Carlos keen to be king again
The Champions League quarter-final between Manchester United and Real Madrid is a superpower summit in every sense of the word, yet in the eyes of Brazilian superstar Roberto Carlos, only one of these two giants have earned the right to call themselves kings of Europe.
As the reigning Champions League kings close in on their historic tenth European Cup triumph, Carlos admits this is the sort of game that will get the pulses racing among his celebrated team-mates.
With the eyes of the world falling upon them in these two epic clashes, he expects Madrid to rise to their challenge.
'These are the matches everyone wants to be involved with,' he begins. 'All too often, we come up against team who put eight men behind the ball and try to stop us playing. When you face such tactics, it is not easy to play, but I'm sure this will not happen against a great club like Manchester United.
'Teams are scared of us more than ever now. Since Ronaldo came to the club this has been more obvious. Our opponents are more worried about our reputation than playing the game, but we are overcoming this problem in Spain and proving what a great team we can be. I know we will do the same in the Champions League.
'Manchester United are a big name in football, but the record of Real Madrid is very special. Everyone is talking about our tenth European title this season and if we do it, there would be no doubt who the greatest club is.'
The fact that Real Madrid's stars consistently play more games than any of their rivals each year cannot be denied. With money-spinning additional games always part of the calendar for Vincente Del Bosque's team, and his collection internationals racking up as many as 70 games a season, it is quite a programme, yet such demands go with the territory for the Harlem Globetrotters of soccer.
England captain David Beckham is said to be next on their 'most wanted' list, while the other biggest names in the game are already on the books at the Bernabeu.
Few of their rivals could afford such a lavish cast-list, but with the backing at the highest level of Spanish society, Real can gamble where most of their rivals in the Champions League wouldn't dare.
Carlos has already tipped AC Milan to be Real's opponents for the Final of this competition at Old Trafford next month, yet his close-up battle with Beckham in this quarter-final may just be a highlight of the season. The clash between two of the game's great free-kick exponents should be compelling viewing.
'Beckham's free-kicks are very different to mine and I don't know how he can get so much control,' he states. 'Players can't score every time they get a free-kick, but then you see him doing amazing things every week. He is much more consistent than other players and I always watch his technique.
'There is talk he may come to Madrid next season and it would be great, both for him and our club. Beckham would fit into any team without a problem. Not many players can make a big difference in the game, but David can. He is a good friend and a great player. I know his family would like it in Madrid and the weather is nicer than Manchester!'
Rumours continue to link Carlos with a move to the English Premiership and there has been a suggestion that Old Trafford may be his final destination as he looks to add a final chapter to his glorious career.
He was recently quoted as saying a move to London and Premiership champions Arsenal may appeal to him, but he certainly appears to be keen to explore the English option as his career winds towards a close.
'You never know what might happen, but the Premiership is something that appeals to me,' he states.
'I have always believed England can be a good experience for me, but this is all for the future. At this moment, my heart is with Madrid and that will not change. This is the greatest club in the world and you would never leave easily.'
|“||There is talk he may come to Madrid next season and it would be great, both for him and our club. Beckham would fit into any team without a problem. ”|
|— Roberto Carlos|
Carlos last week hit the headlines for all the wrong reasons when his shoulder barge on the referee in Brazil's friendly against Portugal last month saw him receive a red card. Further action may follow, but he's on the defensive in the aftermath.
'I have seen the incident on the television and do not understand why it is causing such a problem,' he adds.
'I never tried to hit the official and there is no need to apologise. I have no regrets. Anyway, my disciplinary record in the game has always been good. I play and fight for every ball, even if it is a friendly match. I am very sad this led to my first red card for Brazil, but what I did does not deserve so much attention. I'm sure it will not mean a long ban for me. When you look at the evidence, there is no reason for this.'
It is a storm in a tea-cup that should be well and truly washed out by the time Manchester United come onto Real Madrid's radar in the Champions League.
And when this team of football legends have a point to prove, they rarely fail.