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What more could Ronaldo and Roberto Carlos have in common with Juan Sebastian Veron later this year apart from being among the greatest players in South American football?
As Rex Gowar and Pedro Fonseca write, it is not new for South Americans to return home after brilliant careers in Europe and gain a new lease of life well into their 30s. Veron, though, touched new heights when he led Estudiantes to victory in the Libertadores Cup — South America’s Champions League — in 2009.
Corinthians, with Ronaldo and now Roberto Carlos on board, are celebrating their centenary this year and they have set themselves the target of winning South American football’s top club prize for the first time.
The other big clubs in the Sao Paulo region, Pele’s Santos in the 1960s, Sao Paulo and Palmeiras in the last two decades, have all won it. So have Cruzeiro from Belo Horizonte, Flamengo and Vasco da Gama from Rio de Janeiro and Gremio and Internacional from the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul.
“The game is over for us,” said Justino Compean, president of the Mexican Football Federation (FMF).
South Americans often claim that the Libertadores Cup is a tougher tournament than its European equivalent, the Champions League, and Argentine champions Boca Juniors are unlikely to disagree after their marathon journey to the Venezuelan Andes for a game this week.
In terms of quality of play, the Champions League obviously wins hands down. But bring in factors such as hostile conditions, heat, altitude and travelling and the Libertadores is a much tougher proposition.
from Left field:
We're back with another picture of the day, and this time Sports Pictures Editor Greg Bos has chosen a frame from the Copa Libertadores, South American soccer's version of the Champions League. Greg writes:
I like this picture because of its colour and shape - a simple, but eye-catching, illustration of football fans in Argentina sandwiched between two giant colourful flags.