Saturday has brought news that’s been expected for some time in Argentine football; Juan Román Riquelme, who announced he wouldn’t be playing for Boca Juniors again in the wake of their defeat in last year’s Copa Libertadores final, has agreed terms with his local club Tigre (of whom he’s a lifelong fan), defeated finalists in the 2012 Copa Sudamericana. The remaining stages of the deal will be the most complicated, because Boca Juniors still hold Riquelme’s registration, and aren’t expected to be happy about letting him go to another club in Argentina.
When Riquelme and Boca president Daniel Angelici held a press conference last year to outline the terms of Riquelme’s exit from the club, it was explained that Boca wouldn’t stand in Riquelme’s way of moving to any club outside Argentina. Palmeiras in Brazil looked close, but contract negotiations eventually fell through when they changed presidents. Since then, Tigre have been favourites to secure Riquelme’s signature, and a chat during the week with manager Néstor Gorosito is said to have helped make his mind up.
The sticking point of course is that Tigre aren’t a foreign club, so now the negotiators have to go to Boca and find a way of convincing Angelici to let Riquelme move. A US$2 million fee has been mentioned in the Argentine press – where Tigre would get all of that money isn’t clear, but they do have some wealthy and politically powerful fans, who’ve been involved in the talks with Riquelme and his agent.
One clause Boca seem likely to pursue is an agreement stating that Riquelme won’t be able to play against them in the league during the Torneo Final. That wouldn’t apply if the two sides were to meet in the Copa Libertadores or Copa Argentina, though, so the sight of Riquelme running out for the opposition at La Bombonera would still be possible (if seemingly unlikely).
Negotiations aren’t likely to be over in five minutes, but something that seemed wildly improbable before has now come to pass; Juan Román Riquelme has actually found a club he’s happy to play for.