Football and artistry are words only usually found in the same sentence when discussion turns to the skills of players like Ronaldinho, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. One man who has played alongside all three, and who has been responsible for his fair share of pretty passing patterns over the years, is Portugal and Chelsea midfielder Deco.
A European Cup winner with Barcelona and Porto, Deco was an unlikely recent visitor to the studio of up and coming British artist Stuart Semple. But unlike art collecting England boss Fabio Capello, it was not paintings that Deco was after, rather a one-off pair of Umbro Speciali boots.
Semple has been tasked by Umbro with creating a limited edition design for each of the brand’s key ambassadors, players such as Michael Owen, Real Madrid central defender Pepe and Gael Clichy of Arsenal. For the sole of Deco’s tiny, size 7.5 boots, the artist looked to the north rather than Stamford Bridge.
"When I was in Manchester [where Umbro is based] there’s this worker bee design everywhere,” explained Semple. “I started thinking about football and the way people kind of come together around the idea of football. I turned that into the honeycomb pattern you can see on the soul of the boot.".
Deco looked delighted with Semple's handiwork, saying the boots are more supple and more sensitive than others he's worn. When asked about life in the Premiership, he said, “I think the football is about the culture, no? If you play the same way you play in Barcelona over here, the fans don’t like. But in Spain, it's different – they like you if you take your time.”
When talk turned to this summer’s World Cup, Deco, who has recently recovered from injury, became more serious: “It’s my last campaign,” says the Portugal playmaker (who was in fact born in Brazil), “the last opportunity to win something important with the national team.”
Asked what he makes of England’s chances in South Africa, the 32-year-old says, “Good, but if they lose one or two important players - it is difficult." We do not need reminding that Deco’s Portugal were responsible for knocking England out four years ago. We’d better hope Semple's new boots don’t work. Tom Ford
Click here for information Deco's charitable non-profit organisation Instituto Deco 20, based in the city of Indaiatuba, near São Paulo, where he grew up.