HEGS is back, but it feels, I must say, a bit like I hadn’t really been away. When I left for Havana, Sergio Batista had named Lionel Messi in the squad for the Olympic Football Tournament, and Barcelona president Joan Laporta was making some decidedly ‘we’ll have to see about that’-type noises. The novel seems to have continued whilst I’ve been away, and on my return the main headlines are that Messi will make a statement himself regarding the decision tomorrow (Wednesday). Messi’s not yet linked up with the national side, who completed their pre-Olympic warmup on Tuesday with a win over Japan’s Under 23s. The Primera B Metropolitano (that’s the third division) began this week; the full fixture list for the new season is right here on AFA.org.ar. Otherwise, the major stories are in the transfer market: Ariel Ortega might be off to the Middle East, or on the other he might not be, whilst Jesús Dátolo, who’s admired from afar by clubs in Brazil and England, looks like staying at Boca for the moment.
Messi himself has remained quiet over his wishes, presumably not wanting to upset either his country or his employers, and this stance has earned him criticism from some, not least Diego Maradona. His father Jorge, though, says that La Pulga will give a press conference on Wednesday to tell the world’s press what his decision is, and on the same day the world governing body FIFA will give their verdict on the case. With the Olympics being a recognised FIFA tournament, the Under-23 aged participants must be released by their clubs if they accept the call-up, and Batista has given Messi until Friday to join up with the team, whose first match will be against the Ivory Coast on Thursday next week. In the meantime, Messi’s been keeping in good practice all the same, having scored a hat-trick against Dundee United on Barcelona’s mini-tour of Scotland on Saturday. The eagle-eyed watching that video clip will also not fail to notice he appears to have been handed the number 10 shirt for pre-season at least…
Both Olympic sides (male and female) have been completing their warmup programmes for the games, meanwhile. The boys beat Japan 1-0 in a match that was called off with seven minutes left after a torrential rainstorm hit the stadium. Angel Di María scored the only goal of the game after 68 minutes, stepping inside his marker and beating the goalkeeper from the edge of the box, and the match started to get a bit bad-tempered before being called off when the rain became unbearable. Prior to the game, the girls’ side had lost 2-0 to the hosts in their own warmup match.
United Arab Emirates side Al Ain announced on their website on Tuesday that they were in talks with Ariel Ortega, but River Plate president José María Aguilar is refusing to let them have their man. ‘He’s got a contract until June  and the idea is to extend it for two years after that,’ Aguilar told the press, adding that after reading ten River fansites, all claiming the club had received a fax from the UAE making an offer for Ortega (do football clubs really still use faxes?), he checked his inbox and – he claims – no such offer had arrived. Instead, he insisted, River are still in talks with Newell’s Old Boys over Paraguayan target man Santiago Salcedo.
Jesús Dátolo was considered, despite some impressive showings towards the end of last season, as expendable by Boca Juniors’ directors, and even spoke with Colo Colo about a move to the Chilean champions, as well as examining the possibility of a transfer to Mexico. More recently, he’s apparently wanted by Copa Libertadores runners-up Fluminense and by at least one club in England, but told Radio La Red that he wasn’t losing any sleep over getting a move, and had the motivation back to stay at Boca and fight for his place in the team. Carlos Ischia probably won’t be too disappointed to hear that news.