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Last Updated: Monday, 7 August 2006, 08:53 GMT 09:53 UK
Tim Vickery column
By Tim Vickery
South American football reporter

AC Milan's Brazilian midfielder Kaka
Kaka was produced for export to the European market

For the second year running the Copa Libertadores final is an all-Brazilian affair.

That is something that would not have happened in the first 40 years of South America's Champions League.

Nations were initially limited to one entrant, and then the draw was arranged to ensure domestic rivals met in the knock-out stages.

At the start of the decade, expansion to 32 teams made a one-nation final a possibility.

It is no coincidence that two Brazilian teams meet in the final for the second successive season, and the two-year long monopoly clearly indicates that Brazilian sides are currently the strongest in South America.

As so often in football, part of the explanation can be found in economics.

The South American game has become accustomed to losing its talent at an ever younger age to those who can pay more, mainly in Europe but also in Asia and even Mexico.

It gives the impression that South American club football consists of three types of players; youngsters on their way to Europe, veterans who have come back from Europe, and a group in the middle who have not been considered good enough to receive the call.

Sao Paulo have even made a point of grooming players specifically for the European market

Tim Vickery

Brazil's sheer size means that it can protect itself from this trend better than its continental rivals. It produces more players and can therefore count on more strength in depth. As one star is sold, another appears.

But it also seems clear that the most successful South American clubs are those which have best adapted to the reality of European domination.

Argentina's River Plate failed in their quest to win this year's Libertadores, crashing out in the quarter finals.

Club president Jose Maria Aguilar confessed that one of their "fundamental errors" was that the club had not recently produced "one of the big figures that we usually sell, which then gives us the resources to fund our structure."

This is a lesson that Sao Paulo and Internacional, this year's Libertadores finalists, have learned.

Inter, from Porto Alegre, produced and sold Fabio Rochemback, Daniel Carvalho and Nilmar to Europe. Perky striker Rafael Sobis will surely be the next in line.

The sales finance further youth development work plus the maintenance of a relatively strong playing staff.

Sao Paulo have even made a point of grooming players specifically for the European market.

Kaka and Julio Baptista are big, physically strong figures who quickly enjoyed more success across the Atlantic than they had tasted at home.

With the revenue from these and other sales the club can boast an excellent training ground, highly regarded medical facilities and a gutsy and experienced team which is back in the final of the Libertadores trying to retain the title they won a year ago.

Liverpool fans will remember that Sao Paulo also went on to lift the Club World crown. It is a triumph for sound administration - and for the recognition that in South America the sale of a star may be sad, but it need not be the end of a process.

If the money is used wisely then it can also be the start of something special.

  • Tim Vickery takes part in Up All Night's World Football phone-in every Saturday morning at 0230 BST on BBC Radio Five Live

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