By DAN KARELL
NEW YORK– Sitting back in his chair at a lower Manhattan hotel, Marcos Antonio Senna looks like a man who is ready to take on a challenge.
After arriving in New York just three days prior, the 36-year-old Sao Paulo, Brazil native was officially introduced on Monday as a member of the New York Cosmos, signing a contract with the club that is returning to the professional ranks for the first time since 1985. Senna spent the last eleven seasons at Spanish club Villarreal, finishing his time there by guiding the club back to La Liga after a one year absence.
You might ask what an aging veteran, who starred in central midfield at the 2006 World Cup and the 2008 European Championships with his naturalized nation Spain, is doing playing in the second tier of American soccer, in the North American Soccer League. Credit to Senna, he doesn’t look at his new club in such black and white terms.
“I don’t know if the level (of the NASL) is as low as people think,” Senna said through a translator. “I am really anxious to come here to play, and also to get to know the country.”
When the Cosmos announced last year in July that they were returning to professional play, the organization immediately looked far and wide for potential signings. According to Senna, that’s when his courtship to New York began.
“It started last year,” Senna said. “I spoke with the head coach (Giovanni Savarese) twice, he explained to me what he wanted, and I was very attracted to coming here.”
Senna isn’t just joining the Cosmos to earn one last paycheck before his playing career ends. He is bringing his family with him too.
“I believe that when one has made a decision, they are more prepared,” Senna said about his cross-Atlantic move. “I’m really excited about playing here. My family is very excited to move to New York, and live this new experience.”
Senna said that playing in the same uniform that the likes of Pele, Franz Beckenbauer, and Carlos Alberto Torres once played in is a huge honor. Referencing the global appeal of the Cosmos, Senna understood the rich history that he’s stepping into, calling the Cosmos of old a “team with great tradition.”
At the same time, Senna admits that becoming part of the club’s rebirth is something that he’s very much looking forward to.
“To me it’s a privilege to play in this team, to be a part of a new generation of the Cosmos, to be part of the new project,” Senna said. “I hope to be a positive influence and to win the league title so that the Cosmos can resonate even more around the world.”
Like others before him and many after him, there will likely be many doubters of Senna’s ability to perform at a high level as he nears the age of 37. Senna recently completed a taxing season, playing 33 times for Villarreal in a season that ended on June 8.
Though he has had only a month of rest before he joins his Cosmos teammates this week for pre-season training, Senna was confident that his age and fitness wouldn’t be a problem.
“I had a good sufficient vacation, I had some quiet time, and I’m ready now to compete,” Senna said.
The Cosmos open up their 2013 season on August 3 at Shuart Stadium on the campus of Hofstra University, in Hempstead, NY. The team will play two friendly matches in England in late July in preparation for the NASL fall season.