The latest complicated chapter in the saga of Ariel Ortega’s turbulent time at River Plate has seemingly come to an end after the playmaker agreed to remain at the club for another year, until the end of his contract in June 2009. Many had thought El Burrito would be making his way to Estudiantes after his recent bust-up with Diego Simeone.
The decision was taken at the end of a twenty-minute meeting at the Monumental between Ortega and River president José María Aguilar on Friday. On his way out of the ground a happy Ortega told radio reporters, ‘I’m staying here.’ For his part, Aguilar later told Radio Del Plata’s Vamos Con Niembra; ‘I don’t know if there will be a three-party meeting [including manager Diego Simeone], the only definite is the 7th July, when the team return for pre-season training.’
Ortega’s increasingly frequent absences from River’s training sessions during the Clausura irritated Simeone, who dropped him from the squad for the side’s (meaningless) final match against Banfield just a week after the star had performed superbly against Olimpo to help his side to the title. Ortega had been unsure about continuing under Simeone, with many expecting him to join his good friend Juan Sebastián Verón at Simeone’s former club Estudiantes, but now he’ll be sticking around for another year. After that, who knows?
Some questions and a comment:
Are there any statistics on the number of footballers who end up needing serious addiction treatment like Ortega in Argentina and indeed the world? Not just with alcohol but with harder drugs. Obviously we know Maradona has had a damned hard time surviving it, but what about the mid-level guys etc…? I get the feeling it must be a huge problem but we only hear about the outstanding players being afflicted. Also, the cynic in me of course expects that clubs don’t really care about educating their budding stars in how to survive the negative aspects of their meteoric rise from the potrero to the big time. One would hope the kids trying to become the next maradona would be told what not to emulate from el Diego’s example.
Finally, several times over the sad saga of el Burrito’s run with River, I expected to hear the gravest possible news, that he driven into a ditch or some such tragedy. His story would make a great movie, but let’s hope it has a happy ending and not just a triumphant “sporting” end.
This is a time bomb waiting to go off… Aguilar is totally undermining Simeone on this one in my opinion.
It’s a tough one for Aguilar as it is for Simeone.
Aguilar is surely thrill to have Simeone as manager and he doesn’t want to go to the market to try and find another boss that will have plenty to prove and will need to adapt to River Plate.
Simeone can’t really stand in Ortega’s way and separate El Burrito from the squad or treat him roughly because he is THE supporters’ idol. He is untouchable for the fans.
It’s surely a very difficult situation for everyone involved. Even Ortega’s team-mates are somehow in the middle. They believe the work their arses off, then one of them (Ortega) comes to training (when he comes) in a disastrous state and yet he gets to play and he gets the complete recognition by the whole hinchada while they get the abuse when things don’t work out in the best possible way.
To let Ortega go, would have been a nail in Aguilar’s coffin and would have meant that Simeone’s margin of error would have been reduced to less than zero.
I guess, once the problem got to the media and the public opinion, Aguilar and Simeone had no choice but to swallow their prides, accept Ortega back and pretend nothing really happened.
Well, as a long-time Ortega fan, I have mixed feelings about the whole situation – at least, from what we’re given to understand about what’s going on; of course, we can only know what the press/media tells us.
It’s a really tough question, I think, if Ortega truly is acting such a renegade: missing practice, (sadly) drinking too much, and visibly chafing under Simeone’s bit. If a coach allows this sort of behavior to go on without consequence, it may result in lack of respect for the coach, resentment among the rest of the team, etc., not to mention possibly giving the offender the impression of “free rein,” when a f
irm stand instead would possibly give him incentive to get help and change his behavior.
BUT … but … assuming all this negative stuff is true, which we don’t really know it is, or to what degree it is, should arbitrary discipline outweigh the clear boost that Ortega on the pitch gives to River? Flagging performances by River noticeably energized when El Burrito, not having started, is brought in off the bench; whatever personal problems are troubling him, Ortega’s effect on the effectiveness of his club’s game is pretty hard to miss. Plus, he seems to work well with Buonanotte. Also, the fans love him. The fact that Simeone doesn’t start him stubbornly gives me the impression, notwithstanding disciplinary issues, of a personal dislike.
In any case, one would hope that the club is offering Ortega more than discipline, and trying to help him. It’s very sad to think that such a lively, skilled, influential footballer (ahem – though hardly ever the model of decorum) should continue on to a tragic end.
I think Carlos has a really good point. I bet that addictions and other psychological problems are more common with footballers than we will ever know. It makes sense, all the pressure, fame, money, etc., and so many of the players just kids, and from poorer backgrounds, too. “There are more things in heaven and earth … than are dreamt of … ” (to steal from Shakespeare) by football fans or even Goal.com – LOL – and, like the passengers on the Titanic, we only see the tip of the iceberg.
All the best to Ortega – I love to see him play!
“… gambeteando por aqui
gambeteando por alla
la cumbia del burrito
tienes que bailar …”
So sad. Ortega is one of the best footballers I’ve ever watched but he’s out of control. Might as well send him packing and try to build on the leftovers. At minimum, Simeone and Buonanotte return.
Ortega can return when River hits bottom next time. A trashy thought for a trashy situation. So sad.
Interesting information on Ortega’s demons I never knew. A lot of his erratic play and behaviour (and benchings) are now explained. I was thinking he might take the MLS route, but with this information no MLS team will touch him.
Nailed by Seba. Everyting said, Ortega, with enough rope, will eventually be the reason for his departure, or inability to play. As for players with emotional/drug problems, I don’t think they are much different from the general poulation. There’s lots of it everywhere.
I agree with lex – his performances on the pitch, in the last month of the Clausura especially, make this really not that complicated. He can still contribute, so of course he should stay. Does JRR attend every training session? If so, it doesn’t appear that he works very hard at them.
What is more complicated is Ortega’s long term health and what happens to him after football. But for now, he can still be an asset on the pitch. I think River’s rivals would like this to be a bigger problem than it really is. He will only be able to play another season or two anyway because of his age, so I don’t think it’s reasonable to assume there will be some disaster that ends his River career.
Your blog is very interesting. Congrats on a job well done and organized!
I was googling on River Plate chants and without even knowing I found out about last August’s incident involving Gonzalo Acro. Since my knowledge of Spanish is very limited, it was very helpful to read your posts regarding the matter.
Forgive me for asking something irrelevant to Ortega but do you know anything about Pellerano? Will he go to Almeria or Panathinaikos? Is he a good defender? And finally what does his nickname “Fofi” mean?
Thanks in advance! Greetings from Greece!