Roberto Carlos: winning the Fifa Club World Cup 'the pinnacle of international club football'
Former Real Madrid and Brazil defender was speaking at a news conference in Abu Dhabi to promote the December 12-22 event
Brazilian great Roberto Carlos reckons winning the Fifa Club World Cup was "a highlight in my career" and carries the same level of prestige as winning the Uefa Champions League.
Abu Dhabi will host Fifa's premier club football tournament for a second successive year - and fourth overall - when the champions of every continent arrive in the capital for the December 12-22 tournament.
The Brazilian won the tournament twice in its previous guise as the Intercontinental Cup, in 1998 and 2002, during a trophy-laden nine-year career at Real Madrid that also saw him lift the Champions League on three occasions as well as four La Liga titles.
“It’s a medallion every footballer would want to have,” the former Brazil defender told a news conference at Yas Hotel in Abu Dhabi on Saturday.
“Playing in international club competitions and winning international trophies for my club was a truly special experience for me.
“I was lucky enough to win the Intercontinental Cup twice and I know first-hand how important international competitions like the Fifa Club World Cup are to both players and fans.
“To be champions of the world is most important for a footballer. I participated in three Intercontinental Cups and won twice. This has been a highlight in my career.”
Real Madrid, who qualify for this year's event after winning a third straight Champions League title in May, became the first team to successfully defend the trophy when Zinedine Zidane's side beat Brazil's Gremio in last year's final at Zayed Sports City.
Carlos, who won 125 Brazil caps as a player and lifted the 2002 World Cup, is confident the Spanish giants can challenge for the title again.
“Great players and great teams want to show they are the very best at every opportunity and I know Real Madrid will want to win this trophy for a third straight year," Carlos said.
“The other teams and continental champions will also be eager to test themselves against the best, to seize their chance and win a tournament that represents the pinnacle of international club football.”
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While Real Madrid will be favourites to retain the title, one player will be conspicuous by his absence from the side that lifted the trophy 10 months ago.
In July, Cristiano Ronaldo, the club's all-time leading scorer, swapped the Bernabeu for the challenge of Serie A, joining Juventus in a €100 million (Dh425m) transfer.
“Every player has the choice to change club and that was Cristiano’s decision to leave,” Carlos said.
“He was playing for Real Madrid and we want to thank what he did for the club. We wish him the best of luck with his career at Juventus. Cristiano is the best in the world. Cristiano is Cristiano.
Without Ronaldo and Zidane, who stepped down as manager soon after guiding Madrid to a 13th European Cup in May, results have been mixed so far this season. Julen Lopetegui's side sit fourth in the Primera Liga after drawing two and losing two of their opening eight matches, although they are only two points off leaders Sevilla. In Europe, victory over Roma in their opening Champions League group game was followed by a defeat away to CSKA Moscow on Matchday 2.
“It’s a long season and I think they are performing well. They have a new coach and techniques, and very important to improve slowly," Carlos said of his old club's form.
“Real Madrid usually perform slowly but then pick up. It happens every season and Real will challenge to be the champions.”
Alongside Real Madrid, others already confirmed for the Club World Cup include Al Ain, the UAE champions, and Oceania champions Team Wellington of New Zealand, who meet in a play-off. Mexican club Guadalajara will represent Concacaf, with the winners of the Asian and African Champions Leagues still to be confirmed, as well as the winners of the Copa Libertadores, South America's equivalent.
Carlos, who says he has watched Al Ain in action several times, believes their presence alongside teams like Real Madrid is important for their development.
“I watch matches from all around the world and have watched Al Ain,” he said. “I have been to Al Ain and the Hazza bin Zayed stadium. Al Ain are a good team and there are lot of Brazilian players. It will be great to see Al Ain and Real Madrid play in this competition.”
Updated: October 13, 2018 05:07 PM