The final of the Copa Libertadores, the most important title of South American football, will feature, next Saturday, for the first time in history with a protagonist born in Spain: Pablo Marí (Almusafes, Valencia, 1993), who since June defends the shirt of the Flamengo . In the past, two Spanish nationalized soccer players, Marcos Senna and Raúl Amarilla, had already been participants in this event.
"Being the first Spaniard to play that final and to have the opportunity to win it is something very beautiful," says the Valencian in a telephone conversation with this newspaper, and continues: " I have a great illusion to play the game . Everything that is happening to me is very big. For the first time with a one-game final (9:00 pm), the last obstacle of Flamengo will be River Plate, champion of the last edition after the rugged second leg, which was played at the Santiago Bernabéu.
Marí's Brazilian adventure, raised in the Valencia quarry, began in June of this year. Flamengo paid a little more than one million euros to Manchester City , holder of their rights despite not having debuted with citizens. Last year he played as a loan at Deportivo de La Coruña, in the Second Division. «We were valuing some team from LaLiga and some other from England when the Flamengo opportunity came. We quickly decided that it was a very good project and the agreement was closed in just two days, ”says the central. When he arrived, the Brazilian club faced the first of the qualifiers of the Copa Libertadores, in which he beat the Ecuadorian Emelec in the round of 16. After remaining on the bench in the defeat of the first leg, he made his debut in the second leg, where the agonizing penalty classification was achieved.
"The league title is also close to us"
In addition, the Copa Libertadores is not the only title to which Marí aspires in his first months in South America, since the Brazilian championship, in the absence of seven days for its conclusion, is very channeled for Flamengo, which has eight points of advantage over his immediate pursuer, Palmeiras : «The league title is also close to us. What I am doing here is something very big. I hope I can go home in a couple of months with two titles under my arm.
By the end of next Saturday, the club has decided to place giant screens in Maracaná so that their fans live the event live. That stadium, where Flamengo plays its home games, brings together one of the most unlikely environments in world football. "It's a pass," he says. «Fans don't stop cheering, it's deafening. For the rival to go to our house is very very complicated; the environment is very intimidating, ”says the central, partner of other former LaLiga players such as Filipe Luis, Diego Ribas or Diego Alves.
In the town square, Almusafes, a town of just 9,000 inhabitants, began its relationship with the ball. His father decided, with nine years, to point him to the tests of the quarry of Valencia, where he was selected. Then, he went through Levante, Mallorca, Nàstic de Tarragona, Manchester City, Girona, Deportivo ... and Flamengo. There, more than 10,000 kilometers from home, Marí is one step away from becoming the first Spaniard to win the Copa Libertadores.
THIS WEEK IS TALKING ABOUT ...
The most important football title in South America is played, for the first time in a single game, next Saturday, at 9:00 p.m. (Spanish time) at the Monumental U Stadium in Lima (Peru). It is disputed by River Plate, current champion, and Flamengo.
CHANGE OF HEADQUARTERS
In principle, the match between Argentines and Brazilians was scheduled in Santiago, Chile, but the political climate and the situation in the streets of the capital forced CONMEBOL to modify the place of the final on November 5.
River Plate pursues its fifth Copa Libertadores after winning the 2018 in Madrid to Boca Juniors, who eliminated this course in the semifinals. That would match him with Peñarol, from Uruguay. Flamengo, meanwhile, seeks his second title 38 years after the first.
Because of his recent experience in this type of matches, the River Plate of Muñeco Gallardo might seem favorite. However, in the bookmakers the favorite is Flamengo, whose victory is paid much less than that of the Argentines.
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