Riquelme & the Savage Detectives

A smiling (!) Riquelme finally spoke today and flatly denied all accusations of childishness in his dealings with Palermo. No wedgies, no Chinese burns, nothing. Although he admitted that they are not friends he said they don’t have to be – football is a job after all -, a mantra he has repeated several times over the years with regard to different players. He even said he wants both their contracts to be renewed since he wants to retire there and “Martín is the best number 9 we’ve had in the last ten years.”

Why did he turn his back on him so deliberately then, making him look a billy no-mates? Why, at what should have been a glorious moment, did Palermo look like the angst-ridden protagonist of some Smiths song, abandoned once again in the playground, the air hanging heavy like a dulling wine? Well, apparently it was because he didn’t want to celebrate in front of the Boca hooligans, La Doce. Although the entire Bombonera famously supported him in his spat with Maradona, thus exiling Diego from the stadium for over a year, since things have turned sour the ultras have singled out Román. Last Sunday at training the entire team was confronted by the unhappy thugs, and they particularly singled out Riquelme to vent their ire. “On Sunday I had an experience which was not in the least bit pleasant. There are things I can take and others I can’t. I think I made that very clear.”

What brings an added dimension to all this, though, is that Roman doesn’t see the violence of la Doce as entirely innocent, the understandable reaction of vicious psychopaths. Rather: “I think I told one of you [journalists] two or three weeks ago that there was someone behind all these goings-on. Now I’m telling you that there is definitely someone pulling the strings here, and whoever doesn’t recognise it is bloody blind or is pretending to be.” What do you mean, Román, ask the cane-clutching reporters? People on the board, other players with a better relationship with the fans…? Retorts Román: “I’m not a feckin’ detective.”

It wouldn’t be the first time that someone took advantage of the brute force of an essentially mercenary barra brava to achieve aims that would otherwise involve skill, thought and patience. Moreover, the level of complicity between the dominant ultra faction at any time and the presidency of almost every club is sickening, and especially in such a clumsily run club as Boca. Maybe the cash-strapped club don’t want to renew his contract but at the same time don’t want to be seen to kick out their best player. After all, he’s playing for free at the moment but wouldn’t be if he signed a new deal. Maybe Palermo and other players really don’t want him there, as was alledged after he left the national team…

El topo gigio - Riquelme claimed it was his daughter's favourite toy...

Yet the pressure could even be coming from without the club: Riquelme (and Bianchi, for that matter) has a notoriously sour relationship with the ex-president of Boca, Mauricio Macri, who back in the day continually insulted Román as a mercenary (“Whoever wants to earn more money can feck off to Europe”) and three years ago refused to pay the money to bring him back to Boca and never misses an opportunity to take a swipe at him. There has been enmity between the pair as far back as 2000, when Riquelme, after scoring against River in the Bombonera, ran to the middle of the pitch, stared up at the directors and did what we now refer to as Tevez’s “Sign me up” celebration but over here is known as the Topo Gigio after a Bosco-like TV puppet with big ears (Macri is the uncomfortable-looking guy in the moustache):

For you see Riquelme was only eventually resigned by Macri’s successor, the late Pedro Pompilio, after Macri had left to take up a little post known as Governor of the City of Buenos Aires. The latter had used the acclaim earned by Boca’s (or Riquelme’s) 2007 Libertadores success to launch an equally successful campaign; and he’ll no doubt have a Sarko-like tilt at the presidency of the country before too long. He’s a powerful man and he hates Roman. Could he, along with some of the other factors discussed in yesterday’s post, which cannot be discarded despite Riquelme’s disavowals, be behind the media and La Doce’s squeeze? We’ll see, but he’s certainly capable. What is clear from the comments today is that Boca is an even greater basket case than even I imagined. A chuckling Román had this to say: “Sure Macri loves me!”

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