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Mendes over matter


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Mendes over matter

THE cultured player's time at the pinnacle of European football gives him a refreshing sense of perspective, finds Andrew Smith

THUMB-TWIDDLING among the assembled press reached yogic proportions as the wait for Pedro Mendes stretched into a second hour at Murray Park the other day. The Rangers midfielder faced a peed-off pack when he eventually fronted up; apparently having

been detained by a pressing game of ping pong.

Yet, in then batting back and forth thoughts on today's Old Firm Co-operative Insurance Cup final with all the elegance and finesse he exhibits on the park, any disgruntlement soon dissipated. It certainly helped that the 29-year-old can cut so dashing a figure. Sashaying in with buckled patent leather shoes, drainpipe black trousers and a flouncy top, the look of the lank-locked Portuguese was Zorro meets Regency dandy. His pointers on the occasion at Hampden this afternoon, meanwhile, were often rapier.

"Sometimes the emotions come out of your skin and the football is not the best because the head is caught up with the intensity," he said of this season's Glasgow derbies that have brought him "one good memory, one bad memory and one so-so". His first taste of the Old Firm experience was a 4-2 win at Celtic Park in which he hit a screamer. A 1-0 home defeat at Christmas was next, followed by last month's scoreless snooze. "It is very intensive, very emotional but it's still a pleasure to be involved in a very important game."

Some overblown rot has been written about the importance of the first cup final in six years between Scottish football's fiercest foes. Mendes' record mercifully doesn't allow for such shameless ramping up in his presence. Not when he arrived at Ibrox in a £3m deal from Portsmouth last August as an FA Cup winner of only months' standing... and a holder of Champions League, Portuguese league and Portuguese Super Cup honours having spent the 2003-4 season at Porto under Jose Mourinho. The player, though, treats no occasion "when there is a cup in dispute" lightly. He grimaces at the memory of a Community Shield defeat to Manchester United before his move north, and a cup final loss to Benfica days before the Champions League triumph.

"I've had good and bad memories of finals, but they are always special. It is always a pleasure to be involved no matter what the final is," he said. "Even a friendly tournament: a final is a final. Other things come in, extra motivations."

Mendes is entitled to be perplexed by the twisted nature of the football world he's pitched up in. The same people willing to champion the meeting of the Old Firm as one of the world's greatest derbies will then mock that claim when an encounter proves as lamentable as the last one. In such circumstances, perspective is eschewed. As are any possible explanations for a poor spectacle beyond our game withering on the vine. Mendes can find a middle ground. That is, mind you, his natural habitat.

"I've seen worse games," he said of the encounter a month ago. "I think what you can conclude from the last game is that no-one wanted to lose. Sometimes you have to realise you're not going to see five or six goals every derby. It wasn't a good game for sure, but neither team wanted to lose.

"It's such an intense game that your time on ball is almost none. That's part of the game, and (you expect] in the second-half there can be more space. But in the last Old Firm game it was very tight the whole game. I didn't enjoy it, but you have to live with it. Whether it is two seconds or one second, you have to think quick. That's the reality of playing big games for a big club. Both teams were very strong defensively so it wasn't the best of games, but it's the result that suited both teams."

No result can suit both teams today. Mendes is convinced neither side will even want to contemplate extra-time. The pursuit of "a result in 90 minutes" should then make the final "more open, more attacking". It had better be all of that, and a squillion-times more entertaining than the past two. Otherwise, the more hysterical among the followers of both clubs and Scottish football's commentariat will be scrambling up to the top of their nearest tall building.

The evident decline in football standards this season hasn't been so much a talking point as a wearying obsession. But Mendes, the highest-paid player in Scottish football, maintains quality hasn't been lacking from his team... at times. He praises "very good, very strong, very aggressive" Celtic players, picking out Shunsuke Nakamura as "such a technician, with a fantastic left foot". And just as the Japanese playmaker has been reliable provider of easy-on-the-eye interludes, Mendes has unarguably been the key source of these for Walter Smith's side.

"We've had some fantastic games. We've also had some poor ones, I admit that," the Rangers midfield fulcrum said. "We've been inconsistent, but you see that everywhere. Brief lapses in concentration have cost us dear, but we are still in contention for the three trophies. I heard the criticism after the last Old Firm, and understood it. When I see my hometown team not play well, I moan too. It's normal. You pay for the ticket, you want to be entertained and enjoy yourself. People were disappointed with the last Old Firm derby. Whatever country you go, you see that."

The Portuguese's contribution led to him being declared the one "untouchable" by his club during the last transfer window. They were prepared to sell any other player to plug a £3m gap – including captain Barry Ferguson. Mendes rejects out of hand claims they simply do not gel as a central midfield partnership. "I think we play well together and it is a pleasure to play with him," he said. Yet that they stand shoulder to shoulder on the park appears to have shrunk Ferguson's status among the Ibrox faithful. The fact that Rangers enjoyed their best form when the Scotland captain was recuperating from a foot injury didn't exactly see him welcomed back warmly. Especially when he initially seemed to struggle to have the same physical impact.

Mendes describes the grumbling about Ferguson as he strove for full match sharpness as "difficult to take". "Some games I saw Barry trying hard and playing well and he got some criticism. Maybe not now but several months ago he wasn't getting the praise he deserved."

When asked to list the qualities of the only starter this afternoon with Old Firm cup final experience, Mendes required no prompting. "His passing, aggression, the way he speaks. He knows the game, knows the club as no-one else does and knows Scottish football, so he's a massive presence in the Rangers team," he said. Not as massive a presence as the Portuguese, however.

http://sport.scotsman.com/sport/-Mendes-ov...tter.5073164.jp

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Well he's not going to come out and slate him is he.

IMHO, I don't think they can play together.

No player has ever come out and slated Barry as everyone he has played with has the upmost respect for him as a man and a player.

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Hopefully they run all over Brown and the rest of the scum tomorrow!

Hopefully, we need everyone to be at their best and we need and are due a performance from our captain!

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I hate when players get asked to give their opinion of another because they're obvously not going to slate them.

The same happened when Beckham was interviewed & the interviewer asked his opinion on Ferguson.

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I hate when players get asked to give their opinion of another because they're obvously not going to slate them.

The same happened when Beckham was interviewed & the interviewer asked his opinion on Ferguson.

Beckham has played against Barry and no doubt watched him on tv numerous times so obviously he knows what a top player he is.

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''I think we play well together and it is a pleasure to play with him''

Another player praising our captain well said Pedro (tu)

I think Pedro knows what happened to the last bloke who tried to oust Mr Rangers. He is being a little bit more canny in my opinion.

The captaincy will have to be charmed away not wrestled. :rolleyes:

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I hate when players get asked to give their opinion of another because they're obvously not going to slate them.

The same happened when Beckham was interviewed & the interviewer asked his opinion on Ferguson.

Beckham has played against Barry and no doubt watched him on tv numerous times so obviously he knows what a top player he is.

Do you really think someone is going to reply that he's not very good when they're asked? You can usually tell what they mean by what they don't say and the only praise Beckham could give him was that he's a good experienced player.

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I hate when players get asked to give their opinion of another because they're obvously not going to slate them.

The same happened when Beckham was interviewed & the interviewer asked his opinion on Ferguson.

Beckham has played against Barry and no doubt watched him on tv numerous times so obviously he knows what a top player he is.

Do you really think someone is going to reply that he's not very good when they're asked? You can usually tell what they mean by what they don't say and the only praise Beckham could give him was that he's a good experienced player.

Why don't you just come out with it Craig?

It annoys you when players praise Barry!!

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I hate when players get asked to give their opinion of another because they're obvously not going to slate them.

The same happened when Beckham was interviewed & the interviewer asked his opinion on Ferguson.

Beckham has played against Barry and no doubt watched him on tv numerous times so obviously he knows what a top player he is.

Do you really think someone is going to reply that he's not very good when they're asked? You can usually tell what they mean by what they don't say and the only praise Beckham could give him was that he's a good experienced player.

Why don't you just come out with it Craig?

It annoys you when players praise Barry!!

It annoys me when players praise him after directly being asked to give their opinion on him.

If players want to praise him and he deserves it then I don't mind, but obviously when someone is put on the spot they're not going to give a negative opinion.

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