On his way?

Bush isn\'t the only unpopular president in the Americas...

River Plate’s exit on Thursday night from the Copa Libertadores was so dramatic, even some of the opposition were left feeling a bit bad about it. Granted, Ramón Díaz isn’t exactly the world’s biggest River-hater, but after helping eliminate his former club, he made an apology of sorts. Another man saying sorry, meanwhile, might be rather more seriously damaged – José María Aguilar, criticised for just about everything he’s done as River president, is taking his share of the blame. He wasn’t expected to last beyond this year as club president anyway, so where this will leave him now is anyone’s guess.

Why the president? Why not the players or the manager? Well, the pressure’s been building on Aguilar almost ever since he won his second spell in the River presidency and their current four-year trophy drought began. Suddenly, the decision Aguilar took in 2002 to sack the manager who’d won more than any other in the club’s history didn’t look so smart. On Friday morning, it looked even stupider, because that manager was Ramón Díaz. Last August, River played a friendly tournament in South Korea which incensed then-manager Daniel Passarella who didn’t want to fly across the world and back immediately before the start of the Apertura. That didn’t reflect too well on the directors. Oh, and best not to mention the suspicions that Aguilar is more closely linked to senior members of Los Borrachos del Tablón than he’d like to publicly admit…

On Friday, though, in the immediate aftermath of his side’s ejection from yet another Copa Libertadores campaign, he wasn’t shirking his responsibilities. ‘Aguilar is responsible for everything because it’s Aguilar who was chosen [as president],’ he told the presenters of Vamos Con Niembro on Radio La Red, thus also raising the question as to whether a man who refers to himself in the third person should be allowed to run a club. After pointing out that River are still very much in the fight for the Clausura title, he proceeded to miss the point somewhat, continuing;

‘Responsibility always emerges from the top down, for which reason if there’s one person responsible for yesterday’s match it’s the club president. At least, that’s how I see it. And the authors of the victories have every right in the world to go and celebrate, and, if they want, to rub the noses of the defeated side in it as well. At the same time, those who are hurting from their team’s defeat can search amongst the authorities of the club to find those who’ve provoked that pain.’

Very well and good. But if the club was being well-run, they wouldn’t find anything at the top, and would instead be concentrating on the shortcomings of the manager and the players. He got his footballing analysis more or less right – the elimination, he explained, was down to a fifteen minute period in which River’s players simply lost their way, allowing San Lorenzo’s nine men to so spectacularly turn the tie on its head. And if the president was impeccably above any funny business or idiotic decisions, perhaps the press and fans would be focussing more on why their players didn’t maintain their concentration levels, and less on the idiot at the top who’s made so many of the bad decisions to prolong this trophy drought.

Aguilar declared that manager Diego Simeone will keep his job until ‘at least’ the end of his current contract, which runs until December. Whether the president himself will still be there by then, with River’s elections due later this year, is another matter entirely. On Wednesday evening as their team beat Barcelona 4-1 in the Bernabéu, Real Madrid’s fans chanted ‘Please stay, Laporta!’ to their great rivals’ president. At this moment in time, Boca Juniors’ supporters must be feeling similar sentiments…


5 thoughts on “On his way?

  1. That he celebrated Bergessio’s first goal, but that he knows that River’s fans know the feeling he has for the club, in short. He makes no secret of the fact he’d like to return to River one day when the circumstances are right (read: when Aguilar’s no longer in charge).

    D’Alessandro, for his part, said some things in the heat of the moment after the match along the lines that it was great to come back to the Monumental and win. He apologised for that on Friday and says on second thoughts, he could’ve been a bit more graceful…

  2. Aguilar has been a disaster for years. It astonishes me how they can sell on their players for the amounts of money that they sell them for and still are losing money. He’s a crook. There’s just no comparing the way that Boca and River are run from an institutional perspective. Its just such a shame.

  3. One problem is that River haven’t outright owned the contracts of a lot of players they’ve sold, so they don’t get the full transfer fee in the end.

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