With a collective total of close to 200 international caps and glittering spells with Europe's top clubs behind them, a triumvirate of South America's top talents are back on home soil.

Argentinean headliners Cristian 'Kily' Gonzalez and Juan Sebastian Veron have returned to the teams at which they started out - Rosario Central and Estudiantes respectively - while Brazil's Ze Roberto, who made the 2006 FIFA World Cup's™ Mastercard All Star Team, has joined Santos. What all three have in common is that their clubs are currently reaping the rewards of making such high-profile acquisitions.

Point to prove
In Veron's case, upon the midfielder's return to his homeland, he made public his belief that he had a point to prove to the Argentinean public.

Having played a starring role in his nation's France 98 campaign, totting up an unsurpassed total of assists as he provided Gabriel Batistuta with the bullets to fire the Albiceleste into the quarter-finals, he was then cast as the villain four years later as they fell at the first hurdle. Veron had still hoped to make Jose Pekerman's squad for Germany 2006, but his pleas for a call-up fell on deaf ears.

When the former Internazionale midfielder elected to head home earlier this year, Argentina's dominant duo, Boca Juniors and River Plate, both had designs on contracting him. Instead, he chose to fulfil a promise by returning to Estudiantes, his boyhood idols whom he quit to join Boca in 1995.

Questionmarks were raised over whether La Brujita would be able to reproduce the form that had prompted Parma, Lazio, Manchester United and Chelsea to part with several millions to sign him, but they were swiftly answered. On his debut, Veron played a hand in the game's only goal as Los Pincharratas overcame Quilmes, and he has not looked back since, illuminating the Apertura and propelling Estudiantes into title contention.

His success owes much to the man in the Estudiantes hot-seat. Having previously cohabited the Argentinean midfield with Veron, Diego Simeone has utilized the playmaker's luxurious gifts to perfection, the 31-year-old's extrasensory vision and spectacular passing proving the undoing of several sides. If Veron continues in such a rich vein of form, the national team recall he desires may be within reach - and an Apertura winners' medal would certainly help his cause. 

Inspirational figure
Albeit not in as thrilling fashion as Veron, Kily Gonzalez has also retaken to Argentinean football with connsumate ease.

Immediately recognizeable as the player who combined a physical presence, tireless running and fierce shooting to patrol the left flank so proficiently for Real Zaragoza, Valencia and Internazionale, the Rosario Central fans have welcomed back their former idol with open arms.

In Round 3 of the Apertura, he earned - and duly converted - a penalty to grab Los Canallas a share of the spoils at Banfield, and his hearty displays were the catalyst behind his side's resurgence following a slow start.

A figure of inspiration to Rosario's emerging youngsters, Gonzalez has made a positive impact both on and off the field. 

Starring in Pele's shirt
If his arrival at Santos as a star of Germany 2006 was not pressure enough for Ze Roberto, then the burden of expectation increased as he inherited the hallowed number 10 jersey that once belonged to Pele.

Unperturbed, the 32-year-old has made a productive start at the core of Vanderlei Luxemburgo's system, his rare ability to function as both a stopper and a creator quickly endearing him to the Vila Belmiro faithful. Even in defeat, he acquitted himself well on his bow against Ponte Preta and in his third outing, a 3-0 win over Flamengo, the ex-Bayern Munich midfielder crowned a handsome performance with a stunning goal. The smile on the face of the spectating Pele said it all.

In Santos' next fixture, Ze Roberto turned in another man of the match display, which included a goal and an assist, to catapult the visitors to a 3-0 derby victory over Corinthians. With ten rounds remaining in the 2006 Brasileiro, second-placed Santos trail Sao Paulo by seven points, but with their inspirational new boy leading the charge, the pacesetters know that their route to gold will not be easy.

Yet, irrespective of whether Veron, Gonzalez and Ze Roberto accomplish their immediate goals, there can be no doubt that South America's two biggest championships have benefitted from the return of these star attractions.