On Wednesday, Diego Maradona marked Juan Román Riquelme’s birthday by telling the country that Riquelme will still be welcome back in the national team if he wants to return, but might have to explain himself directly to his team-mates. No doubt Riquelme will be unhappy Maradona’s not said that to his face. Meanwhile, River Plate fans look away now, a bad period could be about to get worse: a European club have finally become aware of the existence of Radamel Falcao García. What on earth took them so long?
Maradona talked to Fox Sports’ Radio Del Plata on Wednesday and told them that, ‘Riquelme could be called up again. But he’ll have to explain to the squad and to me why he didn’t want to play with us,’ presumably deliberately overlooking the fact that the Boca playmaker simply isn’t going to do any such thing. ‘I know that [AFA President Julio] Grondona is organising a meeting, and I have no problems with that, I can go along and look [Riquelme] in the face.’ He added later, ‘at present I’ve got an agreement with those players who were there for me when I had to replace Román.’ He had some choice words to add to the argument between the AFA and River Plate as well, in the fallout from Argentina’s latest match at El Monumental: ‘The dressing rooms are just like they were in 1978. You can’t let players like [Lionel] Messi and [Carlos] Tevez change there.’
River themselves, meanwhile, are more concerned for the moment with incoming transfer fees, and they could be about to make a tidy package. Needing to sell at least one player for decent money to fund a bit of a squad rebuild for the season to come, they have a bit of a problem. Namely: hardly any of their players would command a transfer fee at all to any buyer who’s actually seen River play in the last 12 months. One who’d be an exception is the hugely popular Colombian Radamel Falcao García, who recently renewed his contract for three years so that, if a foreign club came in for him, River would be able to take advantage of a transfer fee.
And now that looks like happening. Portuguese giants Benfica, in need of a penalty box player to replace David Suazo, who returns to Internazionale from his loan period, have been in Argentina and apparently begun speaking to River’s directors about a transfer for the 23-year-old forward. Falcao would be joining Pablo Aimar and Ángel Di María at the Estádio da Luz, as well as former Newell’s striker, the Paraguayan Oscar Cardozo.