It was a relatively quiet weekend for Argentina’s representatives in the exterior in the week prior to the announcement of Diego Maradona’s squad for the friendly with France (which is announced on Tuesday and will include Seba Verón and Juan Román Riquelme), with some of the main stories being transfer rumours. There were some Argentines playing, though – and one of them was lucky enough to be congratulated in person by me on his man-of-the-match performance.
Since I announced on Friday that I was off to Manchester for the weekend, it won’t come as any surprise that that player was Carlos Tevez, who didn’t score but did hit the crossbar and was the best player on the pitch as Manchester United came from behind to beat Tottenham Hotspur 2-1 at Old Trafford and go through to the fifth round of the FA Cup. Carlitos walked past me in central Manchester a few hours later and was kind enough to wave and give me a thumbs-up when, having taken half a second to twig who it was who’d just almost bumped into me, I turned round and shouted ‘¡Carlitos! ¡Buen partido hoy!‘ at him.
In Italy, Diego Milito returned to the Genoa lineup after a month out injured, and scored in his side’s 1-1 draw with Catania, who themselves featured goalkeeper Albano Bizarri, Matías Silvestre and Ezequiel Carboni in their lineup. Meanwhile in Rome, Lazio lost 4-1 at home to Cagliari – all the visitors’ goals coming in the first half – and goalkeeper Juan Pablo Carrizo got it in the neck from the sports papers for a dreadful performance.
In La Liga, Sergio Agüero and Maxi Rodríguez (returning at half time after a muscle injury) featured as Atlético de Madrid stuttered to a 1-1 draw with Málaga but the weekend’s star turn was… oh, for God’s sake you know by now. Lionel Messi scored twice (the second the 45th league goal of his career) and helped set the other two (for Samuel Eto’o and Thierry Henry) up as Barcelona beat Numancia 4-1 in Camp Nou. He followed the performance up by breaking the hearts of teenage girls across Spain and Argentina by telling the press that he has a girlfriend (he’s kept this one very quiet), who’s currently still living in Argentina.
In Greece, Luciano Galletti got the winner as Olympiakos beat OFI Crete 2-1; Lucio Filomeno scored twice as Asteras Tripoli beat Levadiakos 2-0, and Ismael Blanco and Ignacio Scocco both scored for AEK Athens in a 3-0 win over Panionios – the latter with a thirty-yard rocket.
The European stories otherwise were transfer-related. Roberto Abbondanzieri has completed his move from Getafe to Boca, and arrived in La Boca on Monday. Estudiantes’ directors are apparently moving to secure the signature of Marcelo Gallardo, who underwent minor surgery after the end of the 2008 MLS season, during which he starred for DC United. And Portuguese sports daily A Bola claims Real Madrid and Internazionale want Porto’s target man Lisandro López, formerly of Racing – and will have to pay off his €30 million buyout clause if they’re going to land him. Licha scored Porto’s second in a 2-0 away win over Braga.
In Mexico, the second week of the 2009 Clausura saw a 2-2 draw against Toluca for Ramón Díaz’s Club América (who hopefully are saving their best performance until I go to see them in a few weeks’ time). For Pachuca, midfielder Gabriel Caballero – who, aged 38, will retire at the end of this season – scored two goals, one of which was an absolute beauty and the other of which wasn’t too bad either. Those respectively put his side 1-0 up, and then won the match 2-1 away to San Luis. Elsewhere Martín Bravo scored a penalty to help Pumas beat Santos Laguna 1-0.
Thanks as ever to Tom Clark for keeping me up to speed on matters Mexican