAF-owning fans enjoyed the surprise delivery of the cup with the big ears. The fans then linked up online with one of the above legends to watch clips and talk about a final they played in – and won. Follow this year's Trophy Tour @nissansports on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

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Best of the best
Cafu’s Champions League Best of the Best…

Game

That match against Manchester United [in 2005] I remember really well. I had some duels with Ronaldo in that game. He was very young; I was much older than him, but we had a great battle. I didn’t want to let him get by me. I was saying: “Kid, here, no. You won’t pass.” He replied: “Yes, I will.” Then me again. “No!” I remember that game very well because United are always United. They had a very strong team. But Milan were really playing some great football, playing as a team, in which every player had known each other for so many years. That was the best atmosphere we experienced.

Season

That entire 2004/05 season because we played an incredible campaign. I don’t think about the final because you can lose finals, even in the way we did. But that year we were already an experienced side, a great side. I was 34 and I played almost every game. It was beautiful.

Goal

I’ve seen a lot. Zidane scored that crazy goal against Leverkusen [in the 2002 final], an incredible goal. And then Inzaghi’s first against Liverpool in the 2007 final. It was very important. It was beautiful and he scored with his shoulder, I think. [Laughs]

Opponent

Ronaldinho Gaúcho. I played against him at his peak, when he was in top form at Barcelona. He was flying. It was impossible to mark him.

Team-mate

Many. I have played with so many champions. But I think Pirlo was one of the best, my favourite.

Stadium

San Siro.

Cristiano Ronaldo was 20 when he came up against veteran AC Milan defender Cafu in the Champions League last 16 in 2005. Cafu, twice a World Cup winner with Brazil, had his eyes on the one major honour still missing from his collection and was not going to let Manchester United’s wonderkid prevent him. “Kid, here, no. You won’t pass,” the right-back recalls telling the winger, this time accompanied by a big laugh. In a tight second leg at San Siro, the then 34-year-old even swung in the cross for Hernán Crespo's winning header as the Rossoneri prevailed – though it would take Cafu another two years to finally get his hands on the prize. Here, in the second of a series of interviews with five former winners on the UEFA Champions League Trophy Tour driven by Nissan LEAF, the Brazilian discusses what the trophy, the fans and the atmosphere on a Champions League night mean to him.

After losing that dramatic final to Liverpool in heartbreaking fashion in 2005, how did it feel to finally lift the trophy in 2007?

You said it. I really thought, “Finally I’ve won it!” It was the only trophy missing from my cabinet. In 2005 we had one hand on the trophy before letting it slip away. In 2007 we really did everything we had to. At the moment when we were declared champions, I told the guys, “We’ve finally got to be where we should have been two years ago.” Every time I watch how we won – the sacrifices, the football we played – it’s beautiful to have that feeling of being champions.

What does it mean to win this trophy?

It’s difficult to sleep when you win a normal title – after winning the Champions League, you can’t sleep for three nights in a row. You go to bed, you put your head on the pillow and you start dreaming of how you won it. Not every player has managed to do that. There are great champions who have never won it. I feel privileged because I did.

Cafu takes his turn with the trophy in 2007

Winning this trophy means everything for a player. But can a player really appreciate what it means to the fans?

We saw everything the fans did for us. The fans were bouncing, crying, laughing, celebrating. It was impressive. When we were on the streets, when we went to show the trophy in the square [Piazza del Duomo] and the fans cried, you feel how important you are to people you don’t even know. I understood I was making those people happy, making them smile. We’re aware of our responsibilities and the joy we give the fans when we bring home a cup like this.

Sadly, there are no fans in stadiums now, but can you remember a game you played in where the supporters really made the difference?

Fans are always decisive when you play at home. When we played at San Siro, the fans made the difference. Looking at those huge flags, watching the people, the banners, the fans screaming and singing the Milan anthem, I think it really made the difference for our opponents. When we went out onto the pitch, they were saying,“Milan have arrived. We have to be careful.”  

How do you watch football these days? From the sofa?

Watching football like this is very sad for both fans and footballers. Unfortunately, there is this pandemic, Covid-19, and we have to follow the recommendations of health authorities. We have to stay home, watching games like the Champions League quarter-finals, semi-finals and even the final with no fans, with no support… I always watch from my sofa with a glass by my side and popcorn. We can’t do much more than that. It’s very sad, but we hope that sooner or later this virus will pass and people will be able to return to the stadiums. Everything will become more beautiful.

During your playing days, you redefined the role of the full-back by attacking down the wing. Have the likes of Trent Alexander-Arnold and Alphonso Davies now taken that on to a new level?

It’s true. Both Trent Alexander-Arnold and Alphonso Davies are great players. I feel proud because I was a pioneer playing this role with this attacking style, always going up and down the flank. I’m very happy to see them doing exactly the same things I was doing, now for Bayern and Liverpool. Today the right-back and left-back are weapons for every team. We attack, we defend, we cover the defence, we run down to make crosses for midfielders and forwards… We’re not afraid to play. I always attacked without caring what was happening behind me. It was our tactic, because our opponents had to care about us, not the opposite way around. Those two lads are the best in the world right now and they can go very far. I hope they can continue to play this role the same way, without fear.

Do you feel you changed the way that position is played?

Yes, I changed the way to play right-back. Before, the right-back always stayed in the defensive line. He could go as far as midfield and then go back. They would pass the ball up front to the forwards with long balls. I said, “No. I’m in great physical shape. Do you know what I’m doing now? I’m going forward with the ball. I don’t want to hang back, I’m going.” I’m very happy that later everybody started training like that and it became an important weapon in modern football.

Cafu and Ronaldo lock horns at San Siro

And tell us about this Trophy Tour experience. A Rossoneri fan is surprised by a knock on the door and is presented with the Champions League trophy. Then he goes online and finds you – a winner with Milan in 2007 – ready to talk through the final. As a fan, it doesn’t get much better than that…

I think it was a very beautiful experience for them. If it was me and the cup was arriving here with, let’s say Pelé, it would be as good as it gets. I want to congratulate both Nissan and UEFA for this initiative and the joy they gave to this fan. I think this day will always remain his best ever in terms of football.

This article is one in a series of five interviews conducted by Champions Journal with former winners Ashley Cole, Cafu, Éric Abidal, Christian Karembeu and Marcel Desailly. They were taking part in the UEFA Champions League Trophy Tour driven by Nissan LEAF, whereby five Nissan LEAF-owning fans enjoyed the surprise delivery of the cup with the big ears. The fans then linked up online with one of the above legends to watch clips and talk about a final they played in – and won. Follow this year's Trophy Tour @nissansports on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

Best of the best
‘You shall not pass,’ Cafu tells Ronaldo

Game

That match against Manchester United [in 2005] I remember really well. I had some duels with Ronaldo in that game. He was very young; I was much older than him, but we had a great battle. I didn’t want to let him get by me. I was saying: “Kid, here, no. You won’t pass.” He replied: “Yes, I will.” Then me again. “No!” I remember that game very well because United are always United. They had a very strong team. But Milan were really playing some great football, playing as a team, in which every player had known each other for so many years. That was the best atmosphere we experienced.

Season

That entire 2004/05 season because we played an incredible campaign. I don’t think about the final because you can lose finals, even in the way we did. But that year we were already an experienced side, a great side. I was 34 and I played almost every game. It was beautiful.

Goal

I’ve seen a lot. Zidane scored that crazy goal against Leverkusen [in the 2002 final], an incredible goal. And then Inzaghi’s first against Liverpool in the 2007 final. It was very important. It was beautiful and he scored with his shoulder, I think. [Laughs]

Opponent

Ronaldinho Gaúcho. I played against him at his peak, when he was in top form at Barcelona. He was flying. It was impossible to mark him.

Team-mate

Many. I have played with so many champions. But I think Pirlo was one of the best, my favourite.

Stadium

San Siro.

Nissan Trophy Tour 2020

‘You shall not pass,’ Cafu tells Ronaldo

In this series of interviews, five champions talk fans, glory and getting their hands on club football’s biggest prize

INTERVIEW Paolo Menicucci

Cristiano Ronaldo was 20 when he came up against veteran AC Milan defender Cafu in the Champions League last 16 in 2005. Cafu, twice a World Cup winner with Brazil, had his eyes on the one major honour still missing from his collection and was not going to let Manchester United’s wonderkid prevent him. “Kid, here, no. You won’t pass,” the right-back recalls telling the winger, this time accompanied by a big laugh. In a tight second leg at San Siro, the then 34-year-old even swung in the cross for Hernán Crespo's winning header as the Rossoneri prevailed – though it would take Cafu another two years to finally get his hands on the prize. Here, in the second of a series of interviews with five former winners on the UEFA Champions League Trophy Tour driven by Nissan LEAF, the Brazilian discusses what the trophy, the fans and the atmosphere on a Champions League night mean to him.

After losing that dramatic final to Liverpool in heartbreaking fashion in 2005, how did it feel to finally lift the trophy in 2007?

You said it. I really thought, “Finally I’ve won it!” It was the only trophy missing from my cabinet. In 2005 we had one hand on the trophy before letting it slip away. In 2007 we really did everything we had to. At the moment when we were declared champions, I told the guys, “We’ve finally got to be where we should have been two years ago.” Every time I watch how we won – the sacrifices, the football we played – it’s beautiful to have that feeling of being champions.

What does it mean to win this trophy?

It’s difficult to sleep when you win a normal title – after winning the Champions League, you can’t sleep for three nights in a row. You go to bed, you put your head on the pillow and you start dreaming of how you won it. Not every player has managed to do that. There are great champions who have never won it. I feel privileged because I did.

Cafu takes his turn with the trophy in 2007

Winning this trophy means everything for a player. But can a player really appreciate what it means to the fans?

We saw everything the fans did for us. The fans were bouncing, crying, laughing, celebrating. It was impressive. When we were on the streets, when we went to show the trophy in the square [Piazza del Duomo] and the fans cried, you feel how important you are to people you don’t even know. I understood I was making those people happy, making them smile. We’re aware of our responsibilities and the joy we give the fans when we bring home a cup like this.

Sadly, there are no fans in stadiums now, but can you remember a game you played in where the supporters really made the difference?

Fans are always decisive when you play at home. When we played at San Siro, the fans made the difference. Looking at those huge flags, watching the people, the banners, the fans screaming and singing the Milan anthem, I think it really made the difference for our opponents. When we went out onto the pitch, they were saying,“Milan have arrived. We have to be careful.”  

How do you watch football these days? From the sofa?

Watching football like this is very sad for both fans and footballers. Unfortunately, there is this pandemic, Covid-19, and we have to follow the recommendations of health authorities. We have to stay home, watching games like the Champions League quarter-finals, semi-finals and even the final with no fans, with no support… I always watch from my sofa with a glass by my side and popcorn. We can’t do much more than that. It’s very sad, but we hope that sooner or later this virus will pass and people will be able to return to the stadiums. Everything will become more beautiful.

During your playing days, you redefined the role of the full-back by attacking down the wing. Have the likes of Trent Alexander-Arnold and Alphonso Davies now taken that on to a new level?

It’s true. Both Trent Alexander-Arnold and Alphonso Davies are great players. I feel proud because I was a pioneer playing this role with this attacking style, always going up and down the flank. I’m very happy to see them doing exactly the same things I was doing, now for Bayern and Liverpool. Today the right-back and left-back are weapons for every team. We attack, we defend, we cover the defence, we run down to make crosses for midfielders and forwards… We’re not afraid to play. I always attacked without caring what was happening behind me. It was our tactic, because our opponents had to care about us, not the opposite way around. Those two lads are the best in the world right now and they can go very far. I hope they can continue to play this role the same way, without fear.

Do you feel you changed the way that position is played?

Yes, I changed the way to play right-back. Before, the right-back always stayed in the defensive line. He could go as far as midfield and then go back. They would pass the ball up front to the forwards with long balls. I said, “No. I’m in great physical shape. Do you know what I’m doing now? I’m going forward with the ball. I don’t want to hang back, I’m going.” I’m very happy that later everybody started training like that and it became an important weapon in modern football.

Cafu and Ronaldo lock horns at San Siro

And tell us about this Trophy Tour experience. A Rossoneri fan is surprised by a knock on the door and is presented with the Champions League trophy. Then he goes online and finds you – a winner with Milan in 2007 – ready to talk through the final. As a fan, it doesn’t get much better than that…

I think it was a very beautiful experience for them. If it was me and the cup was arriving here with, let’s say Pelé, it would be as good as it gets. I want to congratulate both Nissan and UEFA for this initiative and the joy they gave to this fan. I think this day will always remain his best ever in terms of football.

This article is one in a series of five interviews conducted by Champions Journal with former winners Ashley Cole, Cafu, Éric Abidal, Christian Karembeu and Marcel Desailly. They were taking part in the UEFA Champions League Trophy Tour driven by Nissan LEAF, whereby five Nissan LEAF-owning fans enjoyed the surprise delivery of the cup with the big ears. The fans then linked up online with one of the above legends to watch clips and talk about a final they played in – and won. Follow this year's Trophy Tour @nissansports on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

Best of the best
Penalty Pedigree

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Cristiano Ronaldo was 20 when he came up against veteran AC Milan defender Cafu in the Champions League last 16 in 2005. Cafu, twice a World Cup winner with Brazil, had his eyes on the one major honour still missing from his collection and was not going to let Manchester United’s wonderkid prevent him. “Kid, here, no. You won’t pass,” the right-back recalls telling the winger, this time accompanied by a big laugh. In a tight second leg at San Siro, the then 34-year-old even swung in the cross for Hernán Crespo's winning header as the Rossoneri prevailed – though it would take Cafu another two years to finally get his hands on the prize. Here, in the second of a series of interviews with five former winners on the UEFA Champions League Trophy Tour driven by Nissan LEAF, the Brazilian discusses what the trophy, the fans and the atmosphere on a Champions League night mean to him.

After losing that dramatic final to Liverpool in heartbreaking fashion in 2005, how did it feel to finally lift the trophy in 2007?

You said it. I really thought, “Finally I’ve won it!” It was the only trophy missing from my cabinet. In 2005 we had one hand on the trophy before letting it slip away. In 2007 we really did everything we had to. At the moment when we were declared champions, I told the guys, “We’ve finally got to be where we should have been two years ago.” Every time I watch how we won – the sacrifices, the football we played – it’s beautiful to have that feeling of being champions.

What does it mean to win this trophy?

It’s difficult to sleep when you win a normal title – after winning the Champions League, you can’t sleep for three nights in a row. You go to bed, you put your head on the pillow and you start dreaming of how you won it. Not every player has managed to do that. There are great champions who have never won it. I feel privileged because I did.

Cafu takes his turn with the trophy in 2007

Winning this trophy means everything for a player. But can a player really appreciate what it means to the fans?

We saw everything the fans did for us. The fans were bouncing, crying, laughing, celebrating. It was impressive. When we were on the streets, when we went to show the trophy in the square [Piazza del Duomo] and the fans cried, you feel how important you are to people you don’t even know. I understood I was making those people happy, making them smile. We’re aware of our responsibilities and the joy we give the fans when we bring home a cup like this.

Sadly, there are no fans in stadiums now, but can you remember a game you played in where the supporters really made the difference?

Fans are always decisive when you play at home. When we played at San Siro, the fans made the difference. Looking at those huge flags, watching the people, the banners, the fans screaming and singing the Milan anthem, I think it really made the difference for our opponents. When we went out onto the pitch, they were saying,“Milan have arrived. We have to be careful.”  

How do you watch football these days? From the sofa?

Watching football like this is very sad for both fans and footballers. Unfortunately, there is this pandemic, Covid-19, and we have to follow the recommendations of health authorities. We have to stay home, watching games like the Champions League quarter-finals, semi-finals and even the final with no fans, with no support… I always watch from my sofa with a glass by my side and popcorn. We can’t do much more than that. It’s very sad, but we hope that sooner or later this virus will pass and people will be able to return to the stadiums. Everything will become more beautiful.

During your playing days, you redefined the role of the full-back by attacking down the wing. Have the likes of Trent Alexander-Arnold and Alphonso Davies now taken that on to a new level?

It’s true. Both Trent Alexander-Arnold and Alphonso Davies are great players. I feel proud because I was a pioneer playing this role with this attacking style, always going up and down the flank. I’m very happy to see them doing exactly the same things I was doing, now for Bayern and Liverpool. Today the right-back and left-back are weapons for every team. We attack, we defend, we cover the defence, we run down to make crosses for midfielders and forwards… We’re not afraid to play. I always attacked without caring what was happening behind me. It was our tactic, because our opponents had to care about us, not the opposite way around. Those two lads are the best in the world right now and they can go very far. I hope they can continue to play this role the same way, without fear.

Do you feel you changed the way that position is played?

Yes, I changed the way to play right-back. Before, the right-back always stayed in the defensive line. He could go as far as midfield and then go back. They would pass the ball up front to the forwards with long balls. I said, “No. I’m in great physical shape. Do you know what I’m doing now? I’m going forward with the ball. I don’t want to hang back, I’m going.” I’m very happy that later everybody started training like that and it became an important weapon in modern football.

Cafu and Ronaldo lock horns at San Siro

And tell us about this Trophy Tour experience. A Rossoneri fan is surprised by a knock on the door and is presented with the Champions League trophy. Then he goes online and finds you – a winner with Milan in 2007 – ready to talk through the final. As a fan, it doesn’t get much better than that…

I think it was a very beautiful experience for them. If it was me and the cup was arriving here with, let’s say Pelé, it would be as good as it gets. I want to congratulate both Nissan and UEFA for this initiative and the joy they gave to this fan. I think this day will always remain his best ever in terms of football.

This article is one in a series of five interviews conducted by Champions Journal with former winners Ashley Cole, Cafu, Éric Abidal, Christian Karembeu and Marcel Desailly. They were taking part in the UEFA Champions League Trophy Tour driven by Nissan LEAF, whereby five Nissan LEAF-owning fans enjoyed the surprise delivery of the cup with the big ears. The fans then linked up online with one of the above legends to watch clips and talk about a final they played in – and won. Follow this year's Trophy Tour @nissansports on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

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Cafu’s Champions League Best of the Best…

Game

That match against Manchester United [in 2005] I remember really well. I had some duels with Ronaldo in that game. He was very young; I was much older than him, but we had a great battle. I didn’t want to let him get by me. I was saying: “Kid, here, no. You won’t pass.” He replied: “Yes, I will.” Then me again. “No!” I remember that game very well because United are always United. They had a very strong team. But Milan were really playing some great football, playing as a team, in which every player had known each other for so many years. That was the best atmosphere we experienced.

Season

That entire 2004/05 season because we played an incredible campaign. I don’t think about the final because you can lose finals, even in the way we did. But that year we were already an experienced side, a great side. I was 34 and I played almost every game. It was beautiful.

Goal

I’ve seen a lot. Zidane scored that crazy goal against Leverkusen [in the 2002 final], an incredible goal. And then Inzaghi’s first against Liverpool in the 2007 final. It was very important. It was beautiful and he scored with his shoulder, I think. [Laughs]

Opponent

Ronaldinho Gaúcho. I played against him at his peak, when he was in top form at Barcelona. He was flying. It was impossible to mark him.

Team-mate

Many. I have played with so many champions. But I think Pirlo was one of the best, my favourite.

Stadium

San Siro.

Cristiano Ronaldo was 20 when he came up against veteran AC Milan defender Cafu in the Champions League last 16 in 2005. Cafu, twice a World Cup winner with Brazil, had his eyes on the one major honour still missing from his collection and was not going to let Manchester United’s wonderkid prevent him. “Kid, here, no. You won’t pass,” the right-back recalls telling the winger, this time accompanied by a big laugh. In a tight second leg at San Siro, the then 34-year-old even swung in the cross for Hernán Crespo's winning header as the Rossoneri prevailed – though it would take Cafu another two years to finally get his hands on the prize. Here, in the second of a series of interviews with five former winners on the UEFA Champions League Trophy Tour driven by Nissan LEAF, the Brazilian discusses what the trophy, the fans and the atmosphere on a Champions League night mean to him.

After losing that dramatic final to Liverpool in heartbreaking fashion in 2005, how did it feel to finally lift the trophy in 2007?

You said it. I really thought, “Finally I’ve won it!” It was the only trophy missing from my cabinet. In 2005 we had one hand on the trophy before letting it slip away. In 2007 we really did everything we had to. At the moment when we were declared champions, I told the guys, “We’ve finally got to be where we should have been two years ago.” Every time I watch how we won – the sacrifices, the football we played – it’s beautiful to have that feeling of being champions.

What does it mean to win this trophy?

It’s difficult to sleep when you win a normal title – after winning the Champions League, you can’t sleep for three nights in a row. You go to bed, you put your head on the pillow and you start dreaming of how you won it. Not every player has managed to do that. There are great champions who have never won it. I feel privileged because I did.

Cafu takes his turn with the trophy in 2007

Winning this trophy means everything for a player. But can a player really appreciate what it means to the fans?

We saw everything the fans did for us. The fans were bouncing, crying, laughing, celebrating. It was impressive. When we were on the streets, when we went to show the trophy in the square [Piazza del Duomo] and the fans cried, you feel how important you are to people you don’t even know. I understood I was making those people happy, making them smile. We’re aware of our responsibilities and the joy we give the fans when we bring home a cup like this.

Sadly, there are no fans in stadiums now, but can you remember a game you played in where the supporters really made the difference?

Fans are always decisive when you play at home. When we played at San Siro, the fans made the difference. Looking at those huge flags, watching the people, the banners, the fans screaming and singing the Milan anthem, I think it really made the difference for our opponents. When we went out onto the pitch, they were saying,“Milan have arrived. We have to be careful.”  

How do you watch football these days? From the sofa?

Watching football like this is very sad for both fans and footballers. Unfortunately, there is this pandemic, Covid-19, and we have to follow the recommendations of health authorities. We have to stay home, watching games like the Champions League quarter-finals, semi-finals and even the final with no fans, with no support… I always watch from my sofa with a glass by my side and popcorn. We can’t do much more than that. It’s very sad, but we hope that sooner or later this virus will pass and people will be able to return to the stadiums. Everything will become more beautiful.

During your playing days, you redefined the role of the full-back by attacking down the wing. Have the likes of Trent Alexander-Arnold and Alphonso Davies now taken that on to a new level?

It’s true. Both Trent Alexander-Arnold and Alphonso Davies are great players. I feel proud because I was a pioneer playing this role with this attacking style, always going up and down the flank. I’m very happy to see them doing exactly the same things I was doing, now for Bayern and Liverpool. Today the right-back and left-back are weapons for every team. We attack, we defend, we cover the defence, we run down to make crosses for midfielders and forwards… We’re not afraid to play. I always attacked without caring what was happening behind me. It was our tactic, because our opponents had to care about us, not the opposite way around. Those two lads are the best in the world right now and they can go very far. I hope they can continue to play this role the same way, without fear.

Do you feel you changed the way that position is played?

Yes, I changed the way to play right-back. Before, the right-back always stayed in the defensive line. He could go as far as midfield and then go back. They would pass the ball up front to the forwards with long balls. I said, “No. I’m in great physical shape. Do you know what I’m doing now? I’m going forward with the ball. I don’t want to hang back, I’m going.” I’m very happy that later everybody started training like that and it became an important weapon in modern football.

Cafu and Ronaldo lock horns at San Siro

And tell us about this Trophy Tour experience. A Rossoneri fan is surprised by a knock on the door and is presented with the Champions League trophy. Then he goes online and finds you – a winner with Milan in 2007 – ready to talk through the final. As a fan, it doesn’t get much better than that…

I think it was a very beautiful experience for them. If it was me and the cup was arriving here with, let’s say Pelé, it would be as good as it gets. I want to congratulate both Nissan and UEFA for this initiative and the joy they gave to this fan. I think this day will always remain his best ever in terms of football.

This article is one in a series of five interviews conducted by Champions Journal with former winners Ashley Cole, Cafu, Éric Abidal, Christian Karembeu and Marcel Desailly. They were taking part in the UEFA Champions League Trophy Tour driven by Nissan LEAF, whereby five Nissan LEAF-owning fans enjoyed the surprise delivery of the cup with the big ears. The fans then linked up online with one of the above legends to watch clips and talk about a final they played in – and won. Follow this year's Trophy Tour @nissansports on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

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