River Plate welcomed Ariel Ortega back to their training ground on Wednesday after he hadn’t turned up on Tuesday owing to an ankle injury. The press had doubted the veracity of this claim – Ortega was sent off for elbowing Marcos Brítez Ojeda of Huracán on Sunday and hadn’t been in any apparent pain on leaving the pitch – but he was the first to arrive for training today, at 9:15am, having been given the okay by the medical team. José Sand, meanwhile, currently with Al-Ain in the United Arab Emirates, has announced that when he comes back to Argentina, it will be to play for Lanús, and not for his boyhood club River.
‘I wouldn’t like to go back to River,’ said Sand, who came up through the Núñez club’s youth ranks before being one of the unfathomable number of really good players who’ve been let go by them in the current decade. ‘I’m not angry with them for anything, I just feel that the River stage of my career has already passed. I want to enjoy football. It wasn’t easy for me to start enjoying professional football, to win things, and now I want to do all that. I’ll return to Lanús. I’ll go back there because I want to end my career there. Thanks to Lanús, I am the player I am.’
Regarding football in the UAE, Sand told ESPN Radio; ‘It’s a little disorganised, and much slower than the game in Argentina. Because of that, with the experience I’ve got in Argentina, it’s possible to make a big difference simply by training well and concentrating. But at the same time it’s difficult in other ways, because everyone runs after me and kicks me.’ He also addressed what some, including myself, feel is the one great shame of his career to date, which is that a 30-year-old with such obvious talent has never had a crack at Europe. ‘It’s the one thing I’m lacking as a professional. Hopefully I’ll have the chance. I’m thinking of staying here for the rest of this year, try to keep doing well, and then see whether I can look for a “change of air”. I’d like to look for something in Europe.’
Ortega, meanwhile, after arriving early for training as if to make a point – some of the press seemed to be insinuating things about why he really missed training yesterday, which given his previous off-field problems with alcohol was perhaps not very charitable of them – is currently (one assumes) on his way to AFA headquarters. He’ll stand in front of the Disciplinary Tribunal of the association to hear his punishment for elbowing Brítez Ojeda during the second half of River’s 1-0 win away to Huracán at the weekend. He’s expected to get a one match suspension, and is likely to be replaced by young hotshot Manuel Lanzini in River’s attack against Independiente on Sunday.
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Photo from River’s press department, via ole.clarin.com