Like father like son…

By Tim Vickery
Estudiantes captain Juan Sebastian Veron nearly fell over backwards when he collected the Libertadoes Cup and held the trophy aloft.

It was not only the size of the cup that affected his balance. It was also the emotion of the occasion. This was the crowning moment of the veteran midfielder’s career, the ultimate justification for turning his back on European football and returning to Argentina.

Estudiantes of La Plata are not only Veron’s first club. It was also the club of his father, Juan Ramon, the star player four decades ago when they won three consecutive Libertadores titles. Now, in the 50th year of the competition the son has played a similar role in conquest number four.

In last year’s campaign Veron junior sweated and strained but could only carry Estudiantes as far as the second round. This year as they beat Cruzeiro of Brazil 2-1 in the Final he gave blood for the cause.

In the goalless first leg of the final in La Plata he was caught below the eye in a clash with Ramires’ elbow, and as the cut kept opening up he spent much of the second half obliged to wander over to the touchline for treatment.

In the initial stages of the return match in Belo Horizonte he seemed bent on revenge, and was booked after a flare-up. But once Estudiantes went behind early in the second half Veron stamped his quality on the game.

The equalising goal was set up by a characteristic moment of midfield imagination, Veron making space left of centre and raking a long diagonal pass which cut out the defence and fell into the path of right-back Christian Cellay, whose low cross was turned in by Gaston Fernandez. And the winner came from one of Veron’s trademark set-pieces, a corner
whipped in at pace, curling out and inviting Mauro Boselli’s downward header.

Two vital moments of sorcery, then, from “la brujita” – the little witch. Veron was born into the nickname because his father was known as “la bruja” (the witch) on account of his wild black hair. The son, of course, favours the shaven headed style.

He has needed thick skin, as well, to put up with the boos which part of the crowd greet him when he plays for Argentina, though it should be pointed out that there are plenty of cheers as well. Winning the Libertadores should silence some of his critics, and with Diego Maradona a big fan, Veron can dream of having another crack at the World Cup next year.

Before then, though, there is still some club business which needs attending. Forty one years ago, with the aid of a decisive goal from Veron senior, Estudiantes overcame Manchester United to win the Intercontinental Cup, the Club World Cup of its day. This December in Abu Dhabi they have another shot at glory.

After emulating his father in the Libertadores, Veron junior will now aim to get past Barcelona and all to do the same thing on a global scale.