Veron answers critics with Copa Lib title

BUENOS AIRES - Juan Sebastian Veron was lauded as his club's outstanding player of all time after leading modest Estudiantes to Libertadores Cup victory. "Veron is the outstanding player of Estudiantes since the club was created," said coach Alex Sabella after the playmaker's role in the 2-1 win over Brazil's Cruzeiro on Wednesday. The victory in Belo Horizonte gave the Argentine club their fourth title and the first since their 1968-70 treble when Veron's father Juan Ramon was their main inspiration. "This title is for everyone, for the fans, for the people that love me and those that don't," said Veron, who was widely blamed for Argentina's shock first-round exit at the 2002 World Cup. When Veron returned to South America from Europe in 2006, he said: "I want to help the team win another international trophy" but the statement was taken largely as wishful thinking by a man no-one expected to see back in an Argentina shirt. Veron immediately led Estudiantes to a league title in December 2006 under his former Argentina team mate Diego Simeone and returned to the national side at the 2007 Copa America. Estudiantes will go to Abu Dhabi in December looking to win the Club World Cup where Barcelona will be favourites. PEAK PERFORMANCE Manchester United manager Alex Ferguson signed Veron from Lazio in 2001 in a then-record transfer to an English club with the chief goal of winning another Champions League after his 1999 success. They fell short at the semi-final stage and, with the World Cup failure a couple of months later, Veron's career looked on the wane after a UEFA Cup victory with Parma in 1999 and the Serie A title with Lazio under Sven-Goran Eriksson in 2000. Last year's vote as South American Footballer of the Year confirmed that Veron, now 34, was not done. Estudiantes, a team that started the tournament as also-rans under a different coach, were carefully steered towards peak performance by the astute, low-key management of Sabella, once of Sheffield United and Leeds United. He drafted in central defender Rolando Schiavi, a Libertadores Cup winner with Boca Juniors in 2003, for the last rounds of the tournament and backed striker Mauro Boselli, a Boca reject in 2008, who headed the winner from Veron's corner for a tournament-topping tally of eight goals. The 36-year-old Schiavi joined on loan from Newell's Old Boys at the semi-final stage to cover for a spate of injuries to Sabella's defenders.