Paris (AFP) – Most footballers his age have long since hung up their boots, perhaps moved into management or punditry. But Vitorino Hilton, who turns 43 later this year, is still going strong.
Almost exactly 16 years after he first arrived in France, the Brazilian centre-back is set to lead out Montpellier on Saturday as they take on the Paris Saint-Germain of Neymar.
They may be compatriots, but the difference between the world’s most expensive player and Hilton is so great they might as well come from separate planets.
Neymar missed PSG’s midweek game in the French Cup, taking time off to as plan his 28th birthday celebrations, reportedly set for a 800-capacity Parisian nightclub on Sunday, with guests asked to dress all in white.
Hilton, meanwhile, captained a Montpellier side that was dumped out of the Cup in the last 16, losing on penalties to fourth-tier minnows Belfort.
Hilton has played almost every minute in the league for his club this season and shows no signs of slowing up. He wants to sign a new contract when his existing deal expires in the summer.
“I have played almost every match so far. I feel great. I want to continue for another year. We will see at the end of the season,” he said on Thursday.
A title winner with Marseille in 2010 and with Montpellier in 2012, Hilton is part of a side sitting fourth in Ligue 1 and hoping to qualify for Europe.
Montpellier have won their last three league games, but it does not come tougher than a visit to Paris. Thomas Tuchel’s side are unbeaten in their last 18 games and sit 10 points clear at the top of the table.
And there is Neymar, whose brace in last weekend’s win at Lille gave him 47 goals in 50 Ligue 1 appearances.
“He is unpredictable with, and without, the ball. You don’t know what he’s going to do,” said Hilton.
“Playing against Paris is unpredictable too, but we have a good team and there are reasons for us to be hopeful. If we do all we need to do together I think we can get at least a draw.”
Player to watch: Cesc Fabregas
Can the former Arsenal, Barcelona and Chelsea man still deliver at the highest level, or is he past it? While the Spanish star’s quality on the ball remains undimmed, does he really have the physical attributes required by a midfielder in Ligue 1?
Ex-Monaco coach Leonardo Jardim was not convinced, but new boss Robert Moreno — who originates from Catalunya like Fabregas — has started his compatriot in all three Ligue 1 games since taking over.
However, the midweek signings of promising young midfielders Aurelien Tchouameni and Youssouf Fofana, from Bordeaux and Strasbourg, show that the principality club know changes are required.
It will be interesting to see if Fabregas, 32, starts on Saturday as 13th-placed Monaco go to Nimes.
43 – The number of years since Marseille won a league game away to Bordeaux. OM have failed to win in 34 attempts in this fixture since a 2-1 success in October 1977, 18 days after Vitorino Hilton was born.
12 – The number of consecutive defeats losses by Toulouse, with 10 of them coming in the league. They are rock bottom.
11 – It is 11 years since Rennes had so many points (37) at this stage of the season. They are third going into Friday’s derby against Nantes. Will they go on to qualify for the Champions League for the first time?
Rennes v Nantes (1945)
Paris Saint-Germain v Montpellier (1630), Amiens v Toulouse, Angers v Reims, Dijon v Brest, Nimes v Monaco, Strasbourg v Lille (all 1900)
Nice v Lyon (1400), Metz v Saint-Etienne (1600), Bordeaux v Marseille (2000)
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