BUENOS AIRES // The Champions League was a title that eluded Juan Sebastian Veron in Europe, but a trophy with even more emotional significance is within his grasp. Veron will lead the Argentine club Estudiantes when they face Cruzeiro of Brazil today in the decisive away leg of the final of South America's Libertadores Cup. The teams battled to a 0-0 draw in the first leg in La Plata last week.
The trophy is closely linked to Estudiantes and the Veron family - the veteran midfielder's father, Juan Ramon, won it three years in succession with the club from 1968 to 1970. "Sebastian completed a stage [in his career] when he played in England and of course that European experience helps him now," Juan Ramon Veron said of his son. "He returned to do something and he's succeeding," he added. "He won a title in Argentina, played in the Copa Sudamericana final and that's what's most important."
The younger Veron reached only as far as the semi-finals of the Champions League, with Manchester United in 2002, and returned to Estudiantes, his first club, in 2006. The 34-year-old led them to the domestic Apertura title in 2006 and to last year's Copa Sudamericana final, which they lost to Internacional of Brazil. "I hope he and his team mates can repeat the history we achieved many years ago," said Veron senior. "It's going to be a difficult, hard match against a complicated Cruzeiro team but no one's had the last word yet and it could be a match that goes to extra time."
His son concurs on the importance of today's decider: "I would give everything I've won to be Libertadores Cup champion," said the younger Veron. "That is the ultimate because I grew up here." Estudiantes have lost all five of their previous Libertadores Cup matches in Brazil, including the second leg of the 1968 final against Palmeiras. But they still won the trophy that year, beating the Brazilian club 2-0 in a play-off in Montevideo.