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Jan 31, 2013

Cross-continental champions

If you have any questions on football facts, statistics or trivia, please send them to ESPN's team of football anoraks at asknorman@hotmail.com and they will try to answer as many as possible.

I think this is a question you'll like. Besides Carlos Tevez, who has won different continental club competitions? Tevez won the Copa Libertadores with Boca Juniors and then the Champions League with Manchester United. Marcos Gonzalez asked.

I've come across six players who have won both the Copa Libertadores and the Champions League. All are South Americans, three from Brazil and three from Argentina. The first Argentine was Santiago Solari, who triumphed on his own continent with River Plate in 1996 and then in Europe with Real Madrid six years later. Then came Tevez, a Copa Libertadores winner in 2003 and a Champions League victor in 2008, while the most recent addition to the list is Walter Samuel, who won the Copa Libertadores with Boca Juniors in 2000 and the Champions League with Inter Milan a decade later.

Cafu, who tends to figure on several lists of the most decorated footballers, won the Copa Libertadores in successive seasons with Sao Paulo in 1992 and 1993 and, 14 years after the latter, won the Champions League with AC Milan in 2007. That was a team that also included Dida, who had won the Copa Libertadores with Cruzeiro in 1997. Perhaps the most surprising name on the list is that of Roque Junior, a Copa Libertadores winner with Palmeiras in 1999 and a Champions League winner alongside Dida four years later in the colours of AC Milan. All three, incidentally, are also World Cup winners with Brazil in 2002

Have a team ever played in a European competition but not played in their top flight? Alex Brennan asked

There are plenty of clubs who have played in Europe while in the lower leagues. The most successful - detailed in a previous column here - were Cardiff, who reached the semi-finals of the Cup Winners' Cup as a Division Two team.

But all those mentioned have played in their respective top divisions and Cardiff have had three spells in the old Division One. Wrexham never have got that far and they have had eight European campaigns, all in the Cup Winners' Cup as a result of winning the Welsh Cup, and reaching the quarter-finals in 1975-76.

Also Alex's question is phrased "in their top flight" so, on a technicality, as well as every Welsh club in the English league structure, we can include Monaco, who play in the French league rather than in their own country and have been regulars in European competition over the years, reaching the Champions League final in 2004 and the Cup Winners' Cup final 12 years earlier.

On the same grounds, we can also mention Derry FC, from a Northern Irish city but who play in the Republic's League of Ireland and have appeared in Europe as both Irish champions and Irish Cup winners.

There are two themes for Manchester United this season: making comebacks and missing penalties. So I would like to ask which club has had the most comeback games in a season and who is the best ever penalty taker? Khai Yang from Malaysia asked

At the moment, United have trailed in 11 Premier League games, coming back to win eight of those. The Premier League record is ten in a season, achieved by Sir Bobby Robson's Newcastle in 2001-02. They came from behind to beat Middlesbrough 4-1, Blackburn 2-1, Arsenal 3-1, Leeds 4-3 and 3-1, Tottenham 3-1, Bolton 3-2, Everton 6-2, Derby 3-2 and West Ham 3-1, with Alan Shearer scoring nine goals in those fightbacks.

In terms of penalties, the man who would get many votes as the best in England is Rickie Lambert, who has scored 31 out of 31 in his Southampton career. However, Lambert does have at least one miss to his name - for Bristol Rovers against Leicester in 2009 - leaving the mantle of perhaps the best ever in English football history to a former Saint. Matt Le Tissier scored 47 out of 48 penalties for Southampton, giving him a 98% success rate, with Nottingham Forest's Mark Crossley the only 'keeper to deny him.

Of those with fewer than 20 penalties to their name, by the way, Mario Balotelli has never missed (though there is YouTube footage of Joe Hart saving a spot kick from his Manchester City team-mate in training). Everton's Leighton Baines has a 100% record in the Premier League, though he has missed from 12 yards in the FA Cup.

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