Graham's Blog

Benni McCarthy: An Unexpected Journey

THE memories of May 26, 2014 are always within reach for Benni McCarthy. When I invited him to retrace his steps to the Arena AufSchalke, Gelsenkirchen during this Big Interview, he painted a beautiful picture of that day with a combination of vibrant stories and an array of colourful photos saved on his phone. By simply tapping the screen a few times, Benni transported us on to the pitch, joining the celebrations of his Porto team-mates in the exhilarating moments before the cup was presented.

The grinning faces of Benni, of Deco, Dmitri Alenichev and Carlos Alberto could be seen clearly – a reminder that this was a Porto team replete with clever, talented footballers, however unexpected their journey to the final had been.

FC Porto's Benni McCarthy (top L) and Carlos Alberto (top R) hold the trophy as they celebrate with their teamates after beating Monaco 3-0 in the Champions League final football match, 26 May 2004 at the Arena AufSchalke stadium in Gelsenkirchen. AFP PHOTO MIGUEL RIOPA

It was also one of the last moments that all of them would be together.

That remarkable success, when Porto won 3-0 as they swept Monaco aside in the final, launched the careers of so many of that triumphant side, Benni among them. Below, I have aggregated the players who comprised Porto’s match day squad in the final and explain what happened to them after their historic victory 13 years ago.

Vitor Baia

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His career at Porto spanned almost 20 years, interrupted only by two and a half seasons with FC Barcelona. Winning the Champions League 13 years ago was arguably his greatest feat, albeit Baia got his gloves on plenty of silverware as a footballer. After conquering Europe with Porto, the goalkeeper won two more Primeira Liga titles – taking his tally to 10 – before retiring as a club legend in 2007.

Nuno

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Back up to Baia during the triumphant Champions League campaign, he left Porto seven months later and signed for Dynamo Moscow. Would return to Portugal two years later with Aves, before rejoining Porto until his retirement in 2010. Last year, Nuno returned to the Estadio do Dragao for a second time, this time as manager. Was sacked earlier this month after failing to deliver a trophy.

Paulo Ferreira

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One of five Porto players who would be reunited with Jose Mourinho at Chelsea, joining the London club for £13.2 million within a month of lifting the Champions League in Gelsenkirchen. He stayed at Stamford Bridge for nine years, during which Ferreira celebrated a second Champions League triumph, when the full-back was an unused substitute as Chelsea squeezed past Bayern Munich on penalties in 2012. Retired from playing a year later and joined the technical staff at Chelsea.

Jorge Costa

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Known as “The Beast” by his Porto team-mates, Costa was a pillar of the Porto team which triumphed in 2004. Already 32 when he lifted the Champions League trophy, Costa remained at the club for two more years before ending his playing career with a five-month spell in Belgium with Standard Liege. Has since had a far more itinerant career as a manager – working at clubs in Portugal, Romania, Cyprus and Tunisia. Also spent time in charge of the Gabon national team.

Ricardo Carvalho

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Referred to as “Sandrina” by Benni in the podcast but better known as a wily, resilient central defender who has won trophies for club and country. His performances for Porto attracted interest from Europe’s elite clubs at the end of the 2003/04 season, with Carvalho choosing to follow Mourinho to Stamford Bridge. He won two league titles under the manager in England and another after reuniting with Mourinho at Real Madrid. Now 39, Carvalho plays for Chinese team Shanghai SIPG.

Nuno Valente

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Another member of this Porto team who would move to England, though Valente did not join Chelsea. Instead, the left-back signed for Everton in 2005 – a move facilitated in part by a fall out with Porto president Jorge Nuno Pinto da Costa – and stayed on Merseyside for four years, before retiring having fallen down the pecking order. Later worked as a scout for Everton and then as a coach alongside compatriot Paulo Sergio at Sporting Lisbon.

Ricardo Costa

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Left Porto in 2007 having spent much of his time sitting on the bench, including during the Champions League final. The defender played more often during spells in Germany – where he won the Bundesliga title with Wolfsburg – Qatar, Greece and Spain. He is playing currently with Swiss side FC Luzern.

 

Jose Bosingwa

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The full-back was still just 21 in 2004 – he was an unused substitute in Gelsenkirchen – and established himself in the Porto first team only after the departure of Ferriera. The pair were reunited at Chelsea in 2008 and celebrated another Champions League triumph together in 2012, with Bosingwa this time playing in the final. Has played for Queens Park Rangers and Trabzonspor since.

Costinha

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Renowned for being sharply dressed off the pitch and always looking the part on it, the Portuguese played for one more season in his homeland before moving on to Dynamo Moscow in 2005. Costinha then spent time at Atletico Madrid and Atalanta, retiring in 2010 when he was appointed director of football at Sporting Lisbon. He performed a similar role at Swiss club Servette before returning to Portugal to become a manager in his own right, first at Beria-Mar and then Pacos Ferreira. He took charge of Academica last year.

Pedro Mendes

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Spent just one season at the Estadio do Dragao, lifting the Portuguese Super Cup, the league title and the Champions League, before picking up the phone when Tottenham Hotspur came calling. The midfielder stayed at White Hart Lane for only 18 months before moving on to Portsmouth, where he got his hands on the FA Cup in 2008. Mendes won a league title with Rangers a year later before returning to Portugal to see out his playing career at Sporting and Vitoria de Guimareas.

Maniche

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His ego almost cost the midfielder his career at Porto before Benni spoke up for him. Maniche started in all but one of Porto’s Champions League matches in 2003/04 – he was rested in a draw at the Bernabeu during the group stage – and scored three times en rout to the final. Later signed for Dynamo Moscow, where he was loaned out to Chelsea, and Atletico Madrid, where he was sent out to Internazionale, before short spells at Cologne and Sporting. Served as assistant coach to Costinha at Pacos Ferreira and Academica.

Pedro Emanuel

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Played for the final five minutes against Monaco after coming on as the third substitute and one of the few members of that Porto squad who remained at the club afterwards. Was later appointed captain under head coach Co Adriaanse and led Porto to the league title in 2009 before becoming a member of the club’s coaching staff. Has since been a manager of clubs in Portugal and Cyprus.

Dmitri Alenichev

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Russian featured regularly as a substitute in the Champions League and made the most of his cameo in Gelsenkirchen, scoring the third goal for Porto. Asked to return to former club Spartak Moscow following the final and spent two seasons at the club before a row with manager Aleksandrs Starkovs precipitated the end of the midfielder’s career. Became a politician in 2007, joining the ruling United Russia party, before returning to football as a coach.

Deco

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The star of this indomitable Porto side. There had often been questions asked of his consistency – Benni recalls Deco’s “rollercoaster” form in the podcast – but the Brazil-born Portugal internationalist’s ended the 2003/04 season as one of the most desired players in Europe. It was inevitable that Deco would move on after the Champions League final and the midfielder joined Barcelona that summer, despite persistent reports that he would follow Mourinho to Stamford Bridge. Deco did eventually arrive at Chelsea – he won a league and cup double in 2010 – before ending his career at Fluminense.

Carlos Alberto

alberto1aScored the first of Porto’s goals in the final with an instinctive volley – ensuring that his only successful strike in the competition that season was a memorable one. The Brazilian stayed at Porto until the turn of the year when he signed for Corinthians in his homeland, the first in a litany of tumultuous transfers involving the forward. After his relationship with his manager at Corinthians deteriorated within a year of Alberto’s arrival, he was loaned to Fluminense. He then returned to Europe with Werder Bremen but spent most of his time back on loan to clubs in Brazil, later signing permanent deals at Vasco da Gama, Goias, Botafogo and Figueirense. Now 32, Alberto is playing for his 13th senior club, Atlético Paranaense.

Derlei

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Partnered his compatriot, Alberto, in attack in the 2004 final, having scored decisively against Deportivo La Coruna in the semi-finals. Remained at Porto for a further eight months after lifting the trophy, moving on to enjoy a fruitful spell at Dynamo Moscow. Returned to Portugal in 2007 to play for Benfica, Sporting, Vitoria and Madureira. Retired in 2010.

Benni McCarthy

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The star of this podcast and a lead character in the story of how Porto conquered Europe. A late substitute in the final, the South African was his side’s leading scorer in the competition – his four-goal haul including two against Manchester United. Those strikes ensured that the striker would be linked persistently with moves to England, and Benni agreed a move to Blackburn Rovers two years after winning the Champions League. He finished his first season in the Premier League as the second top goalscorer – his 18-goal tally was just two fewer than Didier Drogba – before he switched to West Ham United in 2010. A move to Orlando Pirates a year later allowed Benni to finish his playing career in his homeland, while he is now living in Edinburgh and pursuing a career in coaching.

Edgaras Jankauskas

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An unused substitute in the final, having featured from the bench in each of the preceding rounds. Out of favour in the following year, the Lithuanian moved on to play in France, Scotland, Cyprus, Latvia, the United States and Russia. Retired in 2011 to begin a coaching career and was named head coach of the Lithuania national team last year.

Jose Mourinho

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Whatever happened to the young coach who conquered all that lay before him at Porto? By the time he arrived in Gelsenkirchen, Mourinho knew that he was leaving to join Chelsea, a career decision which made him a target of Porto’s ultras: the Super Dragons. He became a hero of Chelsea supporters as he collected consecutive league titles at Stamford Bridge before harvesting more silverware – including another Champions League trophy – at Internazionale and Real Madrid. A return to Chelsea in 2013 led to another league title, with Mourinho currently in charge of Manchester United.

The Big Interview Presents… Cup Finals

IT is time once again for another Big Interview clip show and this latest one is a little bit special – it’s all about cup finals.

The magic of the FA Cup is brought to you by Alan Pardew and Gary McAllister, while Gaizka Mendieta talks about the Spanish equivalent.

Gary also provides his memories of playing in the UEFA Cup – some of which are a little racy – alongside Kevin Bridges and Terry Butcher.

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Finally, the Champions League brought despair and regret for Darren Fletcher and Joe Jordan and they share those feelings in this podcast. We also hear from two men for whom that competition brought pride and glory – Graeme Souness and Paul Clement.

Enjoy!

Walter Smith: Gazza, Laudrup And The Rangers Revolution

IN Part Two of this Big Interview, Walter Smith takes us to Ibrox, where he served first as assistant to Graeme Souness and, of course, later became a celebrated Rangers manager in his own right.

That move to Glasgow, to the club he supported as a boy, introduced Walter to a facet of coaching he had not experienced at United – with Rangers able to source and buy great footballers.

Walter is responsible for bringing some undeniably brilliant players to Ibrox and he tells the story of how he convinced Brian Laudrup to move to Scotland and become a Rangers legend.

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Another famous acquisition was Gazza. Walter had no trouble in selling the club to Paul Gascoigne – as he will explain – but the former Rangers manager recalls with some affection the various challenges which came with managing a unique character like Paul.

Enjoy!

Walter Smith: All Roads Lead To Rome

THE wolves are still hungry.

It is a day when an entire city bares its teeth, when even the waiters at the team hotel growl malevolently as the staff and players of Dundee United sit down for breakfast. It is April 25, 1984 and all roads have led to Rome, the Scottish side having arrived in Italy to play the second leg of a European Cup semi-final. United lead the tie 2-0 following a win at Tannadice a fortnight previously and are on the verge of an historic triumph.

Jim McLean’s side have been made aware that they are unwelcome guests in the Italian capital and local animosity will become distilled inside the Stadio Olimpico. As United make their way across the city, Roma supporters inside the stadium drape banners written in English over the front of the stands which state: “Dundee be careful: the wolves are still hungry” and “God curse Dundee United”.

There is another which declares: “Rome hates McLean”.

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The United manager is persona non grata inside the city’s football colosseum, the unwitting villain of the first leg. Following Roma’s defeat on Tayside, a story has been circulated in Italy that McLean insulted the great Bruno Conti during the game – a tall tale perpetuated by Roma manager Nils Liedholm. Club officials have also accused the United players of doping ahead of their triumph in the first leg, putting the Roma supporters in a state of apoplexy.

“It was a hostile atmosphere. The whole environment was hostile – even the waiters in the hotel were none too friendly. I couldn’t understand it at the time,” recalls Walter Smith in Part One of The Big Interview with the former United assistant manager.

“During the game at Tannadice, the ball had bounced out towards our dug out. Jim had got the ball and bounced it back to one of their players [Conti], who had come to get it. Their manager later said that there had been an altercation. He was talking about that moment on the touchline when the ball went out of play. He said that there had been an altercation between Conti and Jim McLean, during which he said that Jim had called Conti an Italian whatever… I was there and Jim didn’t do that.

“So they exaggerated this whole case. That was European football – the stakes were so high for both teams.”

Roma felt the pressure more, since that year the finale of the competition was to be held at the Stadio Olimpico. Defeat against United had risked embarrassing the famous Italian side by denying them the chance to compete in a home final, so club officials took steps to tip the balance in their favour. They paid French referee Michel Vautrot a £50,000 bribe and sullied a match which ended 3-0 to the home side.

“The referee was later found to have taken bribes – he was found guilty of that,” Walter says. “But, I must say, during the game there wasn’t a decision which I questioned.”

He had little time for reflection in the aftermath of the match. Walter had entered the dug out as assistant to McLean but left it as the United manager’s bodyguard; fending off Roma players who wanted a square go with McLean after the final whistle. Walter does not admit to it in the podcast, but it was later reported that the coach was struck a number of times as he helped his manager to reach the sanctuary of the dressing room.

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“After the game it started to get nasty. Jim managed to escape up the stairs to the dressing room and left [United reserve goalkeeper] John Gardiner and I to hold them off,” Walter reveals.

“I was more disappointed for Jim. To take a provincial team like Dundee United to that level, to have an opportunity [to reach the final] after winning 2-0 in the first game, Jim deserved a day in the sun. That would have put him up there with the very best managers to have taken a team to a European final.”

The Big Interview Presents… Barca

FOR our latest clip show, we head to the city I call home. I did write a book about the football team – and you can win one of 10 copies by joining our mailing list by Friday –  but I swear that when the topic of FC Barcelona has arisen on The Big Interview, it has been at the urging of my guests.

So we look back at what some of our guests had to say about this modern Barcelona team – one that has, at various points in its evolution, been called the Greatest Team in the World.

You’re going to hear from Jody Morris and how he was meant to be marking Pep Guardiola but ended up with some kid called Xavi in the quarter-finals of the Champions League in 2000. Damien Duff then discusses what it was like to play against Frank Rijkaard’s Barca in the same competition five years later.

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And Darren Fletcher also explains what it’s like to not play against them, but to watch and wish that you were – in a Champions League final.

David Moyes and Gordon Strachan will argue that it is Andres Iniesta – and not Lionel Messi – who is the jewel in the crown for the Catalan side.

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Gary Neville, on the other hand, rates Messi so highly that he reserves certain phrases to describe the little Argentine.

Enjoy!