Copa Libertadores

Copa Libertadores
Copa Libertadores de América
Copa Libertadores logo.png
The current Copa Santander Libertadores official logo, in use since 2008
Founded 1960
Region South America (CONMEBOL)
Number of teams 38
Current champions Brazil Santos
(3rd title)
Most successful club Argentina Independiente
(7 titles)
Television broadcasters List of broadcasters
Website Official website
2012 Copa Libertadores

The Copa Santander Libertadores de América (English: Santander Liberators of America Cup; Portuguese: Copa Santander Libertadores da América), known simply as the Copa Libertadores and originally known as the Copa Campeones de América (English: Champions of America Cup; Portuguese: Copa Campeões da América), is an annual international club football competition organized by CONMEBOL since 1960.[1][2] It is the most prestigious club competition in South American football and one of the most watched events in the world, broadcast in 135 nations worldwide.[3] The tournament is named in honor of the Libertadores (Portuguese and Spanish for Liberators), the main leaders of the South American wars of independence.[4]

The competition has had several different formats over its lifetime. Initially, only the champions of the South American leagues participated. In 1966, the runners-up of the South American leagues began to join; in 1998, Mexican teams were invited to compete. Today at least three clubs per country compete in the tournament, while Argentina and Brazil each have five clubs participating. Traditionally, a group stage has always been used but the amount of teams per group has varied several times.[4][5]

The tournament consists of six stages. In the present format, it begins in early February with the first stage. The six surviving teams from the first stage join 26 teams in the second stage, in which there are eight groups consisting of four teams each. The eight group winners and eight runners-up enter the final four stages, better known as the knockout stages, which ends with the finals anywhere between June and August. The winner of the Copa Libertadores becomes eligible to play in two extra tournaments: the FIFA Club World Cup and the Recopa Sudamericana.[6]

The reigning champion of the competition is Brazilian club Santos.[7] Argentine club Independiente is the most successful club in the cup history, having won the tournament seven times. Argentine clubs have accumulated the most amount of victories with 22 wins while Brazil has the largest number of different winning teams, with a total of eight clubs having won the title. The cup has been won by 22 different clubs and won consecutively by six clubs, most recently by Boca Juniors in 2001.[8]



Buenos Aires was the birthplace of the tournament.

The clashes for the Copa Río de La Plata between the champions of Argentina and Uruguay kindled the idea of a continental competition in the 1930s.[4] In 1948, the South American Championship of Champions (Spanish: Campeonato Sudamericano de Campeones), the most direct precursor to the Copa Libertadores, was played and organized by Chilean club Colo-Colo after years of planning and organization.[4] Held in Santiago, it brought together the champions of each nation's top national leagues.[4] The tournament was won by Vasco da Gama of Brazil.[4][9][10]

However, it was not until 1958 when the basis and format of the competition was created, thanks to the efforts of Peñarol's board leaders. On March 5, 1959, at the 24th South American Congress held in Buenos Aires, the competition was approved by the International Affairs Committee. In 1966, it was named in honor of the heroes of South American liberation, such as José Gervasio Artigas, Bernardo O'Higgins, José de San Martín, Pedro I, and Simón Bolívar, among others.[4]

Beginnings: 1960–1969

Pelé led Santos to win two titles.

The first edition of the Copa Libertadores took place during in 1960. Seven teams participated: Bahia of Brazil, Jorge Wilstermann of Bolivia, Millonarios of Colombia, Olimpia of Paraguay, Peñarol of Uruguay, San Lorenzo of Argentina and Universidad de Chile. The first Copa Libertadores match took place on April 19, 1960. It was won by Peñarol, who defeated Jorge Wilstermann 7–1. The first goal in Copa Libertadores history was scored by Carlos Borges of Peñarol. The Uruguayans won the first ever edition defeating Olimpia in the finals and successfully defended the title in 1961.[11] It proved to be historic justice for many (even today) due to Peñarol's great contributions to the creation of the tournament,[12] but the Copa Libertadores did not receive international attention until its third edition, which was swept through the sublime football of a Santos team led by Pelé, considered by some the best club team of all times.[13] Os Santásticos, also known as O Balé Branco (or white ballet), which dazzled the world during that time, won the title of 1962 defeating the defending champion Peñarol in the finals.[14] A year later, O Rei and his compatriot Coutinho demonstrated their skills again in the form of tricks, dribbles, backheels, and goals including two in the second leg of the final at La Bombonera, to subdue Boca Juniors 2–1 and keep the trophy again.[14][15]

Peñarol winning the Copa Libertadores 1966

Argentine football finally inscribed their name on the winner's list in 1964 when Independiente became the champion after disposing of the powerful title holders Santos and Uruguayan side Nacional in the finals.[16][17] Independiente successfully defend the title in 1965;[17] Peñarol would defeat River Plate in a playoff to win their third title,[11] and Racing would go on to claim the spoils in 1967.[18] The next biggest highlight of the competition, after Pele's Santos, did not happen until 1968 with the introduction of Estudiantes de La Plata.[19]

A formation of the Estudiantes de La Plata team that won the title in 1968, 1969 and 1970.

Estudiantes de La Plata, a modest neighborhood club and a denominated minor team in Argentina, had a style that prioritized athletic preparation and achieving results at all costs.[20][21][22][23] Led by coach Osvaldo Zubeldía and a team built around figures such as Carlos Bilardo, Oscar Malbernat and Juan Ramón Verón, went on to become the first ever tricampeon of the competition.[24][25][26][27] The pincharratas won their first title in 1968 by defeating Palmeiras. They successfully defended the title in 1969 and 1970 against Nacional and Peñarol, respectively.[28][29] Although Peñarol was the first club to win three titles, Estudiantes had done this feat consecutively.

Argentine decade: 1970–1979

Independiente won four consecutive titles in the 1970s.

The 1970s were dominated by Argentine clubs, with the exception of three editions. In a rematch of the 1969 finals, Nacional emerged as the champions of the 1971 tournament after overcoming an Estudiantes squad depleted of key players that helped lift it to its recent glory.[30] With two titles already in its showcase, Independiente created a winning mystique which was prolongated by Francisco Sa, José Omar Pastoriza, Ricardo Bochini and Daniel Bertoni: pillars of the titles of 1972, 1973, 1974, and 1975.[17] Their tetracampeonato has been a feat only achieved this once. Independiente's home stadium, La Doble Visera, became one of the most dreaded venues for visiting teams to play at.[31] The first of these titles came in the 1972 edition when Independiente faced off against Universitario de Deportes of Peru in the finals. Universitario became the first team from the Pacific coast to reach the finals after eliminating Uruguayan giants Peñarol and defending champion Nacional at the semifinal stage. The first leg in Lima ended on a 0-0 tie, while the second leg in Avellaneda finished 2-1 favoring the home team. Independiente successfully defended the title a year later against Colo-Colo after winning the playoff match 2-1. Los Diablos Rojos kept the trophy again in 1974 after defeating São Paulo 1-0 in a hard-fought playoff. In 1975, Unión Española also failed to dethroned the champion in the finals after losing the playoff 2-0.

The reign of Los Diablos Rojos finally ended in 1976 when they were defeated by fellow Argentine club River Plate in the second phase in a dramatic playoff for a place in the finals for their second time in history. However, in the finals River Plate themselves would be beaten by Cruzeiro of Brazil as the title returned to a Brazilian club after 13 years.[32]

The Boca Juniors team that won the bicampeonato of 1977 and 1978.

After having the trophy elude them in 1963 at the hands of Pelé's Santos, Boca Juniors finally managed to appear on the continental football map. Towards the end of the decade, the Xeneizes reached the finals on three consecutive years. The first was in 1977 in which Boca Juniors earned their first victory against defending champion Cruzeiro.[33] After both teams won their home legs 1–0, a playoff at a neutral venue was chosen to break the tie. The playoff match finished in a tense 0–0 tie and was defined in a penalty shootout. Boca Juniors won the trophy again in 1978 after thumping Deportivo Cali of Colombia 4–0 in the second leg of the finals.[34] In the following year, it looked as if Boca Juniors would also achieve a triple championship, only to have Olimpia end that dream after a highly volatile, second leg match in Buenos Aires.[35] Just like in 1963, Boca Juniors had to watch as the visiting team lifted the Copa Libertadores in their home ground and Olimpia became the first (and so far only) team from Paraguay to do so.

Pacific emergence and last Uruguayan triumphs: 1980–1989

a formation of the Nacional squad that won the 1980 Copa Libertadores.

Nine years after their first triumph, Nacional won their second cup in 1980 after overcoming Internacional. Despite Brazil's strong status as a football power in South America, 1981 marked only the fourth title for Brazilian clubs. Flamengo, led by stars such as Zico, Júnior, Carpegiani, Adílio, Cláudio Adão and Tita, sparkled as the Mengão's golden generation reached the pinnacle of their careers by beating Cobreloa of Chile.[36][37] After 16 years of near-continuous failures, Peñarol would go on to win the cup, for their fourth time, in 1982 after beating the 1981 finalists in consecutive series.[11] First, the Manyas disposed of defending champion Flamengo 1–0 in the last match of the second phase at Flamengo's home ground, the famed Estádio do Maracanã. Then in the final, they repeated the dosis on Cobreloa winning a decisive second leg match 1–0 in Santiago. Grêmio of Porto Alegre made history by defeating Peñarol to become the champion in 1983.[38] In 1984, Independiente won their seventh cup, a record that stands today, after defeating title holders Grêmio which included an incredible 1–0 win in the first away leg highlighting Jorge Burruchaga and a veteran Ricardo Bochini.[17]

The Independiente team that won a record-setting seventh title in 1984.

Another team rose from the Pacific as Cobreloa did. Colombian club América de Cali reached three consecutive finals in 1985, 1986 and 1987 but like Cobreloa they could not manage to win a single one. In 1985, Argentinos Juniors, a small club from the neighborhood of La Paternal in Buenos Aires, astonished South America as they eliminated title holders Independiente in La Doble Visera 2–1 during the last decisive match of the second round, for a place in the final. Argentinos Juniors went on to win an unprecedented title by beating America de Cali in the play-off match via a penalty shootout.[39] After the frustrations of 1966 and 1976, River Plate reached a third final in 1986 and were crowned Cup champion for the first time ever after winning both legs of the final series against America de Cali, 2-1 at the Estadio Pascual Guerrero and 1-0 at Estadio Monumental Antonio Vespucio Liberti.[40][41] Peñarol won the Cup again in 1987 after beating America de Cali 2–1 in the decisive playoff;[11] it proved to be their last hurrah in the international scene as Uruguayan football, in general, suffered a great decline at the end of the 1980s.[42] The Manyas fierce rivals, Nacional, also won one last cup in 1988 before falling from the continental limelight.

Estadio El Campín, venue of Atlético Nacional's first triumph in 1989.

It was not until 1989 before a Pacific team finally broke the dominance of the established, Atlantic powers. Atlético Nacional of Medellín won the final series becoming the first team from Colombia to win the tournament. In a tournament filled with controversial refereeing and circumstances, Atletico Nacional faced off against Olimpia losing the first leg in Asunción 2–0. Because Estadio Atanasio Girardot, their home stadium, did not have the minimum capacity CONMEBOL required to host a final, the second leg was played in Bogota's El Campín with the match ending 2–0 in favor of Atletico Nacional. Having tied the series, Atletico Nacional become that year's champion after winning a penalty shootout which needed to go into four rounds of sudden death.[43] Goalkeeper René Higuita cemented his legendary status with an outstanding performance as he stopped four of the nine Paraguayan kicks and scored one himself.[44] The 1989 edition also had another significant first: it was the first ever time that no club from Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil managed to reach the final. That trend would continue on until 1992.

Renaissance: 1990–1999

Colo-Colo, the winners of the 1991 edition

Having led Olimpia to the 1979 title as manager, Luis Cubilla returned to the club's bench in 1988. Around the legendary goalkeeper Ever Hugo Almeida, Gabriel González, Adriano Samaniego, and star Raul Vicente Amarilla, a rejuvenated decano boasted an extremely formidable side that promised a return to the glory days of the late 1970s. After coming up short in 1989 against Atlético Nacional, Olimpia reached the 1990 Copa Libertadores finals after defeating the defending champion in a climactic semifinal series decided on penalties. In the finals, Olimpia defeated Barcelona of Ecuador 3–1 in aggregate in a relatively comfortable victory to win their second title.[35] Olimpia will reach the 1991 Copa Libertadores finals afterwards, once again, defeating Atlético Nacional in the semifinals and face Colo-Colo. Led by Yugoslavian coach Mirko Jozić, the Chilean squad beat the defending champion 3–0, sparking an unforgettable party in the country that celebrated the conquest in the streets as well as ending Olimpia's second golden era.[45]

Cafu was an instrumental figure in São Paulo's triumphs in 1992 and 1993.

In 1992, São Paulo rose from being a mere great in Brazil to become an international powerhouse. The monumentally-recognized manager Telê Santana turned to the Paulistas's youth and instilled his style of quick, cheerful, and decisive football. Led by stars such as Zetti, Müller, Raí, Cafu, Palhinha, São Paulo beat Newell's Old Boys of Argentina to begin a dynasty.[46] In 1993 São Paulo successfully defended the title by thumping Universidad Católica of Chile in the finals.[47] The Brazilian side became the first club since Boca Juniors in 1978 to win 2 consecutive Copa Libertadores. Like Boca Juniors, however, they would reach another final in 1994 only to have the penalty shoot-out, the instrument of their first victory, come back to haunt them as they lost the title to Vélez Sársfield of Argentina.[48] Vélez Sársfield's consegration in the Copa Libertadores was considered an institutional victory and it was Carlos Bianchi, a former Vélez player, that built a squad capable of playing on an equal footing on any terrain against any team.

With a highly-compact tactical lineup and the goals of the formidable duo Jardel and Paulo Nunes, Grêmio won the coveted trophy again in 1995 after beating an Atlético Nacional led, once again, by the iconic figure of René Higuita.[49] Jardel became the top scorer in this edition with the high mark of 12 goals. The team coached by Luiz Felipe Scolari had some fundamental pillars as defender (and captain) Adilson and the skilful midfielder Arilson. In the 1996 edition, emerging figures such as Hernán Crespo, Marcelo Salas, Esteban Valencia, Sebastián Abreu, Edmundo, Enzo Francescoli and Leonardo Rodríguez helped River Plate secure its second title after defeating América de Cali in a rematch of the 1986 final.[50]

The 1999 trophy won by Palmeiras.

The Copa Libertadores stayed on Brazilian soil for the remaining of the 1990s as Cruzeiro, Vasco da Gama and Palmeiras won the spoils. The cup of 1997 clashed Cruzeiro and the Peruvian team Sporting Cristal. It was defined in the second leg of the final when Cruzeiro broke the deadlock with just under 15 minutes left in a match attended by over 106,000 spectators in the Mineirão.[32] Vasco da Gama defeated Barcelona SC with ease to enter in the gallery of champions in 1998. The decade ended on a high note when Palmeiras and Deportivo Cali, both runners-up in the competition before, bid to become winners for the first time and the trophy, in 1999, was decided in a dramatic back-and-forth match that went into penalties. Luiz Felipe Scolari managed to lead yet another club to victory as the Verdão won 4–3 in São Paulo.[51][52]

This decade proved to be a major turning point in the history of the competition as the Copa Libertadores went through a great deal of growth and change. Having been long overshadowed by Argentina's clubs, the Brazilians begin overshadowing their neighbors as they saw its clubs reach the final on eight of this decade's ten finals (and winning six).[53] From 1998 onwards, the Copa Libertadores was sponsored by Toyota and became known as the Copa Toyota Libertadores.[1] That same year, Mexican clubs, although affiliated to CONCACAF, started taking part in the competition thanks to quotas obtained from the Pre-Libertadores which pitted Mexican and Venezuelan clubs for two slots in the group stage.[5] The tournament was expanded to 36 teams and economic incentives were introduced by an agreement between CONMEBOL and Toyota Motor Corporation.[1] All the teams that advance to the second stage of the tournament received $25,000 for their participation.[54]

Decade of resurgences: 2000–2009

The Boca Juniors team that won the 2000 edition.

During the 2000 Copa Libertadores, Boca Juniors returned to the top of the continent and raised the Copa Libertadores again after 22 years. Masterfully directed by Carlos Bianchi, the Virrey, along with outstanding players like Mauricio Serna, Jorge Bermúdez, Óscar Córdoba, Juan Roman Riquelme, Martín Palermo, among others, revitalized the club to establish it among the world's best.[55] The Xeneizes started this legacy by defeating defending champion Palmeiras in the final series.[56] Boca Juniors won the 2001 edition after, once again, defeating Palmeiras in the semifinals and Cruz Azul in the final series to successfully defend the trophy.[8][57] Cruz Azul became the first ever Mexican club to reach the final after great performances against River Plate and an inspired Rosario Central.[58] Like their predecessors from the late 1970s however, Boca Juniors depleted of some of its figures would fall short of winning three titles in a row. As with Juan Carlos Lorenzo's men, the Bosteros became frustrated as they were eliminated by Olimpia, this time during the quarterfinals. Led by World Cup winner-turned manager Nery Pumpido, Olimpia would overcome Grêmio (after some controversy) and surprise finalists São Caetano.[35] Despite this triumph, Olimpia did not create the winning mystique of its past golden generations and went out of the 2003 edition, in the round of 16, after being routed by Grêmio 6–2, avenging their controversial loss from the year before.

The 2003 tournament became an exceptional show as many teams such as América de Cali, River Plate, Grêmio, Cobreloa, Racing, among others, brought their best sides in generations and unexpected teams such as Independiente Medellín and Paysandu became revelations in what was, arguably, the best Copa Libertadores in history.[59] The biggest news of the competition was previous champion Santos. Qualifying to the tournament as Brazilian champion, coached by Emerson Leão and containing marvelous figures such as Renato, Alex, Léo, Ricardo Oliveira, Diego, Robinho, and Elano, the Santásticos became a symbol of entertaining and cheerful football that resembled Pelé's generation of the 1960s. Boca Juniors once again found talent in their ranks to fill the gap left by the very successful group of 2000–2001 (with upcoming stars Rolando Schiavi, Roberto Abbondanzieri and Carlos Tévez). Boca Juniors and Santos would eventually meet in a rematch of the 1963 final; Boca avenged the 1963 defeat, at the hands O Rei and co., by defeating Santos in both legs of the finals.[60][61]

São Paulo became tri-campeão after defeating Atlético Paranaense in 2005.

Carlos Bianchi won the Cup a fourth time and became the most successful manager in the competition's history and Boca Juniors hailed themselves pentacampeones. Boca Juniors reached their fourth final in five tournaments in 2004 but they were beaten by surprise-outfit Once Caldas, ending Boca's dream generation.[60] Once Caldas, using a very conservative and defensive style of football, became the second ever Colombian side to win the competition after eliminating powerhouses such as Santos and São Paulo.

Ruing their semifinal exit in 2004, São Paulo made an outstanding comeback in 2005 to contest the final with Atlético Paranaense. This became the first ever Copa Libertadores finals to feature two teams from the same football association;[62] The Tricolor won their third crown after thrashing Atlético Paranaense in the final leg, making them South American champion.[63][64] The 2006 tournament was also an all-Brazilian final and featured the defending champion São Paulo against Internacional. Led by team captain Fernandão, the Colorados beat São Paulo 2–1 at Estádio do Morumbi and held the defending champions at a 2–2 draw at home in Porto Alegre as Internacional won their first ever title.[65][66] Internacional's arch-rivals, Grêmio, surprised many as they reached the final in 2007 with a relative young squad. However, it was not to be as Boca Juniors, reinforced by aging but still-capable players, came away with the trophy to win their sixth title in history at the hands of Juan Román Riquelme.[67][68]

The Estudiantes team that won the 2009 tournament.
Peñarol and Santos met again in the final after 49 years in the 2011 edition.

In 2008 the tournament stopped being sponsored by Toyota. Grupo Santander, one of the largest banks in the world, became the sponsor of the Copa Libertadores, thus, the name change to Copa Santander Libertadores.[1] In that season, LDU Quito became the first team from Ecuador to win the Copa Libertadores after defeating Fluminense 3–1 on penalties, with Jose Francisco Cevallos being a key player blocking three penalties in the final shootout in what is considered the best ever final series in the history of the competition.[69][70] It is also the final with the most goals in the history of the tournament. The biggest resurgence of the decade happened in the 50th edition of the Copa Libertadores and it was won by a former power that has reinvented itself. Estudiantes de La Plata, led by Juan Sebastián Verón, won their fourth title 39 long years after the successful generation of the 1960s (led by Juan Sebastián's father, Juan Ramón). The pincharatas brilliantly managed to emulate their predecessors by defeating Cruzeiro 2–1 on the return leg in Belo Horizonte.[53][71]


The Copa Libertadores logo is shown on the centre of the pitch before every game in the competition


As of 2009, most teams qualify to the Copa Libertadores by winning half-year tournaments called the Apertura and Clausura tournaments or by finishing among the top teams in their championship.[6] The countries that use this format are Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Paraguay and Venezuela.[6] Peru and Ecuador have developed new formats for qualification to the Copa Libertadores involving several stages.[6] Brazil is the only South American league to use a European league format instead of the Apertura and Clausura format.[6] However, one berth for the Copa Libertadores can be won by winning the Copa do Brasil.[6] Peru, Uruguay and Mexico used a second tournament to determine who qualifies to the Libertadores (the "Liguilla Pre-Libertadores" since 1992 to 1997, the "Liguilla Pre-Libertadores de América" since 1974 to 2009, and the InterLiga from 2004 to 2010, respectively).[6] Chile still uses a competition to determine a Copa Libertadores participant, the "Liguilla para Copa Libertadores". Argentina used an analogous method only once in 1992. Starting in 2011, the winner of the Copa Sudamericana will qualify directly to the following Copa Libertadores.[6][72]

The competitors of the 2011 edition will be distributed as follows:[6]

Unlike the nation containing the defending champion, the country of the Copa Sudamericana champion does not gain an extra berth to the tournament.

The 2007 Copa Libertadores Cup on display.


Unlike most other competitions around the world, the Copa Libertadores historically did not use extra time or away goals to decide a tie that was level on aggregate.[6] From 1960 to 1987, two-legged ties were decided on points (teams would be awarded 2 points for a win, 1 point for a draw and 0 points for a loss), without taking goal difference into consideration. If both teams were level on points after two legs, a third match would be played at a neutral site. Goal difference would only come into play if the third match was drawn. If the third match did not produce an immediate winner a penalty shootout was used to determine a winner.[6]

From 1988 onwards, two-legged ties were decided on points, followed by goal difference, with an immediate penalty shootout if the tie was level on aggregate after full time of the second leg.[6] Starting with the 2005 event, CONMEBOL began to use the away goals rule.[6] In 2008, the finals became an exception to the away goals rule and employed extra time.[6]


The current tournament features 38 clubs competing over a six to eight month period. There are three stages: the first stage, the second stage and the knockout stage.

The first stage pits a number of clubs, currently 12, in series of two-legged knockout ties.[6] The six survivors join 26 clubs in the second stage, in which they are divided into eight groups of four.[6] The teams in each group play in a double round-robin format, with each team playing home and away games against each team in their group.[6] The top two teams from each group are then drawn into the knockout stage, which consists of two-legged knockout ties.[6] From that point, the competition proceeds with two-legged knockout ties to quarterfinals, semifinals, and the finals.[6] Between 1960 and 1987 the previous winners did not enter the competition until the semifinal stage, making it much easier to retain the cup.[6]

Between 1960 and 2004, the winner of the tournament participated for the now-defunct Intercontinental Cup.[6] Since then, the winner plays in the FIFA-organized Club World Cup.[6] The winning team also qualifies to play in the Recopa Sudamericana, a two-legged final series against the winners of the Copa Sudamericana.[6]


Every winner of the Copa Libertadores is commemorated with a badge.

The tournament shares its name with the trophy, also called the Copa Libertadores or simply la Copa, which is awarded to the Copa Libertadores winner. It was designed by Italian designer Alberto de Gasperi, an immigrant of Peru, in Camusso Jewelry of Lima (owned by Gasperi) at the behest of CONMEBOL.[73] The top of the laurel is made of sterling silver, with the exception of the football player at the top (it is made of bronze with a silver coating).[74] The pedestal, which contains badges from every winner of the competition, is made of hardwood plywood. The badges provides the year of the edition, the full name of the winning club, the city that the club comes from and the nation. To the left of that information is the club logo. The current trophy is the third in the history of the competition; in 1970, Estudiantes's third victory in the tournament entitled them to keep the original trophy permanently. Independiente won the second trophy in 1974 after winning the competition for the third consecutive time.

Cultural impact

Since its creation, the Copa Libertadores has been part of the culture of South America.

The Copa Libertadores remains an important goal for South Americans, a golden paradigm to the players and teams of the continent. The folklore, fanfare, and organization of many competitions around the world owe its aspects to the Libertadores.

El Sueño Libertador

The Sueño Libertador is a promotional Spanish phrase used in the context of winning or attempting to win the Copa Libertadores.[75] Thus, when a team gets eliminated from the competition, it is said that the team has awakened from the liberator dream.[58] The project normally starts after the club win one's national league (which qualify their winner to compete in the following year's Copa Libertadores), and the clubs usually spend large sums of money to win the Copa Libertadores.

In 1998 for example, Vasco da Gama spent $10 million to win the competition, and in 1998, Palmeiras, managed by Luiz Felipe Scolari, brought Júnior Baiano among other players, and successfully won the 1999 Copa Libertadores. The tournament is highly regarded among its participants. In 2010, players from Chivas de Guadalajara stated that they would rather play the Copa Libertadores final rather than appear on a friendly against Spain, the reigning FIFA World Cup holders who are playing with their best side,[76] and dispute their own national league.[77] Players from Santos FC have stated, after their triumph in the 2010 Copa do Brasil, that they would rather stay in the club and participate in the 2011 Copa Libertadores, despite having multi-million dollar contracts lining up for them from clubs participating in the UEFA Champions League, such as Chelsea of England and Lyon of France.[78] Oscar Cordoba has stated that the Copa Libertadores was the most important trophy he attained (above the Argentine league, Intercontinental Cup, etc.) [79]

'La Copa se mira y no se toca'

Since its inception in 1960, the Copa Libertadores had predominantly been passed around clubs from nations with an Atlantic coast: Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay.[80] Olimpia Asunción of Paraguay became the first team outside of those nations to win the Copa Libertadores when they triumphed in 1979.[80]

The first club from a country with a Pacific coast to reach a final was Universitario of Lima, Peru, who lost in 1972 against Independiente of Argentina. The following year, Independiente defeated Colo-Colo of Chile, another Pacific team, creating the myth that the trophy would never go to the west, giving birth to the saying, "La Copa se mira y no se toca" (Spanish: The Cup is watched and not touched).[80] Atletico Nacional of Medellin, Colombia, won the Copa Libertadores in 1989, becoming the first nation with a Pacific coastline to win the tournament.

Other clubs from nations with Pacific coastlines to have won the competition are Colo-Colo in 1991, Once Caldas of Colombia in 2004, and LDU Quito of Ecuador in 2008.


Banco Santander is the primary sponsor of the Copa Libertadores.

Like many major football tournaments, the Copa Libertadores is sponsored by many corporations. However, the competition is currently primarily sponsored by Banco Santander, one of the largest banks in the world. The deal running for a period of 5 years began with the 2008 edition.[1] As the main sponsor of the tournament, the competition will carry the name of the bank. Thus, the competition is known officially as the '"Copa Santander Libertadores'". The first major sponsor was Toyota Motor Corporation who signed a 10 year contract with CONMEBOL in 1998.

However, the competition has had many secondary sponsors that invest in the tournament as well. Many of these sponsors are nationally based but have expanded to other nations. Nike supplies the official match ball, as they do for all other CONMEBOL competitions.[81] Konami's Pro Evolution Soccer is also a secondary sponsor as the official Copa Libertadores video game.[82][83] This is the first time that the competition is being featured on a video game.[84] Individual clubs may wear jerseys with advertising, even if such sponsors conflict with those of the Copa Libertadores.[6]

The tournament's current secondary sponsors are:


Pelé, widely regarded among football historians, former players and fans to be one of the best and most accomplished footballers in the game's history,[86][87][88][89][90][91][92][93][94][95] is the ambassador of the Copa Libertadores, having won it with Santos twice.[96] In 1999, he was voted as the Football Player of the Century by the IFFHS International Federation of Football History and Statistics. In the same year French weekly magazine France-Football consulted their former "Ballon D'Or" winners to elect the Football Player of the Century. Pelé came in first position.[97] In 1999 the International Olympic Committee named Pelé the "Athlete of the Century".[98] In his career he scored 760 official goals, 541 in league championships, making him the top scorer of all time. In total Pelé scored 1281 goals in 1363 games.[99] In his native Brazil, Pelé is hailed as a national hero. He is known for his accomplishments and contributions to the game of football.[100] He is also acknowledged for his vocal support of policies to improve the social conditions of the poor (when he scored his 1,000th goal he dedicated it to the poor children of Brazil).[101] During his career, he became known as "The King" (O Rei).[102]

Official anthem

The official anthem of the Copa Libertadores is a section of Ludwig van Beethoven's Symphony No. 9 in D minor, Op. 125 "Choral".[103] The famous choral finale is Beethoven's musical representation of Universal Brotherhood.[104] The piece is a non-literal adaptation of An die Freude (English: Ode to Joy) by Friedrich Schiller, who Beethoven admired.[105] The anthem's chorus is played before the beginning and the end of television broadcasts of the matches in the Copa Libertadores.[103] The piece is also played during the draw of teams at the beginning of each edition.[106] It is also played during the awarding ceremony.

Match ball

The Total 90 Omni CSF, the official match ball of the Copa Libertadores.

The current match ball for the Copa Libertadores is named the Total 90 Ascente Libertadores, manufactured by Nike,.[81][107] It is one of the many balls produced by the American sports equipment maker for CONMEBOL, replacing the Mercurial Veloci Hi-Vis in 2009.[108] The ball, approved by FIFA and weighting approximately 422 g, has a spherical shape that allows the ball to fly faster, farther, and more accurately.[81] According to Nike, the ball's geometric precision distributes pressure evenly across panels and around the ball. The compressed polyethylene layer stores energy from impact and releases it at launch, and the 6-wing carbon-latex air chamber improves acceleration.[81]

Another feature of the ball is its rubber layer; it was designed to allow a better response while retaining the impact energy and releases it in the coup.[81] Its support material of cross-linked nitrogen-expanded foam improves its retention and durability of its shape.[81] Polyester support fabric enhances structure and stability. The asymmetrical high-contrast graphic around the ball creates an optimal flicker as the ball rotates for a more powerful visual signal, allowing the player to more easily identify and track the ball.[81]

El Gráfico, a classic Argentine magazine, is one of the most important magazines that covers the Copa Libertadores.

Media coverage

The tournament attracts television audiences beyond South America.[3] The matches are broadcasted in over 135 countries, with commentaries in more than 30 languages, and it is often considered as one of the most watched sports events on TV;[3] Fox Sports en Latinoamérica, for example, reaches more than 25 million households in the American continent alone.[109] The 2009 edition saw over 1 billion television spectators in total tune in for the competition.[96] Torneos y Competencias is a secondary sponsor that sponsors the television broadcasts of the Copa Libertadores.[6]

Prize money

Clubs in the Copa Libertadores receive $25,000 for advancing into the second stage and $210,000 per home match in the group phase.[54] That amount is derived from television rights and stadium advertising.[54] The payment per home match increases to $295,000 in the round of 16.[6][54] The prize money then increases as each quarterfinalist gets $375,000, $525,000 for each semifinalist, $6255,000 for the runner-up, and $1,000,000 for the winner.[54]

The winner also receives $2 million from Banco Santander as a bonus.[54][110]

The top goalscorer of the tournament receives the Alberto Spencer Trophy and $30,000. The best player of the tournament receives the Premio Santander and $30,000.[111][112] The Fair Play Trophy, sponsored by Samsung, and $50,000 will be awareded for the first time in 2011 to the team with the best discipline in each edition.[113][114]

Records and statistics

A young man sitting down, wearing a striped shirt. Behind him, three men wearing the same shirt and dark shorts are partially visible
Alberto Spencer scored 54 goals, a record that still stands today.

Francisco Sá is the only player to have won six Copa Libertadores winners' medals.[115][116] The overall top goalscorer in Copa Libertadores history is the Ecuadorian Alberto Spencer, scorer of 54 goals. Fernando Morena is second with 39 goals.[117] Daniel Onega holds the record for the most goals scored in a single Copa Libertadores. All of his 17 goals were scored in the 1966 tournament. Paraguayan (Uruguayan-born) goalkeeper Ever Hugo Almeida is the player with most appearances in the competition, 113 matches (winning two finals), all of them in Club Olimpia.[117] Luis Cubilla, Nery Pumpido and José Omar Pastoriza are the only people to date to win the Copa Libertadores as both player and head coach. Cubilla won in 1960, 1961 and 1971 as a player and in 1979 and 1990 as head coach.[118] Pumpido won in 1986 as a player and in 2002 as head coach.[119] Pastoriza won in 1972 as a player and in 1984 as head coach.[120]

Carlos Bianchi is the only head coach to ever win four Copa Libertadores.[121] All Copa Libertadores winning head coaches were natives of the country they coached to victory except for Luis Cubilla, Mirko Jozić, Nery Pumpido and Edgardo Bauza.[122] Jozić has the distinction and honor of being the only non-South American coach to win the tournament.[122]

As of the end of the 2010 tournament, Nacional have played the most games and scored the most goals, playing 319 games and scoring 481 goals.[123]

See also


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Further reading

  • Goldblatt, David Goldblatt (2008). The Ball Is Round: A Global History of Soccer. Penguin Group. ISBN 1594482969. 
  • Jozsa, Frank (2009). Global Sports: Cultures, Markets and Organizations. World Scientific. ISBN 9812835695. 
  • Barraza, Jorge (1990) (in Spanish). Copa Libertadores de América, 30 años. Confederación Sudamericana de Fútbol. 
  • Napoleão, Antonio Carlos (1999) (in Portuguese). O Brasil na Taça Libertadores da América. Mauad Editora Ltda. ISBN 8574780014. 

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