Thursday, October 9, 2008

Riquelme wearing out his welcome in BA?

Boca Juniors currently find themselves in an uncomfortable position, 6th in the Argentine Apertura, after a 2-1 loss to Estudiantes at La Bombonera on Sunday. Boca haven't won the title since the 2006 Clausura, and seem to have been cursed in the league ever since the Ricardo La Volpe-led choke job the following fall. The arrival of Juan Roman Riqeulme from Villareal in 2007, initially on loan, was supposed to herald a new age of dominance by Los Xeneixes, but despite winning the Copa Libertadores, they have been unable to recapture the league.

Not surprisingly, the knives are coming out. Riquelme's teammate, defender Julio Cesar Caceres, told a Paraguayan radio station this week that Riquelme wasn't giving 100% on the pitch. Of course, Riqeulme's lack of pace is legendary, and he was often accused of a similar lassiez faire attitude in Spain. But criticism from one of his own teammates at a club where he regarded as something of a god is surely a sign that he is beginning to lose it, right?

Perhaps, but as the incomparable HEGS notes, Caceres is from Paraguay, who are currently ahead of Argentina in qualifying:

In an international week, though, he didn’t miss the opportunity to turn the interview with Paraguay’s Radio Católica Cáritas into a tirade against certain aspects of the Argentine selección. [Deposed goalkeeper] Caranta met on Tuesday with Boca manager Carlos Ischia, but wasn’t entirely satisfied with the reasons Ischia gave him for his sidelining. Cáceres spoke about that situation but saved the main portion of his criticism for Boca captain Riquelme.

‘Riquelme when he plays for the Selección is more motivated than when he plays for Boca,’ Cáceres told the interviewer, making a statement plenty of Argentina fans would probably disagree quite strongly with given JRR’s performances for both his club and his country so far this year. ‘He could be tired or mentally “saturated”,’ the Paraguayan continued, not so much hitting the nail on the head as driving it home with a sledgehammer. ‘When you don’t have any motivation, you need to spend a bit of time on the sidelines.’ Cáceres compared Riquelme unfavourably with attacking partner Martín Palermo, a man who for all his successes with the club he’s supported all his life, remains hungry for more.

Palermo, who blew out his knee at the beginning of the season, is one reason for Boca's struggles, but the inconsistent results this season are more a result of a young squad coping with the usual summer exodus (and continued transfer rumors) of the more established players to Europe. Ischia's curious selection and tactics have also played a role (are you Juande Ramos in disguise?).

Anyways, according to HEGS, Riquelme fired back:

The response from Riquelme, who’s currently training separately from the rest of the Argentine squad in an effort to regain fitness due to a metatarsal problem, was scathing. ‘He’s left all his former clubs in the wrong manner,’ said Riquelme, whose exits from first Barcelona and Villarreal I must have dreamt. ‘The only thing [Cáceres] wants is to cause trouble. If he wanted to leave Boca, there was no need to pick on me.’ He’s certainly got a point there, and it might be added that if Cáceres didn’t want to leave Boca, he could equally have spoken out about any of Argentina’s other players from the squad this week. Where this is going we’ll find out…

Boca's president has also come to the defense of his embattled star, and Mr. Caceres might be looking for alternative employment come springtime. Meanwhile, Argentina plays archrival Uruguay in Buenos Aires on Sunday, while Paraguay travel to Colombia. Brazil, who are somehow still managed by Dunga, travel to Venezuela. Both of the South American heavyweights have dropped points in qualifying and will be looking to put in convincing perfomances this week.


The Soccer Source said...

any chance Riquelme will come to MLS????

The Fan's Attic said...

Riquelme left Spain because he was homesick...dude's never leaving Argentina.

Precious Roy said...

No. He's old (30) but not old enough. Wait 4 years, then he's primed for an MLS move.

Ian said...

I doubt it, because he can basically do whatever he wants and still be guaranteed selection for both Boca and the national team.

Howevah, the current most successful MLS import, Schelloto in Columbus, transfered in from Boca. There were also rumors that Palermo might come north, before he did his knee. But I've never heard anything about Riquelme.