It’s yet to be officially announced, but the Argentina starting eleven for the first match of their World Cup campaign is now widely known and there are unlikely to be any surprises, barring injuries. Jonás Gutiérrez is in at right back with a licence to roam forward, as Maradona has decided to opt for a 4-3-3 in order to incorporate Carlos Tevez, who’s impressed him hugely in training. Meanwhile back in Argentina, Juan Román Riquelme could be on his way to Flamengo of Brazil, but Boca Juniors at least have a goalkeeper for their new boss Claudio Borghi – Banfield’s penalty-taking custodian Christian Lucchetti has signed for the La Ribera club. Racing might be saying chau to Claudio Yacob, and Tecla Farías is the latest striker River Plate president Daniel Passarella is trying to seduce (not literally).
Argentina’s starting XI against Nigeria on Sunday, then, is expected to be:
Gutiérrez —- Samuel —- Demichelis —- Heinze
Verón —- Mascherano —- Di María
Messi —- Higuaín —- Tevez
Which at least, with an attacking right back, will give Messi support similar (if nowhere near as good) to what he gets from Daniel Alves at Barcelona. Seba Verón’s relaxed pace still has the potential, for me, to take some of the sting off Argentina’s attacking moves, but the potential is there to cause opponents some difficulties, at least, and of course if Messi does indeed explode who knows how far he could carry the team.
Riquelme has reportedly been offered a contract in the region of US$4.5 million for 30 months with Flamengo, as Olé reported yesterday (it’s a busy week for me). How much of that is bluster from his attempts to get an extension at Boca we shall see, but the directors apparently are still far from matching the player’s own valuation of himself – Riquelme wants a three year extension, Boca are prepared to offer him one.
Lucchetti, though, hasn’t had any such difficulties reaching an agreement and should provide Boca with some long-needed authority between the sticks. He’ll arrive from Banfield on a one-year loan deal with an option to buy for US$700,000. Whether he’ll get penalty-taking responsibilities ahead of Martín ‘Cafetero‘ Palermo, we shall have to wait and see. Estudiantes’ full back Cristian Cellay will also arrive at La Bombonera, but not on a loan – Boca have bought his registration outright.
River Plate, who tried and failed hijack Boca’s bid for Lucchetti at the first minute, are still in search of a striker and, having decided to seek alternatives should David Trezeguet decide not sign (he’s still finding it difficult to convince Juventus to let him leave, apparently), Passarella is trying to convince Ernesto Farías to rejoin the Núñez club. El Kaiser managed Farías during the former’s last spell as manager of River, and now he’s president he’s started talking to Porto, who hold the player’s registration, and to the player himself in a bid to bring him back to Argentina. Porto are happy to sell Farías, who’s not seen much action for them, but Cruzeiro and Estudiantes are both also interested.
Yacob could be moving to Portugal himself soon from Racing. That is only likely to happen, however, if one of the two clubs involved in negotiations budge significantly on their valuation of the cinco who’s so impressed under Miguel Angel Russo during the Clausura. Sporting Clube de Portugal have offered €2.5million, but Racing president Rodolfo Molina is unimpressed. ‘It’s not enough,’ he stated bluntly. With Racing wanting to keep the base of their best players to ensure they can stay clear of the relegation battle in the Promedio next season, Molina has insisted that if Yacob is going anywhere, it’ll be for €5 million at least. Vice-president Pablo Podestá told the press, from South Africa, ‘Napoli offered us €4 million last year, and we said no to them too.’ Yacob is clearly a man in demand.
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