Julio Grondona’s been in China recently, watching Argentina’s not-quite-Under 23s win Olympic gold, and he’s returned to a bit of a fuss. Alfio Basile named his squad for the next two World Cup Qualifiers last week (details of those players will follow before the matches, because at the time they announcement was overshadowed somewhat by the 3-0 thumping of Brazil in the Olympic Football Tournament), and it included Newcastle United’s new fan hero, Jonás Gutiérrez. El Galgo‘s place in the squad is in doubt, though, after his former club Vélez Sársfield launched an appeal against his inclusion.
Gutiérrez played for Vélez for four seasons, from 2001 to 2005, winning the Torneo Clausura in 2005 with the club before moving to Spanish islanders Real Mallorca. After three years with Mallorca, he made the move to England to join Newcastle in the (European) summer of 2008. Vélez, however, aren’t happy. They claim that Gutiérrez had a contract with them until 2009, meaning that after leaving Mallorca his registration should have returned to his previous club, and thus he should currently be playing for them, and not for Newcastle.
Vélez don’t seem to be trying to force the player to actually come and play for them again, but are very put out at the possibility of Jonás playing for his country (and by extension his country’s football association) when the AFA aren’t supporting the club in their view that he is, in fact, a Vélez player. As such, whilst Grondona was in China, the AFA provisionally accepted a petition from Vélez to prevent Gutiérrez playing for Argentina – a position that was reversed as soon as Grondona returned home.
Vélez president Alvaro Balestrini wasn’t shy about making his opinions known on Thursday, attacking the AFA vehemently: ‘We’re really worried, because this shows that the AFA are making cuckolds of Argentine clubs,’ Balestrini said, coming over all Shakespearean. ‘If this had happened with Boca or River, or even, I feel justified in saying, with Arsenal [de Sarandí, whose president is Grondona’s son Julio Ricardo Grondona], this would have been resolved in another way.’ He may have a point… but then, Jonás really may be a Newcastle player…
If Gutiérrez is called up by Basile for the two matches in the first half of September, it will be at Newcastle’s discretion, since he’s only been named as a backup player in the Argentina squad for these matches.