The nominations have been counted for the 2008-2009 HEGS / Mundo Albiceleste Award for Best Argentine Abroad, and they’re an interesting bunch. Four players were nominated, and last year’s winner Carlos Tevez isn’t among them. The top flights of Italy, Spain, Mexico and England have provided us with the nominees, of whom three haven’t previously been nominated. The players are listed below in alphabetical order. Voting opens as soon as this post is online, and if you wrote in to nominate a player your previous choice won’t be counted (in case you’ve since changed your mind). Email your vote (one player only) to firstname.lastname@example.org. The deadline is midnight Argentine time (4am BST) on the night of Sunday, 21st June (after the penultimate round of the Torneo Clausura).
Christian Giménez (Pachuca Club de Fútbol, Mexico)
Formerly of Boca Juniors, Unión de Santa Fe and Independiente, ‘Chaco‘ Giménez has come on leaps and bounds since leaving his homeland for Mexico, first with Veracruz and then with América before joining Pachuca in 2006, winning that year’s Copa Sudamericana. During the 2008 Apertura he’s provided plenty of goals – he’s the highest-scoring Argentine in Mexico with nine – and they’ve often been vital, as with his doubles against Tecos UAG (Pachuca won 3-2) and Santos Laguna (2-2), as well as his unbelievable hat trick against Necaxa, shown in the video below. His creative presence has played a huge part in getting Pachuca – who hail from the city in which Mexican football was born – into the final of the Clausura, the second leg of which was played last night.
Mexican sports paper Medio Tiempo put Giménez in their Team Of The Week on four occasions during the regular season (naming him best player of the weekend twice), as well as both the quarter- and semi-finals. He’s featured in that selection both as a forward and as a midfielder, showing his versatility when called upon. Perhaps most tellingly of all, though, he’s made it into a rather more meaningful selection: Diego Maradona has called him up (along with fellow Mexican-based Argentine, goalkeeper Federico Vilar of Atlante) to the national team squad for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Colombia and Ecuador.
Lionel Messi (FC Barcelona, Spain)
A year ago, Messi was more impressive than eventual World Player Of The Year Cristiano Ronaldo over two legs of the European Cup semi-final between Barcelona and Manchester United, but finished on the losing side as Barcelona ended a torrid season without a trophy. Messi, who’d been injured for a fair bit of the campaign, was one of few Barcelona players to escape censure from the club’s fans. When Ronaldinho was sold there were boots to fill, and with new boss Pep Guardiola’s policy of evolving the team rather than drastically overhauling it, the feted Barça #10 shirt went to Messi. The only question marks we’ve had prior to 2008-2009 were just how good Messi might be if he had a full season (or thereabouts) uninjured. This time, we found out.
Barcelona have enjoyed the most successful season in the history of Spanish club football – not even Alfredo Di Stéfano’s legendary Madrid of the 1950s managed to win the First Division, Copa del Rey and European Cup in a single season – and whilst the midfield have been magical and his fellow forwards lethal (100 goals scored in all competitions between Messi, Thierry Henry and Samuel Eto’o, with the team as a whole hitting a terrifying 158), Messi has been out of this world. Early in the season the Spanish press introduced Atlético de Madrid’s visit to Camp Nou as a battle to decide the best player in the world – Messi or his fellow Argentine Sergio Agüero. With Messi unplayable, Barcelona were 5-1 up at half time and ended up winning 6-1. No contest. There was also a standing ovation from a packed Santiago Bernabéu as they recorded their biggest ever away win over Real Madrid, 6-2. His passing continues to improve, his goal ratio has shot up (from 10 goals in 28 league matches in 2007-08 to 23 in 31 this season), and his running with the ball is as utterly unstoppable as ever. He was also European Cup top scorer, and his goal in the final showed he can even head it when the opportunity arises. Ronaldin-who?
Diego Milito (Genoa Cricket & Football Club, Italy)
If scoring goals in Italy is not longer quite the nigh-on impossible feat of past years, it’s still a hell of an achievement when a player manages to do it at the rate El Principe has this season. After a more than respectable (personally) 2007-08 in which he hit 15 goals in 35 games for a Real Zaragoza side that got relegated, Milito moved back to Genoa, where he spent two seasons in the middle of the decade, and put in the highest scoring term of his career. Twenty-three goals in just 31 matches – 22 in 30 in the league – gave him third place in the Serie A scoring charts, behind Zlatan Ibrahimovic – who he’ll be joining at Internazionale next season after José Mourinho had his head turned.
Genoa’s 5th place in Serie A is their best finish since they were 4th in 1990-91, and Milito scored 40% of their goals. His total included a hat trick in a 3-1 win in the derby della Lanterna against Sampdoria – the first player in the fixture’s history to score three goals. Next season he’ll be joining a club who are expecting not just to compete for the league title but to win the thing – anything less would be a disappointment. His feats with a less fashionable side this season suggest he might just be the old-fashioned centre forward Diego Maradona wants for the selección.
Pablo Zabaleta (Manchester City, England)
It’s been a funny season at Manchester City, but then it always is. Investment from the Middle East has meant all bets are off on what exactly the club’s expectations will be next season, but with a slew of signings expected in the summer Zabaleta is one player who shouldn’t be sweating on his place too much. Brazilian Robinho was the more eye-catching of the late August signings last year, but whilst he’s struggled to settle completely in England and on the pitch, Zabaleta has slotted right in and has already shown the form that made him a regular starter for the Espanyol side that reached the final of the 2006-07 UEFA Cup during his time in Spain.
He was sent off against Liverpool in October (only the second red card of his career), but was named the club’s player of the month in January, the month in which he scored his only goal of the season – and his first for his new club – with a ferocious volley to win a tight match against Wigan Athletic. City finished the season tenth and won’t therefore be playing in Europe next season, but whilst there’s been plenty of chaos around him, Zabaleta’s got his head down and delivered. He’s only the second defender to be nominated for this award after Javier Zanetti’s third place in 2007, a fitting distinction as there are those who see similarities between the two. Zabaleta can only take that as a compliment, and if he carries on with City the way he’s started this season, he could prove just as valuable to them as any more glamorous signings they might make.
A note about the videos: These are for illustrative purposes only, and the reason Messi’s is so much longer than the others is that he’s the only one of the three to be playing for a fashionable enough club for someone to have spent the time to make that thing on him. Had I been able to, I’d have posted season reviews for all these players, but the videos, in any case, aren’t what you’re voting on.
I just came across this post and wanted to make a few comments.
After the season he just had, how is it possible that Gonzalo Higuain is not on the list.
I would also consider Mauro Zarate who in his first season in Italy scored a good number of goals and was in good form throughout.
Last but not least, I don’t think any player based in Mexico should be on any list of best Argentine players abroad. Regardless of the players form, the Mexican League is nowhere near being one of the top leagues in the world.
I would put the leagues in Germany, France and Portugal ahead of the Mexican League and there are many Argentine players in those leagues.
Just my opinion, thanks.
Thanks for asking Pintadoazulblanco. Allow me to clarify.
Every year I am asked, when the award nominees go online, ‘Why wasn’t so-and-so nominated?’ Every year the answer is the same: we held open nominations, inviting people a few weeks ago to email their choices to us before putting the most popular five up (or, as it’s been this year and last year, the players who were nominated, who have been fewer than five). If you want a particular player on the list, you email me his name and he’ll probably get on it (the dominance of one or two players in nominations means one mention can be enough to get a player into the final five).
No-one nominated Gonzalo Higuaín. I was surprised as well Pinta, I’d have liked to see him on the list even if he is a Real Madrid player, and I’ve remarked in ‘Argentines Abroad’ on numerous occasions this season that he’s had a stonking season. Only one email mentioned his name, and that was as a second (or third) choice, so since the rules said only one nomination per voter, and that neither I nor the Mundo Albiceleste team could pick one of our own, Pipita doesn’t make it this year.
(I will admit that if I’d allowed myself a nomination, given the inevitability of Messi’s name being there anyway, Higuaín would have been it.)
Likewise, Chacho Giménez is in the list because he got nominated. This isn’t a comment on the relative merits of the German, French, Portuguese and Mexican leagues – it’s a comment on an impressive season that’s seen Chaco get called up for the national team squad (which no French-based players, for instance, have been).
Thanks for the reply and clarification.
Don’t want to take this too off course, but the Mexican league is probably the most underrated in the world. The idea that it’s not as good as the Portuguese league is just wrong, to me.
I’m just not a fan of the Mexican league, never have been.
As far as the quality of the Portuguese League. The following Argentine players compete there:
Angel Di Maria
Can you name 5 Argentine players that are in the Mexican league that are as good as the above mentioned players?
From the nominations above there can only be one winner, surely!
Pinta, I shall only point out that a league’s overall standard isn’t decided entirely by the quality of its Argentines (although all of us at HEGS are aware that of course it should be), and let the others list some players.
Just one small favour – would you mind sticking the URL of your site so it shows up in a link from your name on comments please (rather than typing it out at the bottom of your posts)? If you’re logged into WordPress when you post it should do it automatically. Otherwise your comment sits in my spam filter until the end of the day when I click ‘Allow’ on it.
The point I was making was not that the Portuguese league was better than the Mexican because of the quality of Argentine players there.
I listed those players to simply say that they are alot better than any Argentine players based in the Mexican league.
There are many other talented foreign and home grown players in Portugal that make that league superior to the Mexican league. That is the larger point.
The day that Mexico produces a Figo or Cristiano Ronaldo, I might change my opinion about their league and maybe begin to consider it to be as good as some of the ones in Europe.
Finally, I won’t be waiting around to see if anyone can list 5 Argentine players in the Mexican league that are better than the ones I listed that are in Portugal.
I know that nobody will be able to post such a list.
This is my last comment.