Cult Corner

Where are they now? Atletico Mineiro’s Copa Libertadores winners of 2013

Where are they now? Atletico Mineiro’s Copa Libertadores winners of 2013

Europe’s elite competition the Champions League has become a relatively predictable affair over the past decade with a few major clubs dominating the rest.

Barcelona, for instance, have won four continental titles while their fiercest domestic rivals Real Madrid added their 10th and 11th European titles in 2014 and 2016 respectively. Germany’s top club Bayern Munich won the title in 2013 after losing it the year before to Chelsea and they, alongside Spain’s big two, routinely reach the last four of the competition.

While the Champions League is undoubtedly a tournament of exceptional quality and makes for a fascinating spectacle, the recent lack of competition in the latter stages has largely taken away its element of surprise with fewer smaller clubs making a big impression.

That is in stark contrast to the inter-continental championship in South America – the Copa Libertadores – which has had 14 different winners in the last 16 years, with only Brazil’s Internacional and Argentina’s Boca Juniors winning it more than once in that period.

In fact, since 2007, every year has had a different winner with clubs from Colombia, Ecuador, Argentina and Brazil all adding the gigantic trophy to their cabinets.

Three years ago, Atletico Mineiro were crowned champions after they overturned a 2-0 deficit against Paraguayan side Olimpia in the first leg to win the second 4-3 on penalties following their own 2-0 success in the return game. That title marked their first-ever Copa Libertadores win.

Atletico’s record-breaking team contained a fine blend of youth and experience, combining promising youth products and World Cup winners and plenty of them have since moved on. So where are they all now?

Goalkeeper: Victor

Age: 33

Current club: Atletico Mineiro

Atletico Mineiro apps: 187

Victor

Atletico Mineiro’s hero in the final, Victor saved penalties from Herminio Miranda and Matias Gimenez to help his side prosper in the penalty shoot-out.

Signed from Gremio in 2012, Victor is still playing for Atletico four years later and remains a key member of the side. The shot-stopper is the club’s vice-captain and also has six international caps for Brazil.

Right Back: Michel Macedo

Age: 26

Current club: Las Palmas

Atletico Mineiro apps: 16

Michel

Michel Macedo’s loan move to Atletico Mineiro from Spanish club Almeria could not have been better timed as he played his part in their historic win by starting in the second-leg victory instead of regular first-choice Marcos Rocha.

Michel spent two years at Atletico but departed in 2014 due to a lack of first-team football, rejoining Almeria before linking up with La Liga side Las Palmas this summer.

Centre Back: Rever

Age: 31

Current club: Flamengo (on loan from Internacional)

Atletico Mineiro apps: 126

Rever

Rever certainly owed a debt of gratitude to Atletico Mineiro as it was they who revitalised his career in 2010 after he had made just one solitary appearance during an ill-fated spell at Wolfsburg in Germany.

He proved to be an astute acquisition, though, becoming a key player and captain during his four years at the club while he also earned nine international caps for Brazil in that time. These days, Rever plays for Flamengo on loan from Internacional.

Centre Back: Leonardo Silva

Age: 37

Current club: Atletico Mineiro

Atletico Mineiro apps: 203

Leonardo Silva

Atletico’s other centre back Leonardo Silva is still playing for the club at the age of 37 and assumed the captaincy following Rever’s departure in 2014.

Since joining in 2011, Silva has accumulated over 200 appearances and has an extremely impressive goal tally of 21 too, including the crucial 87th minute equaliser in the second leg of the final.

Left Back: Junior Cesar

Age: 34

Current club: Unattached

Atletico Mineiro apps: 62

Junior Cesar

A well-travelled player having worn the jerseys of Fluminense, Botafogo, Flamengo and Sao Paulo in his homeland as well as Santos Laguna in Mexico, Junior Cesar spent the 2012-13 campaign on loan at Atletico.

Despite being a regular in the side during that time, Cesar joined Botafogo in 2014 and he played for them for a year. He has been without a club since January 2015.

Defensive Midfield: Josue

Age: 37

Current club: Unattached

Atletico Mineiro apps: 81

Josue

Similarly to Rever, Josue made the direct move from Wolfsburg to Atletico Mineiro, although he certainly fared better in the Bundesliga making 200 appearances for Die Wolfe.

A 28-cap Brazil international, Josue represented his country at the 2010 World Cup. He spent three seasons at Atletico after joining them in 2013 but left in January this year.

Defensive Midfield: Pierre

Age: 34

Current club: Fluminense

Atletico Mineiro apps: 129

Pierre

The other destroyer in Atletico’s midfield, Pierre joined Atletico in 2011 on loan and after impressing sufficiently he earned a permanent contract with the club.

Throughout his five years at the club, Pierre was a regular feature in their midfield but he parted ways in April by joining Fluminense on a free transfer.

Attacking Midfield: Ronaldinho

Age: 36

Current club: Unattached

Atletico Mineiro apps: 73

Ronaldinho

This man needs no introduction. The 2005 Ballon d’Or winner and 2002 World Cup champion signed for Atletico in 2012 after playing for Flamengo for just one season following a spell with Milan.

Despite no longer being at the peak of his powers, Ronaldinho was an integral member of the Atletico side scoring 24 goals and providing 26 assists in his 73 matches. His form in the black and white stripes also led to him winning the South American Player of the Year in 2013.

In 2014 he departed for a fresh challenge in Mexico, signing for Queretaro but after just 27 appearances for them he returned to Brazil to play for Fluminense where he played until 2015.

Right Wing: Bernard

Age: 24

Current club: Shakhtar Donetsk

Atletico Mineiro apps: 73

Bernard

A product of Atletico’s youth system, the diminutive attacker Bernard emerged as one of the most highly-rated young players in the world in the aftermath of the Copa Libertadores triumph with virtually every major European club scrambling around for his signature.

Eventually he opted to move to the Ukrainian giants Shakhtar Donetsk for a fee of £21.25m and he helped them win the league in his first full season.

Unfortunately, Bernard’s progress has stalled in Eastern Europe and he has failed to add to his 14 international caps for Brazil since playing in the humiliating 7-1 World Cup semi-final defeat to Germany.

Left Wing: Diego Tardelli

Age: 31

Current club: Shandong Luneng

Atletico Mineiro apps: 137

Tardelli

Like Rever, Diego Tardelli was unable to showcase his undoubted talent in European football during short spells with PSV Eindhoven, Real Betis and Anzhi Makhachkala, but he became one of the most feared forwards in Brazil during his time at Atletico.

Over two spells with the club, Tardelli netted 55 goals and his form in 2013 earned a long overdue recall to the international setup with Brazil. A couple of years after winning the Copa Libertadores, Tardelli became one of a number of Brazilians to make the move to China, joining Shandong Luneng.

Striker: Jo

Age: 29

Current club: Jiangsu Suning

Atletico Mineiro apps: 98

Jo

Another player who joined Atletico Mineiro with a point to prove after struggling in Europe with Manchester City, Everton, and Galatasaray, Jo was included in Brazil’s 2014 World Cup due to his impressive form for Atletico.

His time at Atletico was arguably the most productive of his career to date as he made just short of a century of appearances, scoring 28 goals (including the opener in the final) and providing a further 18.

Following three successful seasons he joined Al Shabab in the United Arab Emirates before making the move to China to Jiangsu Suning where he counts Ramires and Alex Teixeira as teammates.

Substitute: Gilberto Silva

Age: 40

Current club: Retired

Atletico Mineiro apps: 78

Gilberto

Gilberto Silva’s career really took off during his first stint at Atletico Mineiro between 2000-02 as he established himself in Brazil’s midfield during their 2002 World Cup win, earning a move to Arsenal shortly afterwards.

After representing the Gunners, Panathinaikos and Gremio, Silva returned to the club where he made his name in 2013 making 16 appearances (mostly as a substitute) as they won the Copa Libertadores.

Shortly after their win he announced his retirement from the game.

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