The Copa Libertardores is a tournament you might not know much about, but in South America it's seriously big news. The equivalent of the Champions League, the tournament sees the finest club teams from across the continent battling it out for the top prize. Two of Uruguay's top teams are still going strong in this year's competition, and we've been lucky to speak to two of the finest players the country has ever produced who are playing for these teams at the moment. Alvaro Recoba of Nacional and Toni Pacheco of Peñarol are both legends of the game in Uruguay, have played in Italy for Internazionale, and are now back playing at the top level for two of their country's fiercest rivals.
Tonight, Nacional face Boca Juniors in a crucial Copa Libertadores game, so we thought it was an ideal time to speak to speak to 'El Chino' Recoba (pictured above left with his Nacional team mates) about the tournament and why it's so important to the fans. Here's what he had to say...
How are you enjoying being part of this year's Copa Libertadores with Nacional?
'I enjoy every game I play in, and even more so playing for one of the biggest teams in the continent and the world.'
Playing for a Uruguayan club in the Libertadores must be a proud moment?
'It really is an honour to play in the cup with a team of my country, and more so with a wonderful group of people.'
You returned to Nacional in 2011 - how did it feel to return to one of your first clubs, and to win the league in 2012?
'The truth is that I have no words to describe everything that it gives people.'
Some people here in Europe might not have heard of the Copa Libertadores, how would you describe it?
'It's like playing in the Champions League or Uefa Cup, but people do react to it differently. The games are played and lived with a different passion.'
Nacional have started well in this year's tournament (they are currently top of their group), how far do you think you can progress?
'It is like a rare drink, it is best to go step by step and see how it is progresses and how things are going.'
Who would you say are the favorites for this year's tournament?
'I would say that my candidates are Velez, San Pablo and Corinthians, and we have surprised people from the beginning of the tournament. Nobody put us in the conversation.'
You've spent time playing in Europe, how would you say the atmospheres compares between there and South America?
'We all live football, but in South America the passion is more intense, and we talk football all day! In Europe, if there's not a key match or duel of giants, there's not as much excitement.'
What about the derby games between Nacional and Penarol, what's the atmosphere like at those games?
'There are no words to describe it! They
are different games, the week before the game is quite special, the preparation before is changed because it is a game where everyone wants to play, and then afterwards there is a great party!'
Would you like to see the two Uruguayan teams play each other in the Copa Libertadores?
'It would be indescribably fantastic!'
Thanks to Alvaro for taking the time to speak to us, and good luck to Nacional tonight for their game against Boca. Look out for our interview with Peñarol star Toni Pacheco around the date of their next Copa Libertadores fixture in April.