Innumerable Brazilians have played goodbye matches for clubs in their homeland before departing for Europe this northern-hemisphere winter. Last night it was the turn of Sandro.
The 21-year-old defensive midfielder’s last appearance for Internacional before joining Tottenham Hotspur was not, however, in an inconsequential match, but in the biggest one of his burgeoning career: the deciding leg of the Copa Libertadores final against Guadalajara. It ended in ecstasy for Sandro and his Colorado team-mates, who followed up a 2-1 victory in Mexico by beating Chivas 3-2 in Porto Alegre.
“It was the farewell of my dreams,” enthused the Internacional No8, who made his debut for the club in 2008 and became a first-team regular the following year. “I’ve always dreamt about this."
When the visitors took the lead just before half-time in a packed Estadio Beira-Rio, concern spread that a Brazilian club would lose the Libertadores final on home soil for the fourth year running, after Gremio, Fluminense and Cruzeiro were left shattered following seconds legs in front of their own fans.
“It was a difficult first half,” Sandro admitted. “But I knew that we’d emerge champions, because we always fight until the very end. Now we get to celebrate this title with our supporters. They have always been behind me and I’m really grateful. They deserve this title. I may be leaving but my heart will remain here.”
Proud Kleber given good for thought
While Sandro will now embark upon a new challenge in north London, the rest of the Inter squad will turn their attention to the Brasileirao – despite fielding a depleted side for much of this campaign they sit seventh, just two points behind third-placed Avai – and the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2010. And the Rio Grande do Sul giants hope qualification for December’s prestigious showpiece in Abu Dhabi will persuade inventive left-wingback Kleber, who is being coveted by clubs from Europe and the Arabian Peninsula, to stay at the Beira-Rio.
“If I leave I’ll leave happy, because I’ve won a title that I hadn’t before,” said the 29-year-old, capped 19 times by Brazil. “But if I stay here I’ll be even happier. I’m very proud to be here because my ambition is always to win new titles.”