A missed opportunity for Argentina? Perhaps. Under Alfio Basile, one or two of the domestic league’s more impressive performers have been given the chance to represent their country alongside their more well-known (or perhaps not, in the cases of the Juans; Román Riquelme and Sebastián Verón) Europe-based countrymen. Up front, though, it was only Basile’s former Boca protége Rodrigo Palacio who got the nod, in spite of perhaps more impressive – and certainly no less prolific – performances from Banfield’s Darío Cvitanich. Now, though, the top scorer of the Clausura is off to Europe – and he’s not only switching clubs, but has decided to represent a different national team as well,; that of his grandparents: Croatia.
Cvitanich moved from Banfield to legendary Amsterdam club Ajax earlier in the week, and on Friday met with officials from the Croatian football association, the HNS. There had been a few words about the possibility of his being called up for Euro 2008 after the side’s normal front man, (English) Arsenal’s Eduardo da Silva had his ankle broken in the Premier League earlier in the season, but these came to nothing. Cvitanich has now committed his international future to the country of his grandparents, though,
HNS President Vlatko Markovic announced: ‘Cvitanich has accepted our invitation to the national team enthusiastically. He’s a great player, was the top scorer in the Torneo Clausura, there’s no doubt as to his quality. He told me that it was the happiest day of his life. I’m sure that the technical team will be very pleased with his decision to play for Croatia.’
Cvitanich, for his part, put out a statement to the effect that he had been determined not to make the same mistake as another Argentine-Croat, Daniel Bilos. Bilos was called up by then Croatia boss Zlatko Kranjcar in 2005, and promised a starting place should the team qualify for the 2006 World Cup (they did). Instead, though, he opted to represent Argentina, and ended up getting just three international caps in a national side which (with no disrespect whatsoever intended to Croatia) is somewhat more competitive when it comes to attacking roles.
One suspects, with the talk about Hernán Crespo’s long-term replacement and with only Fernando Cavenaghi really looking like a potentially promising young target man at the moment, Basile might have found room for Cvitanich in the team. His Croatian passport is likely to be finalised in the next two weeks, though, and so it is that the Argentine league can at least claim one thing on a par with its European peers in these days of football ruled by money: it’s played host to a future European international.