Militonian Ellipses – Diego Milito Comes of Age

It’s a question on maturity, of experience… My career has built up gradually. That’s why I can say now that i’m in more or less the best form of my life. I don’t know if it’s the best, cause last year at Genoa was extraordinary [24 goals in 31 games, che]. Of course that didn’t get so much attention because I didn’t achieve the same level of success as this year or because that club wasn’t as big as Inter…

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Fame is the spur that the clear spirit doth raise

To scorn delights and live laborious days – John Mil(i)ton

Nice interview in Olé today with Diego Milito, a guy it would be an exaggeration to say pegamequemegusta, while having a lot of time for him, knows inside out. Sure we know the story of his career and its beginnings with our beloved Racing, his consistently banging in a goal a game for 10 years now whether at Genoa, Zaragoza or Inter, but to be honest we’ve never heard him talk.

It turns out he’s a decent enough old chinwagger. He has some interesting things to say about his record in la Selección, that Barca-Inter game, Mourinho and whether he is compatible with his illustrious strike partners in the Argentina squad. Strangely enough, though, there are no questions about his brother Gaby, one of the many guys left out of Maradona’s squad despite being at a big club and being well-regarded.

The interview was conducted by Hernán Claus and Carlos Carpaneto of Olé. You can read the original here. The translation, as always, is ours. It’s good-natured yet probing. Nonetheless, pegamequemegusta has never in its short painful life seen as many ellipses as in this piece. Could they be a metaphor for Diego Milito’s stop-start, intermittent international career? Read on to find out…

  • The World Cup is nearly upon us but people are still talking about how Inter played in the Nou Camp…
  • The criticism was unfair in my opinion as a lot of it had very little to back it up. It was a two-legged tie against the best team in the world and yet people only talk about one of the games, where we already had a two-goal lead. Pandev got injured in the warm-up so we had to change our formation; and on top of that we were a man down after 20 minutes… Those who saw Inter play all season know that we always went out to win every game – they know it was unfair criticism.
  • When did you feel you were going to the World Cup?
  • Honestly, when the list came out. You never know what’ll happen, whether you’re in or out…
  • But having such a great season didn’t give you reason for feeling confident?
  • Yeah, I was plenty confident but it always depends on what the manager wants, what he thinks right at that particular moment… that’s why I couldn’t be certain until the final list came out.
  • Did you prove Diego right or was it the other way around?
  • Haha, a bit of both. I think I did my part playing well for my club and then he obviously did his by putting his trust in me. There were a lot of strikers to choose from.
  • How come your best run of form has come when you’re nearly 31?
  • It’s a question of maturity, of experience… My career has built up gradually. That’s why I can say now that i’m in more or less the best form of my life. I don’t know if it’s the best, cause last year at Genoa was extraordinary [24 goals in 31 games, che]. Of course that didn’t get so much attention because I didn’t achieve the same level of success as this year or because that club wasn’t as big as Inter…
  • But it looks like this was the best year, no? For the first time you won loads and it was your first season in one of Europe’s biggest clubs. You replaced Ibrahimovic, you went pound for pound with Eto’o…
  • Yeah that’s what winning things is all about, taking over from world-famous players, and things really couldn’t have gone any better. Then you’ve got the good work I put in myself, the confidence the manager gives me…
  • Did you learn much from Mourinho?
  • You always learn something from every manager… Mourinho helped me a lot, made me more confident above anything else… As regards my style it’s not much changed from last year. What Mourinho does is he always keeps you on your toes, I mean he never lets you slack off and he always wants to keep on winning.
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  • Is Maradona like Mourinho at all?
  • They’re both winners and have strong personalities, like all managers at this level.
  • Can you and Higuaín play together? On Olé‘s website the readers voted for you and el Pipita to play up front alongside Messi…
  • I reckon so, yeah, we’d have no problem playing with each other. Or with Carlitos, el Kun or Martín for that matter…. I can play with any of the strikers in the squad. Grand, this season at Inter I was the target man more or less, but during my career i’ve also played in a deeper role. Learning to play with other players is part of the job.
  • With Higuaín, then, how would you complement each other?
  • We’re both basically similar enough in many ways but quite different at the same time. We both move right along the line of attack, from one side to the other. Maybe i’m more of an in-the-box striker and he can make the difference outside.
  • Maradona said it would be tough to leave out Carlitos… What about leaving out Milito?
  • That’s more of a question for the manager, really. Frankly, i’m here to do my job… Obviously we all want to play and i’m going to fight for my place.

  • Do you feel that only now, after this great year with Inter and your goals in the Champion’s League final, you’re being recognised as a great player in Argentina?
  • Well that’s normal, you know, especially after winning those titles, for having scored two goals in a match everyone saw… I accept how it is and it doesn’t bother me…
  • How do you imagine your birthday will be this year, the 12th of June, the very day Argentina play Nigeria?
  • The 12th of June? Well… I can see myself celebrating Argentina’s victory. That would be the best present, yeah, without a doubt.
  • Even better if you’re playing…
  • Obviously you dream about playing, but all 23 of us want that. And what eleven actually take the field is Diego’s decision. It’s not a cliché: the important thing is that we win.
  • Why do you think you haven’t had a good run of games in the team so far?
  • It’s a tough question to answer; I don’t know what to tell you… It might be a question of taste, that the different managers have just preferred other players. That’s the way it is; I don’t get too caught up in it. And I know it’s hard being the manager of Argentina as there are a lot of great forwards – in our case, the best in Europe…
  • Many people might think you’ve had a lot of chances when, in truth, since 2006 you’ve only started 5 out of the 13 games you played in, and none of those were one after another…
  • The stats tell you I haven’t played many games in a row but i’m also very self-critical and there have been chances for important goals in games, even when i’ve only had 10 or 15 minutes. Anyway, now i’m just thinking of the future…
  • Might one of those important goals have been in the match against Brazil in Rosario?
  • That miss still gets to me, but in the same way as every other chance i’ve ever missed, and not just ’cause it was against Brazil. Well, maybe, yeah, it would’ve been an important goal for me and for the team… But besides being pissed off about it I try to stay cool as even this year in Italy, for example, i’ve missed two million chances… Us strikers miss chances…
  • But you score them, too. Could Milito work a Palermo-like miracle?
  • Hahaha, Ojalá. Let’s hope so. Let’s hope I can work one, too.

Yeah, a lovely guy, Milito, i’m sure you’ll agree. I’m sure if the irascible Ignacio Fusco had done the interview he would’ve repeatedly badgered him about why he and Samuel were called up and not Cambiasso or Zanetti. Pegamequemegusta doesn’t know why that is either, though, as temperamentally he seems quite similar.

Anyway, he’d start for us but but would he make your starting eleven?

Ariel Garcé, say again? Argentina World Cup Squad Confirmed

On his CV one sees that he has played for Morelia de México, Colón, Olimpo and Rosario Central and he has played three times in the celeste y blanca. Marcelo Bielsa called him up back in 2003 to play against Honduras and the USA. He could not finish the first match as he was sent off; the second, he did. And the third was against Haiti, in Cutral-Có. It was his first game under Maradona. He played right back against a team far down in the world rankings that barely attacked. He sent in the cross for Palermo’s goal and was rewarded with the ‘good stuff, Chino, good stuff’ from the bench.

Ariel Garcé, say Olé, will definitely be in the final 23 man squad. Say again? Garcé (30), has not been hiding under a rock his entire career. His brilliance has been recognised by the likes of Morelia de México, Colón, Olimpo and Rosario Central. Olé, in one of its most bizarre lapses of all common sense, of all dignity, is dancing like a giddy child at seeing what it seems to regard as one of its own, touched by God.

Once the decision has been made (or even hinted at) it becomes sacrosanct, ponderable only in terms of what it offers as a glimpse into the mind of an unquestionable genius. This mystical occasions are accompanied with the kind of vertiginous joy bloggers feel when their nappies are changed and the world to its very vanishing point becomes an avenue of freshness.

Even in a bizarre paragraph outlining his achievements to date, enthusiasm leaves doubt on its flabby ass: “Ariel Hernán Garcé is ‘el Chino’. On his CV one sees that he has played for Morelia de México, Colón, Olimpo and Rosario Central and he has played three times in the celeste y blanca. Marcelo Bielsa called him up back in 2003 to play against Honduras and the USA. He could not finish the first match as he was sent off; the second, he did. And the third was against Haiti, in Cutral-Có. It was his first game under Maradona. He played right back against a team far down in the world rankings that barely attacked. He sent in the cross for Palermo’s goal and was rewarded with the ‘good stuff, Chino, good stuff’ from the bench. And got himself in contention.”

Next time you feel tempted to complain about journalism in your part of the world, remember this. Both of pegamequemegusta’s hearts skipped slightly as the words struggled to align themselves to the globules of grammar and logic that supposedly float inside us. You’d swear this was a school report, a show and tell piece cobbled together from a Wikipedia entry written by a drunken, shell-shocked squirrel.  Besides the fact that it omits Garcé’s five year stint with a good River team (ten years ago), consider the reasoning behind the inclusion of this ‘quote’: ‘Good stuff, Chino, good stuff’ – the demented babbling seems to come in slow motion as if it were being spoken in that computer robot voice and dubbed over the denouement to Platoon.

Pegamequemegusta was sure that of all the nobodies – and we royally reiterate, they’re nobodies even in Argentina – called up to the provisional squad, Garcé had no chance.  Nonetheless it looks like the idea is that he goes as back up for Otamendi. It’s not personal, Masche, he just has no place being at the World Cup.  This isn’t a case of being such a Eurocentric that you can’t recognise a player’s good unless he’s not playing in foreign lands. After all, although he wouldn’t be in our squad due to the sheer number of awesome to semi-awesome players that have proven themselves in the ‘top flight’, pegamequemegusta does condescend to find Maradona’s selection of Sebastián Blanco quite interesting both for his qualities as a player and as an alternative left winger (though he’s no Maxi Moralez…). Diego’s taken the not-recognising-a-prophet worry and blown it into a complex that would make pegamequemegusta’s virgin though vicious and violent cat look like a vicarious vicar vying for veldspar in a Venezuelan valley (where said ore proliferates – and anyway, verbosity is not a vice).

Who cares, jaysus, we all knew really that this nonsense was going to happen. As chance would have it, though, just this evening pegamequemegusta was peering at the Guardian website and re-discovered an excellent Marcela Mora y Araujo article from last September. Yes, just after the spanking defeat doled out by Dunga’s Brazil.

One of the best parts is this: “The press, over whom descended a bizarre fear of stating the potential unmitigating disaster this could be, are beginning to suggest that soon they will become more critical.” Genius: they never said a thing when Basile started calling up random players and then discarding them nor when Maradona intensified the nonsense.

This goes to the black heart of the ‘Good stuff, Chino’ nonsense above – ‘uncle’ Julio Grondona is not only the head of the AFA but also an important stakeholder in Grupo Clarín, Olé‘s parent paper. While we hardly think Grondona was barking down the phone to big up Garcé, the reluctance to antagonise him in any way appears to have led to the craven bullshit outlined above.

Olé is a joke when it comes to what we shall tentatively refer to as editorial policy. Yet it’s the biggest-selling sports paper. The situation makes an even bigger joke of Diego and others’ claims of persecution by the media.

One more quote from the professional’s pen: “The clear lack of leadership within the squad needs to be resolved. The players are apparently suffering from the well-known social loafing syndrome, whereby in a collective enterprise each individual in the group underperforms relative to individual potential. Someone from within needs to redress this and bring out the best from each of the 62 young men who have been called up to duty and then left out to hang.” A slightly more sophisticated analysis than Diego’s somewhat simplistic players-in-Primera-have-balls-‘outsiders’-don’t, wouldn’t you say. And yet Maradona’s hopes appear to be resting on a sudden metamorphosis occurring in the chrysalis that is the tunnel in Johannesburg. Garcé is just one who’ll either be a butterfly or a Gregor Samsa.

Something tells me their wax wings will neither be slain by shadow nor by the sun. O sea, they’re coming back in the quarters, as usual.

*No-one’s feelings were hurt in the drafting of this post, though the cat did scratch the missus quite badly. Usual prize for last line reference(s).

………………………..

Later that day, squad confirmed:

-Romero, Andújar, Pozo

-Otamendi, Demichelis, Samuel, Heinze, Burdisso, Garcé, Clemente Rodriguez

-Mascherano, Jonás, Verón, Di María, Maxi Rodriguez, Pastore, Bolatti

-Messi, Tevez, Diego Milito, Higuaín, Aguero, Palermo

Yes, there are almost as many strikers as defenders.

Zanetti and Jazzmaster D.

There is method in the madness: a deliberately anarchic approach where improvisation is prized above all else, a cauldron of character-forming uncertainty where real men will float to the top like alphabet spaghetti. No doubt the words said tinned pasta spells out will be transcribed onto the first team sheet, too. All this talk of having the team decided already is just a fudge for fat bloggers to chew on, chum for the chumps. He said it last month, we just weren’t listening: “The players aren’t going to have any excuses, they’re going to run and run.” What we failed to understand was that they would be running from a team of automated fire-breathing dragons controlled by Wolf from Gladiators.

If you don’t live it, it won’t come out your horn –

Charlie Parker

Pegamequemegusta wrote a few pieces last week about Maradona’s preliminary squad (first this, then this). Of course it shared the widespread annoyance with the omission of Zanetti and Cambiasso, as well as Nico Pareja, Gabriel Milito, Banega, Aimar, Zabaleta, Zárate and Perotti, even of Maxi Moralez. Such are the players who have not been included you could arm a shadow squad along the lines of F365’s brilliant series on England’s B team during the alternate Euro 2008 with Jimmy Bullard & Co. However, we are getting a bit sick of seeing these names now and bizarrely find ourselves defending Maradona’s selection.

On Football Weekly today the ever-enthusiastic Paolo Bandini mentioned a theory that had apparently first gone out on one of ESPN’s multifarious platforms. It went like this: during some game with Argentina, apparently “the one where they qualified for the World Cup”, Zanetti disobeyed Maradona’s instructions, leading the team on the pitch like a lion while Diego, a sea lion, then, I suppose, thrashed about on the shore. Thereafter, Maradona’s wrath being akin to Poseidon’s, Zanetti has been ostracised from the national team.

Insofar as we care, it’s a shame we don’t have what ESPN actually said, of course, but as the theory stands it seems pretty preposterous. Firstly, it would be odd that nothing has ever been said or even intimated in the tidbit-hungry media about the matter. Secondly, what match was it? “The match were they qualified” was the last one, against Uruguay. Zanetti wasn’t in the squad if memory serves us right. The match where qualification was saved at the death was against Peru. Zanetti didn’t play then either. His last match for Argentina was in the 1-0 defeat in Paraguay, where he looked utterly hopeless.

© LatinContent/Getty Images

So we come to point number three, that of ferociously taking charge on the pitch, using all of his experience and respect as the usurped captain. Yet far from leading any kind of an albiceleste charge after Paraguay’s domination of the first half, Zanetti was completely anonymous in attack and ineffective in defence. In fact at no point, even when he was captain, did Zanetti really show any leadership qualities whilst playing with Argentina. He never looked like the kind of character his experience would have one believe him to be. Indeed, one might, as pegamequemegusta is wont to do, don one’s shit-stirring pub hat and ask: captain of who for the last decade? Inter? Up til Iron José arrived some of the game’s most celebrated bottlers! What kind of a captain is he anyway? Maradona agrees: the first thing he did on taking charge was to strip him of the captaincy.

This is important as, unlike other players who haven’t convinced either when turning out for their national teams, Zanetti’s very longevity, the amount of instances that we can cite build up a body of evidence which does not do him much good. His excellent season and his hugely impressive – and clean – stuffing of Messi’s exhaust pipe in the Champo League semifinal notwithstanding, perhaps Diego is justified in reckoning he has failed to convince one too many times.

After all, unlike Cambiasso, he was given many opportunities and never stood out. He wasn’t the only one. Maradona experimented fitfully with a good few full backs: Zanetti, Papa, Insúa, Zabaleta, even Jonás played right back once or twice. He even played without full backs a couple of times, setting up 3-3-1-3, 3-4-3, etc. He was never convinced by any of them so he ended up abandoning them altogether in favour of his current formation with four centre backs. Although this makes some sense in that Argentina are clearly not particularly blessed in the position, the drawbacks are obvious and require no further treatment here.

Rather than come up with conspiracy theories, however, it seems more likely that Zanetti has been discarded because of his poor performances and a consistent lack of leadership, despite it being so conspicuous at Inter. Nonetheless, there is a definite political element in the omission of him and others: if not big egos, the very nature of the personalities left out of the 30 showed Diego didn’t want a tough decision for the final squad, didn’t want a close run. Discarding players out of hand has been one of Maradona’s most defining traits. He was hardly going to turn his back on it now. And if the reasons for Cambiasso’s consistent omissions are even harder to fathom and so explanations tend toward the personal (was it the missed penalty in 2006?), Zanetti’s is somewhat easier to understand once one takes his overall contribution into account.

He’s wrong, of course; they should be there as back-up, but it seems  among other things, that Maradona wants a group he can dominate. He’s intrigued by the apparently metamorphic power of the World Cup, a time of such pressure a whole new level can be reached. He never tires of talking about Mexico ochenta y seis, and the Niembro interview was no exception. “When we got to Mexico, no-one knew who Burruchaga was, no-one knew how strong Valdano was, no-one knew Ruggeri and el Tata Brown were going to be so solid. We had Nery [Pumpido – GK]. Carlos [Bilardo] had to make decisions as we went along that weren’t worked out in training. Now they’re all respected household names.” From his selections and his statements, and just listening to him an awful bloody lot, pegamequemegusta reckons el Diego’s after coming down with a bit of Theo Walcott 2006 syndrome.

Dionysus, rumoured to be on the plane to Pretoria later this month

There is method in the madness: a deliberately anarchic approach where improvisation is prized above all else, a cauldron of character-forming uncertainty where real men will float to the top like alphabet spaghetti. No doubt the words said tinned pasta spells out will be transcribed onto the first team sheet, too. All this talk of having the team decided already is just a fudge for fat bloggers to chew on, chum for the chumps. He said it last month, we just weren’t listening: “The players aren’t going to have any excuses, they’re going to run and run.” What we failed to understand was that they would be running from a team of automated fire-breathing dragons controlled by Wolf from Gladiators.

So many plaudits have been raining down on the heretofore quiet men of Inter’s squad over the last week, yet shame on us jittery, chattering type-monkeys, useless halfwits most of whom don’t even get the opportunity to feel their work in print, let alone get bloody paid. Maradona knew long ago Zanetti and Cambiasso had no feel for the horn, too long Italy have they been, too, too Apollonian are their souls. South Africa will be a Dionysian feast.