Van Bronckhorst ready for Arsenal reunion

May 11, 2006

BARCELONA, May 11 (Reuters) - Barcelona defender Giovanni van Bronckhorst believes that next week's Champions League showdown against his former club Arsenal has all the ingredients of a memorable final.

'You will never see a Barcelona team who play defensively. It should be a great final with a lot of chances for both teams,' the Dutchman told reporters on Wednesday.

'The philosophy of both teams is the same as we want to play attractive football and I think we have both done that so far.

'So I expect this final will be something special because normally you have one team that plays a bit defensively, but now you see two teams that like to attack so it should be a very attractive game.'

Wednesday's final in Paris will give Van Bronckhorst his first opportunity to come up against his old team mates since leaving the club three years ago.

'It's special enough to be involved in the final of the Champions League but to play against your old team mates makes it even more special...before the game there will be a lot of friendly talk but things will obviously different once it starts.'

Van Bronckhorst admits that has he has been impressed by his former team's progress in Europe this season and, in particular, by the way the young players have risen to the challenge.

'We are confident in our team but we have a lot of respect for Arsenal as they have played really well in the Champions League this year,' he said.

'I've seen a lot of Arsenal games on TV and it was amazing when they had the good run in the league and the Champions League that they were missing a lot of important players.

'The young players who came in did really well like (Cesc) Fabregas, (Phillippe) Senderos and (Mathieu) Flamini. I think they have great potential to become even better and I don't think the Arsenal team has peaked yet.'

Van Bronckhorst singled out Thierry Henry as the key player in the Arsenal side and said he would be delighted if the speculation about a move to the Nou Camp turned into reality.

'He's very important for them. He can link up very well with other players and can score his own goals too,' he said.

'There's a lot of talk about him maybe leaving Arsenal and coming to us and if he decides to leave Arsenal hopefully he will come to us.

A player of his stature and quality would be welcome at any team in the world.'

But the Dutchman believes that it is manager Arsene Wenger who bears the chief responsibility for the club's impressive run in Europe.

'I think he's been very good, he's been there for a few years and he's changed Arsenal from a side that was typically English to a more European one.

'That kind of play has brought them a lot of success in recent years and I know that the Champions League is something they really cherish. They are in the final and it is great credit to his work over the years.'

Van Bronckhorst explained that Barcelona had undergone a similar transformation since he had joined in 2003. 'The development that I've seen here in the last three years has been amazing. When I came here we were playing UEFA Cup and at one stage we were 14th in the league.

'Now we've won the league twice and we are in the final of the Champions League playing the sort of football that every player wants to play.'

The defender said that World Player of the Year Ronaldinho, who arrived at the club at the same time as he did, had been the catalyst to the club's revival.

'Ronaldinho is the face of this team,' he said. 'He is the best player in the world at the moment and he's very important to us in the way he creates chances for other people and the way he scores goals. He's the sort of player that every team would want to have.'

And he believes that the Brazilian could set himself apart from predecessors like Romario and Rivaldo and help the club win a second European Cup.

'Barcelona have only won the European Cup once and for a club like this that's too little, especially when you look at the players who have played here.'