Deco looking forward to new challenge in Brazil

Former Chelsea and Portugal midfielder Deco is looking forward to a new challenge on his return to Brazilian football after more than a decade in Europe.

The Brazil-born playmaker, who began his career at Corinthians, has left Chelsea to sign a two-year contract with Brazilian league-leader Fluminense, saying he is fulfilling a longtime dream after 13 years with some of Europe’s top clubs and the Portuguese national team.

Deco still had a year left on his contract with Chelsea but said he wasn’t happy anymore and needed something else to keep him motivated as he approaches the end of his career. He said Fluminense will likely be his last club.

"It’s a challenge to play in Brazil and I love challenges. I didn’t have that with Chelsea anymore," he said on Monday as he was officially introduced to fans and the media. "I will try to enjoy it as much as I can because in (Europe) I wasn’t happy as a player anymore."

Deco played only two matches with Corinthians before moving to Benfica and eventually FC Porto in Portugal. He then played for Barcelona and ultimately Chelsea. Deco won the Champions League with Porto and Barcelona and the Premier League with Chelsea, among other titles.

He was virtually unknown when he left Brazil, making his name mostly after joining Porto. In Europe, he said he feels he has already accomplished everything he could.

"The only thing missing was to return to Brazil and now that has been accomplished," Deco said.

The playmaker said he will be making less money in Brazil than he would if he had stayed with Chelsea. Still, Brazilian media said he will receive nearly $5 million a year at Fluminense to become the second-highest paid player in Brazilian football behind Corinthians’ Ronaldo, who reportedly earns almost $11 million a year.

Some of the other players with high salaries for Brazilian standards include Ronaldo’s teammate Roberto Carlos and Brazil striker Robinho, who is set to return to Manchester City after his loan with Santos just ended.

"I’m not back for the money, I’m back for the challenge," Deco said. "I don’t have to prove anything else to anybody, only to myself."

The 32-year-old midfielder hasn’t played in an official match since ending his career with Portugal at the World Cup in South Africa and is not expected to be fit again until later this month.

Led by high-profile coach Muricy Ramalho, Fluminense is one of the top teams in Brazil. The Rio de Janeiro club hasn’t lost in 10 matches and leads the Brazilian league with 29 points from 13 matches, one point ahead of second-place Corinthians.

Deco will be joining a team which already had former Brazil striker Fred, veteran strikers Emerson and Washington, Argentine midfielder Dario Conca and former Chelsea right back Belletti.

Fluminense won the national league in 1984 and its most significant recent title was the 2007 Brazilian Cup. It was runner-up to Ecuador’s Liga de Quito in the 2008 Copa Libertadores final.