Adios, Riquelme?

07May10

Sam Kelly’s got the goods on the enigmatic midfielders probable exit from Boca Juniors:

Monday, though, was the first time Riquelme has come right out and said he fears he’s on his way. If so, where might he go next?

The two most likely scenarios are that he’ll either return to his first club, Argentinos Juniors, or move to Brazil. Argentinos would be a fascinating destination, not least because with two matches left in the Torneo Clausura they’re still locked with South American champions Estudiantes de La Plata in an unexpected duel for the league championship. If Riquelme were to move to Argentinos, whether or not they end up winning the title, he’d be going to a club where he’d be guaranteed a hero’s welcome, as a prodigal son, with an excellent chance of competing in next year’s Copa.

Riquelme, at his best, is probably the best passer of the ball in the world. He’s more influential than even the men who essentially replaced him at Barcelona, Xavi and Deco.

The Argentinian never really settled in Europe. He was not popular Barcelona, and this eventually led to a transfer to mid-table Villarreal. All he did there was guide the side into top four contention, and make a miraculous run to the Champions’ league quarter-finals. After guaranteeing success against Arsenal, late in the match, a penalty was awarded to Villarreal. Riquelme stepped up and delivered straight to the palm of Arsenal goalkeeper Jens Lehmann. He had blown it, and the following year, he was axed from the squad all together, after a feud with current Real Madrid manager, Manuel Pelligrini. After returning to Boca Juniors, his club before Barcelona came calling, he resigned from the national team after Diego Maradona was appointed manager.

I’ve never really been able to tell if Riquelme was noble or petulant. I related to him because I was often at odds with team spirit, fellow athletes, and coaches myself. Some of that I realize was wrong now, but it hasn’t changed my views of Riquelme. It looks like he won’t be on the world stage for much longer, and this fact is a sad confirmation of me getting older. I’ll really miss this generation of players.

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