It is a measure of the fact that Manchester City enter an Old Trafford derby match on parity with their neighbours for the first time in perhaps 40 years on Sunday that one of the stars of the Barcelona's European conquistadores will be reduced to a seat on Mark Hughes' bench.
Sylvinho's outstanding wing-back's performance against Manchester United in Rome in May was forgotten amid the paeans to Pep Guardiola's midfield architects, but it contributed to Wayne Rooney's quiet night at the Stadio Olimpico and the Brazilian says Barcelona's victory must now imbue City with a belief that they can beat United too. "If you want to live a dream then first and foremost you have to believe the dream can happen and believe in your work," said a player whose one-year contract at City is a pleasant and lucrative finale to a career that began with Brazil's Corinthians in 1994 before a move to Arsenal in 1999. "You have to work so hard. If you don't, you won't win. There are players who have come here [to City] with great experience of Champions League football and important matches and I think that will really help the club."
When Sylvinho related the story of the Champions League final to his team-mates, he told them that Barcelona were not surprised by the ease of the victory – in which United, as Rio Ferdinand has described it, did not "not even put up a fight".
"We weren't surprised because we knew we were the best team in the competition," Sylvinho related. "We had the best players, played the best football and were in a great moment. Anything can happen in a final but we were so confident in our game."
The image of a former Brazil international settling back in the Carrington dressing room to relate such tales to his team-mates will delight Hughes. The City manager has expressly set out to buy players who have won the trophies City now covet in the hope that the "winning mentality", which he says City have historically lacked, will rub off. "[Our players] have not just asked questions about the Champions League; they recognise [all that] Barcelona did in the last season, which was amazing," the 35-year-old said. He sees Hughes building a dynasty at City as Sir Alex Ferguson has done across town. "He's a strong character," Sylvinho observed.
The left back, who moved from Highbury to Celta Vigo after the emerging Ashley Cole edged him out, is already close to Robinho, who is expected to miss the derby through injury and who has confided in his compatriot that he has found it more difficult than he expected to adapt, following his own move over from Spain. "He [Robinho] is enjoying his time here. He said it's not easy to adapt to English football and he was a bit surprised by it, but he understands the philosophy of the football here."
Though Emmanuel Adebayor will be missing on Sunday – the Football Association yesterday confirmed his three-match ban for violent conduct – the club are taking comfort from their best to start a top-flight league season since 1961-62, when they also won four on the trot, with Joe Hayes accomplishing on that occasion what Adebayor has done this time: a goal in each of the four matches.
"A few weeks ago City beat Barcelona [1-0] in a friendly," Sylvinho reflected. "The team is very good, it's a strong side with a good mentality. Of course, we still have to improve things but we're an important club in Europe today."Reuse content