Argentina’s two biggest clubs both suffered knock-backs on Thursday from living legends to their fans. José Manuel Llaneza, a Villarreal director, explained that Juan Román Riquelme still hadn’t come to an agreement with Boca Juniors about his transfer home from the Spanish club, where he fell out with manager Manuel Pellegrini around a year ago. Ramón Díaz’s rejection of River Plate is somewhat more surprising.
Díaz reportedly walked into training with his San Lorenzo players on Thursday – some of whom had been speaking in Wednesday’s papers about how much they were going to miss him – and announced, ‘We’re going to play in the Libertadores.’ Rafael Savino, announcing at a press conference later in the day that El Pelado would be staying put for another year, looked like the cat who’d got a very unexpected helping of cream.
Díaz explained that, ‘I have to thank the president and his whole board because I haven’t forgotten that a year ago, it was this club that opened their doors to me, after four years [of living outside Argentina, after leaving the country for Oxford United].’ That faith in him had played a bit part, it seems, in Díaz’s decision to stay with San Lorenzo, in spite of River offering him a far better financial deal.
River president José María Aguilar has admitted in the wake of the announcement that the Núñez club don’t have a ‘Plan B’, and will now have to ‘take some time to reflect.’ It’s a good thing for them that they’ve got that time. Colón’s Leonardo Astrada, who began his managerial career with River a few years ago and was the man to give a first-team debut to Javier Mascherano (among others) is the name being most frequently bandied about now, but time will tell…