Happy new year, everyone. The year may only be two days old, but already 2008 is well underway in the Argentine footballing world. One basic but important thing to mention first: new president Cristina Kirchner’s decision to bring a daylight savings system back to Argentina means the country is now only two hours behind Greenwich Mean Time, which will of course affect the international kickoff times when the season begins. Now, on to footballing matters, with both River Plate and Boca Juniors getting some serious transfer action done…
The revolving door at the Monumental will be spinning on Thursday when River Plate say goodbye to one star and welcome another player they hope will become one in the next few months. Fernando Belluschi will go to Olympiakos very shortly, for a fee of US$7.6 million, to try his luck in Europe for the first time. New manager Diego Simeone had wanted to keep him and build the side with him as a central piece, but the financial offer was too good for a club with River’s problems to ignore, evidently. In, however, comes Uruguayan striker Sebastián Abreu from Mexican side Tigres – as reported last week. No fee will be paid by River for that one, because Abreu owned his own registration and opted to terminate his contract with the Mexicans in order to move to Buenos Aires.
The giants on the other side of the city in La Boca will also be waving off one favourite whilst laying out the welcome mat. Boca Juniors are apparently set, out of the blue, to sign Lucas Castromán, snatching him from under the noses of English Premier League club Birmingham City. Birmingham had all but assured themselves of the former Vélez striker’s signature, but Boca came in at the last minute with an improved bid to loan the forward which his current club, América de México, preferred to the English side’s.
Ever Banega, meanwhile, is on the point of departing – as did his predecessor in the number five shirt, Fernando Gago – for Spain. Valencia, who’ve also been linked with ex-River man Lucho González in recent weeks, need drastically to bring in some decent midfielders, and have agreed a fee with Boca which the Xeneize‘s third vice-president José Beraldi claims is ‘more than US$20 million’. The 19-year-old cinco will fly out to Valencia immediately, after only 42 first-team matches for Boca, during which time he came second in last year’s Clausura and won the Copa Libertadores, as well as the Under 20 World Cup with Argentina in Canada.
“Yellow Card” for “Short Fuse”. Not a good swap for Boca.
Banega could do with another season or two in Argentina, and being thrown into the midfield at a struggling Valencia – in place of Albelda, of all people – may well be the worst thing that could happen to him. Or, it could be the making of him, I suppose. But I can see him drifting along the way Gago has, though I think hes a more rounded player. You’re not a fan of Gago, Sam (judging from the few references to him you’ve made), but do you rate Banega?
Great blog, by the way.
I agree, Banega could use some more experience, but I think his potential is such that alot of clubs didn’t want to wait. Enter Valencia. Having seen both Gago and Banega at Boca many times, I think Banega will end up as a better player. Certainly defensively, and maybe on the other end as well. He never became a threat for Boca like he was for the U21 team, but that might change. Gago just does not seem to have the confidence to penetrate, though he did have one very fine looking chica when he was in Buenos Aires.:)
David, personally I like Banega. I wasn’t taken by Gago’s style or by the hype that surrounded his performances, and wasn’t too surprised, when he was sold to Madrid a year ago, that a large section of the Argentine press reckoned Boca had played a blinder by keeping hold of Banega – who they claimed (and I’d agree) is a better player than Gago.
Having had the ‘good fortune’ to see Gago in the flesh for Real Madrid back in October (pictures on the HEGS Flickr pool, of course) I’ve got to say my thoughts on him weren’t reversed. Banega’s a more complete player, although – and I don’t think it’s only the River fan in me saying this, because he is after all now playing for Liverpool, and as a Manchester United fan it’s not nice giving them any credit – neither of them are going to have Javier Mascherano quaking in his boots regarding his place in the selección (and Esteban Cambiasso shouldn’t be too worried, either).
As for Johnny’s most recent comment, all Argentine players could do with a year or two more at home before moving to Europe. Sergio Romero was signed by AZ last summer having played one match in goal for Racing’s first team, at the age of eighteen – that’s a joke. Players like Lionel Messi, when they emerge, will be able to make the step up – but for those players who aren’t destined to go down as one of the game’s all-time greats, I do think it’d be wiser to do what the likes of Lucho González and, just this week, Fernando Belluschi have done when leaving River – leave the move to Europe until their early- (or in Belluschi’s case mid-) 20s, when their best years are still ahead of them but they’ve got that little bit more experience and confidence.
Having said that confidence doesn’t seem to be a personality trait Banega lacks (and I don’t mean that detrimentally), so as long as he doesn’t become infected by the void of it amongst his new team-mates, who knows? Time will tell.
I’m a (Dublin-born) United fan too, and I agree about Masche. Hes an awesome player and Liverpool should be doing everything they can to make sure they can keep him. Maybe they could sell that overrated England International they occasionally play in Central Midfield to fund it?
Personally though, none of these players begin to compare with Redondo, who both Gago and Banega have been compared to. But then not many No Fives do.