Barcelona’s rampaging right-back on playing for club and country

World Soccer long after you moved to La Liga, and before you were called up by Brazil, there was talk of your possible naturalisation and you playing for Spain. Did you ever consider it?
Daniel AvesI actually decided to take a break at that stage in my life. I was very young and it was not the time to make such a decision. I had to fight for my objectives: namely to make it to the Selecao and pull on this jersey which is so coveted by everyone. I wanted to wait and see what my possibilities in the Selecao were and then make a decision. Thank God I got called up for Brazil and saw my wish come true. I think that if I’d failed it would have been very difficult for me as I had always told my relatives and friends that I would not have been a footballer unless I had made it into the Selecao. I am very happy to have made this dream come true – and also to be going to the World Cup finals.

After the 2006 World Cup and Cafu’s retirement, the right-back position was up for grabs, yet still nobody has completely nailed it. Who are your main opponents for the berth?
We have great players for the right-back position, just like we do all over the pitch. I know I have to always be at my best to keep getting called up. And I’m always aware that many others could easily take my place – such as Maicon, Leonardo Moura and Cicinho. I always believe it’s a privilege whenever I get called up because I know how many others would like to be there.

You’ve always said Cafu is your idol and he named you as his successor for the No2 shirt after he retired.
I’ve been following Cafu ever since I was young, ever since his time at Sao Paulo. He was my role model, all the more so because we play in the same position. Today, I’m proud and pleased to say that he remains my idol for all he represented on and off the pitch. He is a player who left his mark. Hearing him say that I would be his successor was a very emotional moment because he was very important for the Selecao. It is a source of pride for me to be complimented by a person like him. I hope that, eventually, he is proven to be right. If I manage to achieve half what Cafu has done in football it will have been good enough.

You had a stint in midfield in the Copa America Final against Argentina in 2007 and scored your first goal for Selecao.
I actually played as a midfielder on a few occasions for my previous club, Sevilla, in my first two years in Spain, and I used to play in midfield all the time when I was younger, so I know the position well and felt no problems. You have to be there to help the team and face any challenge. I was happy to score and help Brazil win the Copa America title, all the more so as people regarded Argentina as the favourites and said they would coast it against Brazil. They did not show enough respect to the players who were representing the Selecao. Whenever the Selecao are on the pitch they have to be respected.

Can Barca repeat last season’s success?
We need to keep ambitions high. Every club in Spain and Europe will be dying to take our trophies. It will be a tough season, for sure.

What about Real Madrid’s phenomenal spending?
They have brought in a lot of reinforcements to try to overtake us. I guess it was more urgent for them because they haven’t won anything in a while! Mind you, it will be great for the league to have Cristiano Ronaldo and Kaka around.

Is there anything Barcelona have got that Real Madrid haven’t?
Yes, they don’t have a group. Stars alone won’t be enough for them to win titles. You need to gel, which can’t be built overnight. We have also got some amazing players and they are much more comfortable around each other.