Leo Messi and Deco celebrate a goal scored by the latter

Leo Messi attended Deco's testimonial / PHOTO: FC PORTO

The teams before the match

Barça 2006 and Porto 2004 paid tribute to Deco at Do Dragao / PHOTO: FC PORTO

The Do Dragao Stadium in Porto was the venue on Friday evening for a testimonial to one of Europe’s most decorated players, Anderson Luis de Souza ‘Deco’. More than 50,000 people were there to enjoy a match between representative teams of the two clubs with which the man with 75 international caps for Portugal won the most honours during his glittering career: Barça and Porto.

It was a historic night as members of Barça’s 2006 Champions League winning squad took on those that won the same title two years earlier with Porto at Gelsenkirchen in 2004. Deco was in both winning teams, and tonight was a reunion for a number of old friends.

Barça well represented

There were representatives of FC Barcelona past and present both on and off the pitch. Leo Messi, who is enjoying the last few days of his vacation, was there to honour his former colleague by playing the second half, and shortly before kick-off the director of the social department, Pau Vilanova, presented Deco with a commemorative plaque in the name of the Club. It was a doubly special night for Messi, because it also marked his return to the stadium where he made his Barça first team debut in a friendly played on November 16, 2003.

Messi and Eto’o back together

The Barça team, managed by former assistant coach Ten Cate, featured (in addition to Messi) the likes of Samuel Eto’o, Juliano Belletti, Gio van Bronckhorst, Ludovic Giuly, Sylvinho, Mark van Bommel, Oleguer Presas, Santiago EzquerroAlbert Jorquera, Eidur Gudjohnsen and Edgar Davids, while the Porto line-up included Ricardo Carvalho, Paulo Ferreira, Jorge Costa, Nuno Valente, Benni McCarthy and Dmitri Alenichev. Deco played one half of the game with each team, as did goalkeeper Vitor Baia, who also played for both clubs during his career.

The outcome game mattered much less than the carnival atmosphere created by the 50,000 spectators that packed the Do Dragao. The final result was 4-4, with Deco scoring once for each, and Messi scoring a fine goal from an Eto’o cross. Just like old times! All in all, it was marvellous night to remember some of the heroes of the night that Barça won its second continental title.

“Deco deserved this”

Leo Messi spoke to Porto’s television channel after the match, saying that “Deco deserved this, both as a footballer and as a person … He’s a player I learned a lot from, as did so many other team-mates. There was no way I was going to miss this event”. He added that “it has been lovely to come back to the place where I made my debut eleven years ago.”

Deco grateful to Barça

Following the game, Deco described his gratitude to FC Barcelona for being so helpful with the organisation of this match, and said that he understood perfectly why Xavi and Iniesta had not been able to attend. “It’s a very important moment for the team “he commented. “But Barça have helped with everything we asked of them.” He went on to say that “Leo is the best player in Barça history. When a team doesn’t win, it’s always the best players who get singled out for blame, but nobody should forget all that he’s done for the club … Barça are looking very strong and I love the signing of Luis Suárez. He’s a hard working striker with so much personality and who scores goals”.