WorldSoccer: Would you say this has been your best season? You’re playing like you’ve never played before.
ROBERTO CARLOS
: Yes, definitely.

Is there a reason?
It all comes naturally to me, but I suppose my age, the amount of experience I now have, and the fact that we are on a winning streak – it makes you want to play even better, struggle harder. There’s no great secret – it’s all about ability and hard work. When you’ve got a team like this one, it’s easy to play well.

Real have a fine squad at the moment.
It’s all going very well – we’ve been on a winning streak since the start of the season and that’s been important. When you’re winning Sunday after Sunday, it all comes much more easily to you – even the most challenging big games.

Has it helped having Figo here?
Certainly, he’s been crucial, mainly because of the amount of experience he has. It’s not by chance that we’re about to win the championship, after four years. Figo became an idol straight away – it’s not every day that happens to a player who joins from your long-term rivals.
He’s brilliant. I’m extremely lucky that I’ve played alongside Rivaldo, Romario, Ronaldo, Dunga, Ince – and now Figo and Raul. So I’m used to playing alongside top-quality players.

The Real dressing-room must be pretty tense, with all those players battling for places.
Let’s not worry about what the papers try to make of it.

Isn’t Savio always complaining that he doesn’t make enough starts?
He’s unhappy, he’s not complaining – there’s a difference. But what happens is that if we lose two games in a row, the press starts talking of bust-ups. I think that’s just their wishful thinking.

It’s said that either Nesta or Thuram is coming to Real.
No, Helguera is thecentral defender and he’s quite enough. The Hierro-Helguera pairing is formidable, and Karanka is not to be overlooked either.

There’s also talk of Javier Zanetti, your former room-mate at Inter, coming to Real.
I’ve not heard of it.

If you were (Real president) Florentino Perez, would you buy him?
Right away. Last summer, there was talk of you transferring to Inter. Was there any truth in the rumours?
It’s true.

Why did nothing come of it?
To be honest, I’m not sure. I haven’t spoken with (Inter president Massimo) Moratti, but I know he spoke to Perez.

Is it true that, last summer, Perez wanted to sell you because you were so liked by (previous Real president Lorenzo) Sanz?
Long live the Spanish press!

Would you ever go back to Inter.
Yes, I’d go anywhere in Italy.

Even to Juventus?
Yes, but nevertheless I’m still a huge Inter fan. Inter are a big club, with a great team, great fans, great stadium – so do you think that it would be such a surprising move?

Clarence Seedorf played well in his time at Real, but slightly less so since his move to Inter last season. Why do you think that is?
Italian football is different. Just because you do well in Spain, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll do as well in Italy. But I think things will look up for him next season.

Do you still follow Italian football closely.
I watch every Sunday.

Who will win the scudetto?
Roma, I hope. Why hope? I hope so for Capello, Aldair, Cafu, Zago and Emerson.

Do you still feel that Fabio Capello changed the course of your life?
Yes – without him I wouldn’t have got where I am now.

Has he asked you to go to Rome?
No.

What sort of thing would induce you to leave Real?
If I get terrible receptions from the fans at the Bernabeu, or if I get fed up of living in Madrid.

You once said you’d quit at 33.
I’m 28 now, and my contract runs until 2004, when I’ll be 32. Then I’ll have a year in Brazil, and that’ll be it.

Where in Brazil?
Anywhere.

Is everything sorted out between you and Romario?
Yes, thank goodness – it was an embarrassing situation.

And what about the situation with Rivaldo?
That was all made up by the Brazilian media – they had a quiet day, so they went and invented an argument between us. We were killing ourselves laughing when we read what they said.

You were great friendswith Ronaldo – do you still keep in touch?
The last time I saw him was just after his operation, and I gave him my best wishes.

Will he be as good as before?
He’ll be better than before.

Wanderley Luxembourg, your former national team coach, has said that the remaining World Cup qualifiers will be difficult for Brazil. Do you agree?
Because we’re used to playing against Holland, Italy, Germany and France, it’s not easy to motivate yourself against the likes of Bolivia, Venezuela and so on. In Sao Paulo we won against Argentina and it was a great game. That’s how we are – we play well against teams of our stature.

In order to qualify, you need points.
We’ll get three against Bolivia, three against Paraguay?

You and Rivaldo both get whistled when you play in the national side.
They’re whistling Rivaldo, not me. With me, they say I don’t earn my keep. In Brazil, that’s what it’s like – they think that if you earn so much money, your nationality doesn’t matter to you. They only see that you play for Real or Bar_a, that you’re rich and nothing bothers you. The press, instead of pointing out the truth, just inflames that point of view.

You’ve played once under the new Brazil coach, Emerson Leao.
Yes, against Mexico (in early March).

But he hasn’t called you up again.
As long as people think in the way I have just pointed out, perhaps it’s better that I stay home, in Madrid, where I am loved and appreciated. There’s always Silvinho, and Serginho too.

What did you think when you saw the Brazil team for the game against Peru?
To tell you the truth, I didn’t recognise any of the names.