Libertadores Cup final: Ronaldinho and Bernard help Atletico Mineiro comeback against Olimpia before winning on penalties

The Brazilian side scored a late equaliser in normal time

They needed penalties to do it, after coming back from 2-0 down, but last night Atletico Mineiro became South American champions for the first time, winning the Copa Libertadores at home in Belo Horizonte.

It was desperately close. Having lost the first leg 2-0 to Olimpia in Paraguay, Atletico had to overhaul that heavy deficit and with three minutes left they were only 1-0 up on the night. But Leonardo Silva’s header three minutes from the final whistle sent the game to extra-time, and from there to penalties, which Atletico won 4-3.

For this Atletico team it means something approaching football immortality – and for a legend of the Brazilian game, and for his possible successor too.

Ronaldinho has been the veteran inspiration of this Atletico side since he joined them from Flamengo last June. They came second in the Brazilian league last season and Ronaldinho, whom many thought finished, won the ‘Bola de Ouro’ for player of the year.

Now, having taken Atletico to this title, Ronaldinho’s return to South America looks almost as successful as his time in Europe. He is only the seventh player to win the Copa Libertadores and the Champions League, and only the fourth – after Dida, Cafu and Roque Junior – to win those two and the World Cup. His greatness is unambiguous.

Bernard is 12 years younger than Ronaldinho but has something of his cheeky imagination and style, his playground approach, and so has naturally been anointed as a successor or protégé to the one-time Barcelona No 10. It was Bernard’s perfect dipping cross to Leonardo Silva which made last night’s crucial equaliser. And the youngster is probably more likely to go to the World Cup next year, having been part of Brazil’s successful Confederations Cup squad earlier this summer. European clubs are starting to take a close look, and it would not be a surprise if he were to cross the Atlantic at some point soon.

And then there is Jô – the striker who has become almost a by-word for Manchester City’s transfer excesses, after scoring just one Premier League goal following his £17million transfer. But now, back in Brazil, he is scoring goals and winning trophies like never before. He scored Atletico’s first goal in this morning’s final, and finished as tournament top scorer. He went to the Confederations Cup – as a replacement for the injured Leandro Damiao – and scored twice there. No one who laughed at his performances in England can smirk at his return this summer.

One legend of Brazilian football, one boy-genius and a man rebuilding his career – they have achieved something no Atletico Mineiro players have done before and, if they stick together, they will be heading to Morocco for the Club World Cup in December.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
news
Sport
Lewis Hamilton with the Santander trophy after winning last year’s British Grand Prix
F1It's the race organisers who are to blame, apparently
News
peopleFormer Disney CEO isn't going to win any fans with this quote
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test