Monday, January 28, 2008

Welcome back again, Juan Roman Riquelme

Boca Juniors beat River Plate 2-0 on Saturday night in the Torneo de Verano (it's a summer tournament somewhat akin to spring training), and offered some clear evidence of why they are one of the favorites to win the upcoming Clausura. After the jump, find out why I have a huge man crush on Juan Roman Riquelme.

Riquelme, of course, is the main reason for optimism in La Boca. After the horrible gag job that Ricardo La Volpe presided over in the 2006 Apertura, Boca Juniors were able to take the disgruntled Riquelme on loan from Villareal at the beginning of 2007. While they weren't able to win the league, Juan Roman was instrumental in Boca's victorious campaign in the Copa Libertadores. Boca again were flat in last fall's Apertura, as Riquelme was sent back to Villareal. But now that he has moved back to Buenos Aires for good, Boca should be contenders in every competition they enter this year. He appears determined to show his critics he is still world-class. Riquelme was launching some verbal volleys at River Plate prior to Saturdays game. Hell, he's even found his way back into a starring role for the national team, after retiring from international football because it made his mom cry.

In Saturday night's beat down of River, a mini-Superclasico, Riquelme was his usual commanding self, creating chances with precision passes (highlights here). The knock on him is that he isn't really suited for the modern game, because speed isn't one of his strengths. He likes to play a slower, more deliberate style, which doesn't always mesh with his teammates or managers. Certainly he would be terrible in the EPL, but why Villareal's braintrust - specifically Manuel Pellegrini - decided to not even let him train with the first team, much less see the pitch in La Liga, is a total mystery. Maybe its a Chilean-Argie thing, or maybe Pellegrini didn't like to take orders from Maradona. Its amazing how fast he fell out of favor at Villareal, considering he was instrumental in their magical run to the semifinals in the 2005-2006 Champions League.

As for the rest of Boca, Martin Palermo looks the same as ever, and he will definitely benefit from improved service. Nery Cardozo is still dangerous on the flanks, and he still rocks the nastiest rat tail I've ever seen. Boca overhauled their backline, which was a problem last year, and brought in a couple of Paraguayan center backs. The defense looked pretty solid against River. As for Los Millionarios, they were shitty, which is pretty much par for the course over the past few years. Ariel Ortega, who was warmly cheered on a freezing day at the Estadio Monumental when he returned to the club in August 2006, looks very old and probably doesn't have much in the tank. The one bright spot for River, and this is based solely on what I saw on FSC between pints of Guinness, is that they have a young winger who looks like the second coming of Cristiano Ronaldo. He made a couple of runs down the left side, and showed some nice stepover skillzz. Didn't score, though. Kind of like a 2004 vintage C Ron.

As the only UFer who follows Argentine football (I think), I intend to offer at least occasional updates when the Clausura kicks off next month. In the meantime, check out the new national team shirt. (NSFW)

Photo from CABJ official site.

1 comment:

ΓΌ75 said...

Whoa. Needs a NSFW tag. Not that I'm complaining.