Former Chelsea fullback Juliano Belletti was interviewed by ESPN Brasil at the end of last week, and spoke especially about his time at Stamford Bridge.
Signed by the Blues in a €5.5m deal in 2007, the Brazilian had recently won a Champions League for Barcelona after scoring a late winner against Arsenal.
Still, signing for Chelsea was the best move to do, according to Belletti himself. All because of what the Premier League had to offer at the time.
“I played three seasons at Barca and I have a magical relationship with the club. I have a boot at the museum, people admire me,” Belletti told ESPN Brasil.
“One day, Mourinho showed desire to sign me and called me. I was fighting for the position with Zambrotta and had made a great preseason. Everyone was saying that would be my year. Then come Mourinho, Chelsea, London and the Premier League Putting it all together so I thoughtI couldn’t miss the chance.
“I went to the best club competition there is. The Premier League is different. It is designed to be very attractive not only for fans but for the players. There is a special atmosphere, both in games and in practice, in relation to the press and the fans.”
He has also compared the Premier League to La Liga, saying the level is more even.
“Even playing at home against a team of the bottom of the table is a great game. It’s good to play, very fast and aggressive in the good sense, which is what I like. Refereeing is good and has respect. That’s what attracts people. You have great players in small and medium-sized clubs. Good systems. Some games lack technical level, but competitiveness will not be lacking.
“In Spanish football, Barca would face a club from the bottom half and it was not the same. It’s not bad to play in Spain, on the contrary, but it’s different. It will not have the same competitive level.”
Belletti has also spoken about the 2008 Champions League final against Manchester United, which Chelsea lost on penalties. He was the second taker for his team, and scored.
“There is no more tense moment than a penalty shot in a final. I had trained a lot and was the first to offer to take. That walk from midfield to the ball is the most nervous moment. You try to get the penalty kick out of the head. I thought, ‘It’s raining, I’ve trained a lot, forget the audience.’ But there was a lack of air (laughs). When I took the ball all that stopped, I had trained and would not miss. I had a lot of confidence.
“I always took looking at the goalkeeper and delaying a little the shot with the right leg. I waited for when Van der Sar, United keeper of that size, picked a corner. He shifted a little and I hit the other corner. With this, I celebrated, not of joy, but of relief (laughs).”
He has also recalled the penalty missed by captain John Terry, and the reaction from the teammates in the dressing room afterwards.
“The last take would be for Drogba, who had been sent off, so it was Terry, who didn’t take penalties. He went right, but he slipped and missed. If he scored, we would be the champions.”
“Losing is very sad, especially when it was in our hands. We tried to comfort the guy and couldn’t, on the pitch, in the locker room. Everyone’s sad. I also remember Ballack very upset because he had come to many finals. Lampard was also devastated. It was the last game of the season and each one tried to assimilate the defeat in his own way.”