Oscar Ahumada made a bit of a stir during River’s successful Clausura campaign, criticising the club’s fans in the aftermath of the superclásico defeat in La Bombonera before going on to be one of the team’s best players in the subsequent matches, superb in particular against championship competitors Estudiantes. Today, though, as new River striker Robert Flores joins from the club’s Uruguayan namesake, Ahumada looks like he’s got more than one foot out of the door at the Monumental…
Flores has signed for River from, um, River, after impressing during the Uruguayan Clausura just gone, which his club led for a good deal of the time and during which, at one point, it looked like they were going to break a decades-old league goalscoring record held by Peñarol and eventually finishing on 48 goals from 15 matches, topping the Clausura table. The 23-year-old has made all the right noises on arriving in Núñez, declaring that ‘I’d love to be one quarter of what Enzo [Francescoli] was.’ River’s fans would love that, too.
Relations between player and club have become so bad that they’re reduced to communicating by mail, despite the fact that Ahumada lives only just over a mile away from the Monumental. On the 30th June, Ahumada’s contract with River ran out and the player has refused to sign the three-year extension offered to him by the club, resulting in his becoming a free agent.
River seem to be refusing to recognise this last fact, and have written to the player requesting an explanation for why he didn’t turn up for training on either Monday or Tuesday of this week. It would seem that Ahumada reckons that by turning up to train, he’d be implicitly accepting the contract he doesn’t want to sign with the club. In his previous contract, signed by Domingo Díaz and Mario Israel on behalf of River, by Ahumada himself and by his agent, Néstor Sívori, there was a clause which acted as a pre-contract to the extension River now want him to sign (I really hope I’m reading this correctly…).
Pre-contracts, of course, aren’t normally considered binding either by law or by FIFA, and thus today the player denied the clause’s legitimacy, despite some very tasty financial terms being offered – on top of his AR$7,000 monthly salary, the club were offering to increase his annual bonus from US$308,000 to US$500,00. Instead, he requested a bonus of US$800,000 along with an ‘allowance’ of close to US$1 million as recompense for previous bonuses which, rather than being paid to him in cash, had been issued in the form of 10% of his own transfer fee in the event of a sale which now won’t take place. One of River’s star midfielders looks like he’s very much on his way.
Colón striker Martín Bravo is in an almost identical situation, having not trained with the squad this week after declaring himself a free agent under very similar circumstances. The forward, scorer of nine goals during the Clausura, was, like Ahumada, subject to a ‘unilateral extension’ from his club. If too many Argentine clubs are going to use this tactic to keep hold of players, the financial problems with football in the country are only going to exacerbate as clubs miss out on transfer fees. Both Ahumada’s and Bravo’s agents are looking for moves to Europe – if their players join a club outside Argentina, FIFA regulations won’t permit River or Colón to be compensated at all.