Entrevista de Juninho ao site da FIFA (em inglês)
Following a seven-month stint in Major League Soccer, Juninho Pernambucano recently decided, at the age of 38, to return to his homeland to defend the colours of Vasco da Gama, for the third time in his career.
Regarded as one of the greatest free-kick takers to ever play the game, the former Brazil international midfielder and ex-captain of Lyon, with whom he won seven French League winners’ medals, took some time out of his busy schedule to chat exclusively to FIFA.com about this exciting new stage in his life.
Always a ready and comfortable interviewee, the Recife native looked back at his spell in the United States with New York Red Bulls, reflected on his career, including his time at Lyon and with the Brazilian national team, and discussed his future plans.
FIFA.com: Juninho, you returned home a few weeks ago to rejoin Vasco da Gama, a club with which you enjoy a special relationship. How have things been going for you so far?
Juninho: I’m so happy to have come back to Vasco da Gama, the club where I feel most at home. After leaving New York, I mulled over whether or not I should continue my career. Following a long period of reflection and discussions with Vasco, I decided to sign with them again until the end of the season. Physically, I feel better and better, and although we’ve been a bit inconsistent so far, I’d like to use my experience to help get the team back on track.
During your first match against Fluminense, you scored a goal and set up another one. You couldn’t have dreamt of a better start.
No, it really couldn’t have gone any better. I was very excited by the idea of playing for Vasco again and taking part in my first competitive match. It was a derby that everyone had been looking forward to and we put in a good performance. I felt good and my contribution enabled the team to win the game. When I scored my goal, I was quite simply overjoyed.
“I have incredible memories of my time at Lyon, and the club will always have a place in my heart. It was there that I really grew as a player, but also as a man.” (Juninho on Lyon)
You’re back at Vasco after seven months with New York Red Bulls, in the MLS. How did you enjoy your American adventure?
It was a very interesting experience, both on and off the pitch, despite the fact I had to deal with a few niggling injuries. I was able to spend my days rubbing shoulders with great players like Thierry Henry, for example, and to live in a fantastic city. New York is a tremendous place. I loved how dynamic it was – there were always so many things to do.
You rose to prominence at Lyon, where you spent eight seasons. What memories do you have of your stay in France?
I have incredible memories of my time at Lyon, and the club will always have a place in my heart. It was there that I really grew as a player, but also as a man. During my eight seasons there, we were champions of France seven times, which is astonishing. The club president, Jean-Michel Aulas, managed to build a huge club, which is now one of the best in France and in Europe. I’ll remain a Lyon supporter for the rest of my life.
In the Brazilian national team, you performed alongside some of the greatest players your country has ever seen, such as Kaka, Rivaldo, Ronaldinho and Ronaldo. What impressed you most about these players?
For me, it was an honour to be in the same team as those wonderful players. When I think back to the side we had during the 2006 World Cup, it’s quite simply staggering! What impressed me the most was how comfortable they were with the ball. For example, a player like Ronaldinho could do whatever he wanted with the ball. Whether it was in a match or a training session, he would always come out with amazing skills and tricks.
With one year to go until the 2014 FIFA World Cup South Africa™, the Seleção appear to be hitting a rich vein of form, following their success at the recent FIFA Confederations Cup. What are your thoughts on Luiz Felipe Scolari’s side?
They’re a team that has lots of talented players and can still get even better. Over the last few months, they’ve become a more solid, compact team, especially in defence. During the Confederations Cup, Brazil put in some excellent displays – against Spain in the final, for example. The competition was a great test for next year. One thing is certain: Brazil will be one of the favourites to lift the trophy.
You’re coming towards the end of your career now. Have you thought at all about what you might do afterwards?
I’ve got quite a few things in mind, but I’ve not yet made a definite decision. I’ve been approached to do television work in Brazil and in France, and it looks as though I’ll be involved in the 2014 World Cup in some capacity. I’m unsure, because I’m still quite attached to the game, so a move into coaching is also worth considering. I was asked not all that long ago if I’d like to take charge of Lyon. I love the idea of it, but there’s already a coaching team in place. If the chance to coach them came up in the future, I’d need to think about, as I would first need to decide if I’m capable of taking on such a big responsibility.