One more shot at glory before he hangs up the boots; that is what Brazilian playmaker Juninho wants from his time with the New York Red Bulls.
The 38 year old dead ball wizard is in the twilight of his career and he knows it. Speaking to EoS, Juninho revealed he expects to retire a Red Bull, but that doesn’t mean he is here for a vacation.
“This is my 20th year as a footballer and I want to do now what I have done in the past 19 years; to do my very best to help the teams that I play for to win titles,” he said. “I have had a very successful career and I expect to win with the Red Bulls as well.”
That desire to end his career on a memorable note is what drove him away from the financial tumult of his longtime club, Vasco da Gama. He returned to Brazil after 10 years with the purpose of finishing off his career with the club of his youth. What he found instead was a chaotic scene that threatened to take him down with it.
“I saw Vasco four or five years ago fall to the second division. After six years, for the first time, I had fears of blemishing my own career,” he said. “It has been a career earned through difficult circumstances which I have worked hard to achieve.
“I returned to finish my career with Vasco – I never said differently. But I have a great history with Vasco; more than 360 games, 6 titles, the Libertadores we won. With the situation the club is in, it would be a big risk to finish my career in Vasco.”
“I think I had a right to be honest with the fans of the team and preferred, for myself, for my family, for everyone, it would be better to sign a contract for a year here and live the experience,” he explained. “With 38 years of age, you can’t have long term plans to play more. I look to finish my career in the best way possible.”
Admittedly, when he came back to Vasco in 2011, he never envisioned an opportunity to make his way to MLS, but a meeting with old friend Gerard Houllier changed his tune.
“I went back to Brazil and played in 70 games over a year and a half,” he pointed out. “While I was in Brazil, (Red Bulls Global Director of Soccer) Gerard Houllier, who was my coach twice, saw me play and he got in touch with my agent and he proposed a two-year contract. I asked him what he thought about his team and he invited me in December to see and get to know the team myself.”
Once there, Juninho found himself impressed with the organization. Nevertheless, ever mindful of his legacy, Juninho turned down New York’s two year offer for a more reasonable one year deal.
“Thank goodness I never really had a lot of injuries in my career. I am in a very good physical condition,” he said. “So when the opportunity arose, I thought it was a great one. Red Bull did offer me two years but I chose to sign for just one year because of my age and if I still feel well, I will sign for another year but we will see.”
In the end, the Brazilian playmaker saw this as the perfect challenge to bookmark what has been a storybook career.
“Vasco will always be in my heart and I will eternally be grateful for them,” he said. “(But) this represented a new challenge for me. I began my career in South America, spent eight yrs in Europe, went to Qatar and went back to Brazil and I expect to finish my career here in the United States.”