Generations collide to give Palmeiras the title and what we learned in South America this week

They could be father and son, but the pair were crucial in a memorable title. Plus: Flying gas canisters, Milito on the ropes and the real 2016 Coach of the Year

There are no less than 23 years separating the brightest young talent of Palmeiras' first team from their elder statesman. But Gabriel Jesus and Ze Roberto teamed up to show Brazil and the world that age is just a number as they played a big part in the Verdao's first Serie A title since 1994. 

Jesus, 19, was just a glint in his parents' eyes for that last triumph, while the 42-year-old Ze Roberto was just starting out on a professional career that would take in spells at Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and Hamburg as well as a World Cup triumph with Brazil in 2002. And the celebrations were wild on Sunday as both players marked their maiden league title, as a 1-0 victory over tragic Copa Sudamericana finalists Chapecoense gave Palmeiras an unassailable seven-point lead at the summit with a game left to play. 

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The teenager's goals were of course vital to breaking that painful drought. Jesus, who in December will complete a move to Manchester City, netted 12 times over the course of the season and finished joint-third in the marksman standings, no mean feat considering his various international commitments - in a league that does not break for Selecao matches, Jesus featured in both the senior and Olympic teams in 2016 - caused him to miss almost a third of the season. 

While at the start of 2016 Santos starlet Gabriel Barbosa was the name on everybody's lips, his namesake has now taken the initiative while Gabigol struggles to settle in to life at Inter. He was moved to tears on the pitch on Sunday in a celebration that doubled up as a farewell to fans in Sao Paulo, while assuring that "this was not a goodbye, it was a 'see you later'". He may one day return to tread the Palestra pitch, but now a glittering future awaits him in the Premier League. 

Ze Roberto's journey, on the other hand, is reaching its final destination. The dynamic winger that lit up the Bundesliga has morphed in his fourth decade into a more cautious, less explosive left-back, who has contributed to the meanest defence in Serie A while providing no little danger pushing forward. And while he now has the honour of being the oldest player ever to lift the Brasileirao, he is by no means set on hanging up his boots. 

"I think footballers must live in the moment. This moment does not have to end and it is time to enjoy it," he told reporters after the triumph. "So I am going to enjoy it. I will have time to speak with my family, but after this wonderful afternoon I don't think it's the right time to end my career. It is time to celebrate and then I will decide."

Jesus is on his way across the Atlantic, while Ze Roberto might just carry on foraging down the left wing as he has done for more than two decades all around the world. But their status as Palmeiras idols is already assured after a memorable 2016. 


When Gabriel Milito took the reins at his boyhood idols Independiente earlier in 2016, it appeared to be a match made in heaven. Milito was the grizzled former Rojo, Barcelona and Argentina defender with a burgeoning reputation as one of the country's top young coaches, while the Avellaneda side had ambitions to break into the Primera Division elite after a slow recovery from shock relegation three years ago. 

Despite a positive start to the 2016-17 season and some encouraging passages of play, however, the dream is quickly turning sour for the coach. Just one win in their last six outings has sent Independiente tumbling down the league, and a punishing 3-0 defeat to bitter Avellaneda rivals Racing Club on Sunday leaves the club marooned in 15th place after 11 matches. 

The game typified everything that has gone wrong Milito took over in the hotseat. The Rojo dominated possession, but were imprecise and ponderous in their approach to goal and looked badly exposed against their opponent's smash and grab attacks channeled through Gustavo Bou and ex-Lyon star Lisandro Lopez, who netted twice to continue his fine record in Avellaneda derbies. 

Independiente directors chatted with Milito for over an hour in the Racing dressing rooms after the defeat, and despite rumours he would be resigning the ex-defender will stay in his post at least for another game. But defeat at the weekend at home to River Plate could well prove the final nail in the coffin for a man whose laudable playing style has been undone by the lack of quality shown by his charges. 


There is no doubt that 2016 has been a dark year for football in Uruguay. Crowd violence has repeatedly crippled the Primera Division, and it reared its ugly head again in an incredible incident that forced Sunday's showpiece derby between Penarol and Nacional to be abandoned. 

In the build-up to the clash in Montevideo's Estadio Centenario, a Penarol fan was filmed throwing a hefty gas canister off the top of the Amsterdam stand aiming at a group of riot police below. Thankfully serious injury or even worse was avoided, but it sparked pitched battles between the authorities and supporters that culminated in almost 200 arrests. 

Unsurprisingly given the circumstances the game did not go ahead, and Nacional will be awarded the points as their rivals continue their own Annus Horribilis. But the repeated episodes of criminal behaviour show no sign of going away, and if the epidemic is not stemmed it would be no shock to see mortalities in future encounters. 


In a just world, there would only be one possible candidate for the FIFA Coach of the Year award that is handed out alongside the Ballon d'Or. In a scandalous decision from the organisers Atletico Nacional boss Reinaldo Rueda did not even make the shortlist - but his achievements in 2016 far outweigh those of the likes of Zinedine Zidane, Diego Simeone and Claudio Ranieri. 

Under the former Ecuador coach's tutelage, Nacional have quite simply swept the board in terms of trophies. The Medellin side warmed up by taking the Superliga title, and went on to add the Copa Colombia and Copa Libertadores - the latter marking only the second in the club's history - while finishing first overall in the Finalizacion regular season. Sadly, their bid to win another continental title ended in the worst way possible when Copa Sudamericana final opponents Chapecoense were involved in a fatal plane crash that make the tournament irrelevant at this stage. 

Rueda has made history with Nacional, and will be rewarded at the end of the year with the chance to lift the Club World Cup against none other than Real Madrid. But there will be no individual honour for the coach, a decision that quite frankly is preposterous given the Verdolaga's impeccable campaign. 


Pint-sized Argentine fireball Diego Maradona is well known for showing his passion. Indeed, it sometimes appears to burst out of the 1986 World Cup winner, making for some unforgettable moments. 

With this in mind, it was to be expected that El Pibe de Oro took centre-stage during Argentina's historic Davis Cup triumph over Croatia to win the trophy for the first time in the nation's history. 

Among the highlights over three days of quality tennis was  Diego's expletive-filled invective against the non-sentient Hawk Eye machine when a decision went against his compatriot Federico Delbonis in the first match-up with Marin Cilic. The Croatia star was also the focus of the Maradona 'charm'; as Delbonis battled back from two sets down to force a fifth, the tennis player was told he was "s***ting himself!" 

"Wherever there is an Argentina shirt, I will be there," the legend told TyC Sports after a frantic final came to an end, and we hope to keep seeing his antics be it tennis, rugby, basketball or tiddlywinks titles on the line.