We’ve been here before…


Those who feel the selección rely a little too much on Juan Román Riquelme can rejoice on Wednesday morning: they won’t be able to look to him any more. For the second time in his career, Riquelme has announced he’s retiring from international football, due to differences of opinion with the manager, Diego Armando Maradona. So not everyone’s delighted to be playing under their hero…

Maradona had announced a little earlier that Riquelme was in his squad for the upcoming World Cup 2010 qualifiers, and had given journalists short shrift when asked about the possibility of Riquelme making such an announcement, telling them; ‘It’s not crossed my mind, but if a player chooses to leave the selección, he won’t play again whilst I’m in charge.’

Maradona had told TV and radio reporters last week that Riquelme’s physical condition didn’t look quite tip-top in his eyes, that he needed a Riquelme who could be penetrative in the last 20 yards of the pitch, link up well Lionel Messi, Sergio Agüero and Carlos Tevez, and that he didn’t see Román being able to do that at present. It’s the manner of the announcement which Riquelme has taken exception to.

‘On the subject of the selección things are a bit strange,’ Riquelme told journalists. ‘I hear more things through the radio or the television than through [the technical team] calling me… I don’t have the same modes of practice as the manager, [so] we can’t work together.’

Minutes later, Maradona was telling reporters; ‘I don’t know what modes of practice he’s talking about, or what exactly is bothering him, but don’t forget that I called him up [for the next round of matches] and he withdrew himself… It makes me sad, but I can’t cry over it.’ Indeed. Life continues for Argentina – even without Juan Román Riquelme.

There’ll be a full rundown of the Argentina squad for the upcoming qualifiers here on HEGS on Wednesday night.

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20 thoughts on “We’ve been here before…

  1. these are the same type of comments and actions that left him out in Barcelona, Villareal and Atletico de Madrid from buying him! its a pity for those of us who love to see the ball at his feet and him orchestrating the squad.
    these decisions/actions remind me of another controversial 10 from Argentina…

  2. I love to watch him play when he is on, but Roman is a guy who can’t seem to find any satisfaction in his professional life. Sooner or later he finds something to be upset about. As I posted over on Seba’s blog, my guess is that he is slowly wearing out his welcome at Boca, even if it is mainly with some of the other players. It seems management has been very supportive of Roman at Boca, but given time, he will sabotage that as well. A shame.

  3. nathan…Riquelme can be as controversial as Diego was in front of the microphones during his playing days, BUT and that’s the biggest BUT you’ll ever see: Maradona NEVER resigned from the national team. NEVER. He played under every and any circumstance and he was ALWAYS there for Argentina.

    Riquelme is lying when he says: “I’m dying to play for my national team. It’ll hurt to see the World Cup on tv”. You know what, Riquelme, I don’t believe you. And you did this to yourself.

    Are you injured? Do you have a heart condition that is stopping you from playing? Have the national team manager left you out of the squad?

    NO. You’re not dying to play for Argentina. I think I should be thankful. Now we’ll have 100% of the squad really committed to the cause.

    By the way, Sam, you wrote: “So not everyone’s delighted to be playing under their hero…”

    Well…I think that’s the key. Riquelme never saw Maradona as his hero. He sees him as a rival. He sees him as competition. Now he has achieved what he wanted. He is Maradona’s rival. Let Boca have him. I don’t care about him anymore.

  4. Even as a River fan I have always loved to watch Riquelme play, but this is the best possible thing to happen for 2010, hopefully he sticks to his word this time. He’s just as impulsive as Maradona, not as self destructive but possibly more selfish as his European career has shown, and on the biggest stage time and time again he has failed Argentina. Like Seba said, let Boca have him, good riddance.

  5. I love Riquelme on the pitch, but he’s obviously got a lot of issues off it, as his disciplinary problems at every single club he’s been at suggest.
    Though I imagine that he won’t be the last of the older (by which I mean, less awed by Diego) players in the prospective squad to clash with the new Coach.
    so what now? Give Messi the Number 10 and move him into that role with Gago-Masch behind?

  6. Not quite, David N. Maradona wants Messi to play wider to the right. He’ll be silly to ask him to do the job Riquelme did.

    Riquelme gave the team the pause and the change of pace that was so needed at times.

    Messi is all vertigo. Messi is pace. Messi is faster than any other player in the planet. Riquelme is almost on an opposite side from Messi. He is quite slow.

    So, with this, I think we wave goodbye the traditional play-maker as it is conceived. I see Messi playing on the right, Tevez on the left and Aguero in the middle (Diego already hinted this in the same tv show where he said what he said about Riquelme).

    Gago and Masch in the middle -with Gago moving a little bit more to the left- and Jonas running wild on the right -to cover Messi’s back-.

    Either that, or a back line of three men (likely to happen at home to Venezuela).

  7. Sounds like Roman is playing the girl here. I commend el Diego’s level-headed response. At his best he’s obviously brilliant, but he’s been a long way from that for some time now (possibly since the Libertadores two seasons ago?), save for one-off performances here and there.

  8. It’s a shame Aimar is still MIA, when healthy I always thought he was the better option than Riquelme; not as consistent perhaps but a bit quicker and more suited to teamwork. I’m not sure if Argentina should fully abandon the idea of a central playmaker, but I agree that it’s time to explore other options; keep up the constant passing but maybe speed things up.

  9. Also I’m not sure Gago deserves to start after his horrifying game yesterday for Madrid, he seems to constantly fail against quick opposition. Are there any reliable alternatives?

  10. Even as a river fan aswell, i also loved watching Riquelme. In his prime (the road to 05/06 champ league semis) i would compare his craft to that of xaxi or iniesta. however he completely bottled that penalty in the semis and his career has nosedived since, and he appears to have no heart for a battle. His talent certainly doesnt match his ego, at least diegos did. Also How the hell can people want Cago in the team?? He is woeful, another with no heart for a battle. I wouldnt have him in the Irish team!!!

  11. I wouldn’t say Roman bottled it after missing that penalty, as he just about won the Copa Libertadores on his own. But certainly since then, nothing more than a free kick or two here and there.

  12. Nolan, murt, regarding Gago, I don’t think it is fair to condemn him after a horrible TEAM performance by Real Madrid. He was obviously far from his best form, but he was a victim of his team being completely outplayed by the opposition.

    How the players perform for their clubs is a good indicator, but not the only one.

    See Carrizo. Not even starting for Lazio but he is first choice for Maradona and he played well in France.

    See Riquelme himself. He was not even playing for Villarreal and Basile made him start EVERY game. He was great more times than not.

    What about the Inter players tonight? They lost. They couldn’t score. They couldn’t keep a clean sheet. Is that a reason for Diego not to call them?

    And Kun and Maxi at Atlético?

    I think Gago should start, alongside Mascherano, just as they did against Scotland and France. If Gago starts underperforming for Argentina, then I’d agree with you.

    What I’m shocked about is to see so many comments against Gago when he is getting great words from most of the media and the fans here in Argentina.

  13. I agree with Seba about Gago. I have beem mystified by the vehement anti Gago sentiment. I think he has played great recently for the NT and a valuable performer. Maradona listed three players who were “almost perfect” against France-Mascherano, Demichelis and Gago. Just because he’s from Boca and he’s a pretty boy doesn’t mean he can’t play.:)

  14. Gago was a victim of that rampant Liverpool midfield – Mascherano, Alonso and Gerrard all contesting everything against him and Diarra in the centre. Diarra responds by running around a lot and diving into tackles, which at least makes him look like a fighter, and fans respond to that. But thats not Gago’s game, and he just didn’t have the time or space to put his foot on the ball and start that rhythmic passing thats been such a feature of Real’s play this season. He has been one of their better players this season, always providing an outlet, rarely losing the ball, always constructive. They all had a shocker last night, and based on his burgeoning partnership with Masch, he deserves his place in the team.

  15. but what you guys think about Maradona’s comments? i think they are the type of statements that should have been said face to face and not via a news microphone!
    as for Riqueleme wearing out his stay at Boca… no way, the guy is a legend at the Bombonera.

  16. Its nothing to do with the fact hes from Boca. For example I think Tevez is a legend and you cant get much more boca than that and hes Man U!! He never moans when not plaing and when he does he gives 100% and usually scores.
    Granted I didnt see the Argentina France match. I just have never seen Gago perform in big club matches ie Barcelona, Atletico, Liverpool. Yeah he looks good against the likes of Numancia an Osasuna but who wouldnt?? Hes scored 1 goal this season in all competitions. Is he another number 5 or what is he?? Argentina arent blessed with a large amount of quality central midfielders so hes lucky in that sense. I have nothing personal against him I just dont see what he offers yet.

  17. Allow me to disagree there, murt. I don’t think it is a valid point to make when you say: “Gago only scored 1 goal this season”. I think it took him more than 100 matches at Boca to score his first. Besides…I don’t see you questioning Mascherano for not being able to score so far this season. Gago is not playing for Real Madrid to provide the goals. Judge Raúl, Higuaín and Huntelaar on goals, even Robben, but not Gago.

    I don’t follow Real Madrid’s campaign at all (the only two full matches I’ve seen from them were the home and away against Liverpool), but until Gago has a bad game for Argentina (he’s been brilliant in every match I’ve seen of him with the albiceleste), I’ll continue to be happy to see him on the team.

    Abel…why fix it if it ain’t broken? Why do we need to change to a Mascherano-Cambiasso partnership when Gago and Masch have been so impressive lately? Why? Gago is younger than Cambiasso. In my opinion, Gago-Masch is the way to go. I’m happy that Maradona thinks the same!

  18. If I might stick my oar in (on my own website!)…

    Regular readers will probably have picked up that I’m not Gago’s biggest fan, at club level for sure, and may be less aware that I would have loved Manchester United to get Cambiasso a few years ago when we were searching for a replacement for Roy Keane. But for the national side at present, I have to agree with Seba. Gago’s main problem at club level is that for Madrid he’s expected to be the destroyer, and he’s no destroyer. But when he’s playing alongside probably the best defensive midfielder in the world for Argentina, that doesn’t matter and he can concentrate on his distribution instead – which, in spite of the evidence of Tuesday night at Anfield, is normally very impressive indeed.

    Nathan, fair point on Maradona’s comments by the way, but it’s worth remembering that he was asked a question in front of the cameras. He had two choices: either refuse to answer the question (which, let’s be honest, would have led to stories in the press about a split between manager and player), or do what he did – answer it before stressing that he’d talk to Riquelme personally about it when he had the chance.

  19. Great comment, Sam.

    I would add that Maradona didn’t say a word about Riquelme’s personal life or something like that (to be accused of breaking the ethics codes). He was invited to a football talk-show and he was talking about football. He also said in the past that Maxi needed to improve and similar things about Messi. I didn’t see none of them quitting the national team or being hurt and feeling offended.

    Riquelme simply CAN’T take any criticism. And, most importantly, Riquelme, in any case, did exactly what he criticize about Diego and QUIT IN FRONT OF THE CAMERAS!

    He is just as bad as Maradona, if you only consider that little detail (going live on tv to make an announcement).

    So, Riquelme, watch the World Cup on TV and shut up!

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