Monday, July 31, 2006

AFA and Boca reach an agreement

Alfio BASILE will keep on working for Boca Juniors until September 14th. That day, Boca will face Sao Paulo (Brazil) for the South American Cup Winners Cup and after that game, he will officially become Argentina manager.

That will give Boca some time to decide on BASILE's replacement and it is a reasonable amount of time for Argentina not to waste a lot of time without a manager.

Monday's round of news

With Alfio BASILE's arrival after Boca Juniors tour of Mexico, is all set for a key meeting between COCO himself, Julio GRONDONA (president of the AFA) and Mauricio MACRI (Boca's president).

They will decide in this meeting when will BASILE take over as manager of Argentina and when will he quit Boca Juniors. It is a clear fight of power between a club who doesn't want to be without a manager one week before the start of the local league and an AFA desperate to start a new process after PEKERMAN's resignation.

Today is a very important day for Team Argentina as it could be the start of a new era or the beginning of a 6-month chaotic situation.

GRONDONA even said 'If BASILE is not taking over right now, then I will!' at the time he suggested that MARADONA should take over as Boca interim manager.


In other news, the endless summer is getting to an end for Javier SAVIOLA and the little rabbitt is still uncertain about his future. The latest news is that he is still training with FC Barcelona but has been offered to Racing de Santander in a deal that will keep him in La Liga. There is nothing official about it. We're gonna have to stay tunned.


I don't know if you knew that Pablo AIMAR's nickname is 'PAYASITO'. That means 'Little Clown'. Anyway, the story is that he was unveiled in Real Zaragoza's Estadio La Romareda as their new star player. The event was held in front of 5000 Zaragoza's supporters who are ready to live a great season with AIMAR in their team. In the meantime, midfielder Leandro SOMOZA (ex Velez Sarsfield) was officialy presented as a new Villarreal player.


The basketball national team continue their preparation for the World Championships in Japan (as I continue to work in that preview I promised you). Argentina defeated Venezuela for the second time this week in one of the semifinals of the Super 4 friendly tournament. The result was a heavy 94-55 in favour of the Albicelestes and tonight they will face Brazil in the final, after our neighbours defeated New Zealand in the other semifinal.
It was a good test for Sergio HERNANDEZ's men as Venezuela will be one of our rivals during the World Championships.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Living the Fantasy

Ever since I started playing these games in 1998 I became a huge fan and I think I'm slightly addicted to Fantasy Sports.

I'm playing Yahoo! Fantasy Football (NFL), Basketball (NBA), Baseball (MLB) and the versions of the Fantasy Champions League and UEFA Cup.

But one of the Fantasy games I enjoy the most is the Premier League version.

I've discovered that besides playing it just for fun, you develop a great knowledge of every sport by following players and teams you barely knew they existed.

This time around, I've come up with the idea of creating a league for us, regulars of this blog, so we can play together.

The season starts on August 5th so we've got one week before kick-off and I'm sure we're going to have some fun.

What we can do is: send me your preferred e-mail address to and I'll send you the invitation to join our league.

In the meantime, you can go directly to and create your team right away. Rules and instructions are easy to find.

Hope you'll join me and if this is your first season, I'm sure you'll thank me for this invitation!

Oh...and by the way...if there are Fantasy players out there and you know a good free Fantasy game for the following european leagues, just let me know:


I'm trying to find a game similar to the Premier League one but so far I had no luck!

Pablo AIMAR goes to Real Zaragoza

Real Zaragoza have made official the signing of Argentina star Pablo AIMAR for the next four seasons in exchange of 11 million Euros.

The Valencia CF playmaker is moving to La Romareda Stadium and will join fellow argentines: Gabriel MILITO, Diego MILITO, Andrés D'ALESSANDRO and Leonardo PONZIO.

Pablo AIMAR, 26 years old, played almost 200 matches for Valencia. He won 2 Spanish League titles, 1 UEFA Cup and 1 European Supercup, getting to the Champions League final in the process.

As a clear image of what PABLITO means for Valencia fans and how much they will miss him, last night before leaving his former team's training ground, a young Valencia supporter started crying because he was sad to see him leave. It was Pablo AIMAR who tried to console him and give him comfort.

Friday, July 28, 2006

A little bit of everything

As I keep on writing the basketball world championships preview (it'll soon be ready) and I'm yet to start an article about the coming Apertura Tournament, here are a few pieces of news about Argentina.


The friendly match against South Africa, originally scheduled for August 15th, then postponed, then scheduled again was officially cancelled. That decision came due to a lack of time to organise it. As BASILE is prepared to take over in Argentina, Carlos Alberto PARREIRA, Brazil's manager in USA 94 and Germany 2006 have signed a pre-contract with the South African FA and will most probably become the manager of the host of the next World Cup.
In the agenda there is a visit to Europe OR the USA for two friendly matches in September. No rival has been confirmed yet.


A great controversy is on the menu these days between Boca Juniors and the AFA. BASILE feels he is in between the devil and the deep blue sea as his club, with which he has a contract until December, and the AFA continue to argue regarding the right time for BASILE to make the transition. The AFA want him immediately, while Boca Juniors feel they have not time to look for another manager with the Apertura tournament around the corner. They will even consider to ask the AFA for a postponement of their first couple of matches of that tournament if they can't find a solution.


In an interview published this Friday by OLE (a sports newspaper from Buenos Aires), Lionel MESSI said he is still sorry for playing little time in Germany. He also said he can't wait for the season to get started with FC Barcelona and that he would love to play for Argentina alongside his friend Sergio "KUN" AGÜERO. MESSI said: "Football is more beautiful when you play it short passes. I know BASILE has an attacking mentality and I love that."


MESSI could have another co-countryman playing in his club after the departure of Maxi LOPEZ (now playing at Mallorca). Javier SAVIOLA is yet to find a club who want to buy him and he is training with Catalan club. Txiki BEGIRISTAIN, an important directive in Barcelona, said that if by the 31st of July, SAVIOLA didn't find a club to play for, he will stay and he will probably play some minutes this season. He will have a tough competition for places with the likes of RONALDINHO, MESSI, ETO'O, EZQUERRO, GIULY and GUDJOHNSEN ahead of him in the pecking order.


Bolton Wanderers and Villarreal reached an agreement on Argentina's skipper Juan Pablo SORIN. It is yet to be determined if the English club can pay what SORIN is asking. If the deal comes through, it will be SORIN's sixth different country in his career after playing in Argentina, Italy, Spain, Brazil and France.


Argentina's goalkeeper during the last World Cup have played in a friendly match for his new club Getafe. They have won 3-2 against the little club Gimnástica Segoviana. Alongside PATO ABBONDANZIERI, Lucas LITCH ex Gimnasia y Esgrima La Plata in Argentina, also made his debut for Getafe.


With all the key players taking part of the match, Argentina defeated Venezuela 96-82 at Mar del Plata. It was the first friendly in the preparation for the World Championships in Japan (starting on August 19th against France). Manu GINOBILI scored 20 points and the crowd was really excited to see the Olympic Champions in action for the first time in Argentina after that incredible victory in Athens 2004.
This weekend Argentina will play a friendly Super-4 tournament with Brazil, New Zeland and Venezuela.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

BASILE accepts the challenge

It is confirmed. Alfio BASILE will be Argentina's manager until South Africa 2010. There are no more questions about it.

The big story these days in Argentina is when will he leave BOCA JUNIORS to concentrate full time on his national manager role.

Apparentely, that novel is near the end now and he will step out of BOCA when his off-season tour of Mexico is over in the next few days.

A member of BASILE's staff in BOCA (Jorge RIBOLZI) will take over as an interim manager until Mauricio MACRI (BOCA's president) finds the right man to become the next full time manager.

So far, Diego MARADONA, Marcelo BIELSA and Ricardo LA VOLPE have rejected the chance of succeeding BASILE at the helm of the most popular club in Argentina.

In other news, Argentina's friendly match against South Africa (originally scheduled for August 15th) was postponed but now it looks like there are chances for it to be played in Cape Town.

If it's confirmed, this could mark BASILE's debut.

There are rumours of Argentina going to play a friendly in Japan and another in Korea in November.

The rest is still a mistery.

Monday, July 24, 2006

What to expect here after a lazy weekend?

Hi everybody, I've been away from the computer for a couple of days and so I didn't update this blog during the weekend.

There were not so many news worthy of a mention but here are some things that happened while I also start to take a look at what's coming up in this blog.

-BASILE went to Mexico with BOCA JUNIORS and they won the Copa Puebla (a friendly contest against Mexican side CRUZ AZUL. They won the penalty shoot-out after a 2-2 draw (with both of BOCA's goals coming from cult hero Guillermo BARROS SCHELOTTO).

-Mauricio MACRI is also in Mexico and he will meet up with Ricardo LA VOLPE to talk about his possible role as manager of BOCA JUNIORS.

-Diego MARADONA has been offered the job by MACRI before, but the legendary champion of the World in 1986 said 'No, thank you'.

-Carlos TEVEZ returned to action for CORINTHIANS (Brazil). He scored in a 2-2 draw against FORTALEZA and he made a gesture towards his team's supporters asking for silence, after the 'torcida' spent most of the game and the previous days, insulting their players for a bad run of results that have them in the relegation zone. After the match, the CORINTHIANS supporters waited for TEVEZ outside the stadium and they insulted him for a while. One fan even kicked TEVEZ's car when he was leaving the stadium.

-Juan Pablo SORIN could be on his way to BOLTON WANDERERS. An offer by the English Premiership outfit has been accepted by VILLARREAL but now it remains to be seen if STUTTGART, PORTSMOUTH and INTER MILAN will continue to fight for Argentina's captain.

-Javier SAVIOLA could also be on his way to BOLTON. No further news about his situation, but a move to the Reebok Stadium looks probable.

What's next?

-We'll take a look to the national basketball team and its final preparation towards Japan 2006.

-We anticipate the start of the Apertura and the most important leagues in Europe, following the argentine players every weekend.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Boca Juniors looking for a new manager

After the AFA offered Alfio BASILE the job as manager of Argentina, we are still waiting for COCO to accept or reject it. But reading between the lines and making a simple deduction, we have reasons to believe that BASILE will become Argentina manager again.

The first reason is given by BOCA JUNIORS. The actual employers of BASILE at the moment are allready looking for a manager to replace him. They know they have little time to waste as the start of the Apertura (Opening) Tournament is getting near and near.

The latest news in that front is that Marcelo BIELSA has been offered the job and was pretty quick in rejecting it. Mauricio MACRI, BOCA JUNIORS president, said he didn't offer the job to anyone yet and he added: 'It is impossible to reject an offer that has never been made'.

In any case, BIELSA said he doesn't want to go to BOCA and now every way takes to Ricardo LA VOLPE.

Mexico's manager during the recent World Cup, Ricardo LA VOLPE have said he would love to have the opportunity to sit on BOCA's bench and will be looking forward to receive an offer from MACRI.

We still need to see a couple of more episodes in this novel, but by the look of it, BASILE taking over as Argentina manager looks pretty much a done deal.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Who is Alfio 'COCO' BASILE?

Those 'old' enough to remember USA '94 will remember him and, most importantly, the way that Argentina team played. With players like Diego MARADONA, Gabriel BATISTUTA, Claudio CANIGGIA, Diego SIMEONE and Fernando REDONDO to name a few, Argentina was one of the more attractive teams and some magical displays turned them into the hot favourites to win it all.

But tragedy struck and Diego MARADONA tested positive in a doping control and soon it was all over. Not only because our star player was banned from the World Cup, but more because the morale dropped like a bomb and we couldn't managed to make 2 passes in a row.

In any case, Alfio BASILE's story starts way before all those events and here I've prepared a couple of facts and figures for you to know him better.

Born on November the 1st, 1943 in Bahia Blanca (a city 800 kms to the south of Buenos Aires in the same province of the capital city. Just as a curiosity, it's the home town of basketball legend Manu GINOBILI and Boca Juniors' star and national team member: Rodrigo PALACIO).

He started his career as a footballer playing for Bahia Blanca's local team BELLA VISTA as a tall, strong, hard tackler central defender.

Later on, he became a key figure in that incredible RACING CLUB's (yeah baby!) team that was undefeated for 39 matches, winning the league in 1966 and then becoming the first team from Argentina to win the European-South American Cup, beating CELTIC (Scotland) in three final matches.

Before his retirement from football, he won another national league in 1973 with HURACAN (a Buenos Aires club which name means: "HURRICANE") with Cesar Luis MENOTTI as a manager.

Started off as a manager and throughout his career he has managed: Chacarita Jrs., Racing (Cordoba), Instituto (Cordoba), Rosario Central, Racing Club, Huracan, Velez Sarsfield, Talleres (Cordoba), Nacional (Uruguay), Atletico Madrid (Spain), San Lorenzo (1998) and America (Mexico) 2000/2001.

After winning promotion back to the first division with Racing in 1985, he won the first edition of the Supercopa (a tournament played between all the Copa Libertadores winners) in 1988.

And soon after, Julio GRONDONA trusted him to take care of Argentina, replacing Carlos Salvador BILARDO after Italy '90.

He won the Copa America in Chile 1991 with an incredible team (Gabriel BATISTUTA, Diego SIMEONE and Claudio CANIGGIA being the stand out performers).

He repeated that title in Ecuador 1993, not playing so greatly and suffering before beating Mexico 2-0 in the final match with a brilliant Gabriel BATISTUTA again.

With Argentina he has an impressive record of 49 matches with 26 wins, 17 draws and only 6 defeats.

Then the mentioned fate in the USA 94 World Cup when we crashed in eight finals against Romania and amongst other achievements we can find the 33 matches undefeated, the Kirin Cup in 1992, the King Fahd Cup in 1992 and the Franchi Cup in 1993 (all of them being minor friendly cups).

Back from his experience at America (Mexico's most popular team) he was hired by Boca Juniors (Argentina's most popular team). He managed in four competitions and he won all of them. Two league titles plus the South American Recopa (Cup winners cup) and the South American Cup (something like the UEFA Cup).

Those are some quick facts about him and his career.

I think Argentina is in good hands.


Breaking news: BASILE offered the job

When everything seem to be set for next week, Julio GRONDONA already made the move and has offered the manager position for Argentina to Alfio "COCO" BASILE.

It remains to be seen whether BASILE will step out as BOCA JUNIORS manager and accept the challenge.

If he says 'yes', it'll be his second spell as Argentina manager after taking care of the national team after Carlos BILARDO left following Italy '90.

BASILE have won 2 Copa America (the last 2 major trophies won by Argentina) in Chile 1991 and Ecuador 1993.

He led the team to a run of 33 matches without defeat and was ultimately knocked out of USA '94 by Romania in eight-finals after the Diego MARADONA scandal being disqualified from the World Cup after testing positive in a drug test.

My opinion?


COCO BASILE is my favourite and if he accepts (his relationship with BOCA was never the best one, despite having won all 4 trophies at stake) he will have the second chance he deserves after suffering from what happened with Diego in 94.

He is a great leader and he won't be afraid of using all of our talented attacking players at the same time.

Come on, COCO! Say yes!

Schedule confirmed for Argentina (2006/2007)

The following is some information regarding the activity of Argentina for the rest of 2006 and for the whole 2007.

We know some dates, we know some rivals, we still need to know who's going to be our manager for those compromises!

But while we're waiting to discover that, let's take a look at the list of matches and dates we have confirmed:

August, 2006:

16th. Friendly match against South Africa in Cape Town (the list of players taking part in that friendly needs to be submitted in two weeks!)

September, 2006:

2nd. Friendly match to be confirmed.

6th. Friendly match to be confirmed.

October, 2006:

7th. Friendly match to be confirmed.

11th. Friendly match to be confirmed.

November, 2006:

15th. Friendly match to be confirmed.

February, 2007:

7th. Friendly match to be confirmed.

March, 2007:

24th. Friendly match to be confirmed.

28th. Friendly match to be confirmed.

June, 2007:

2nd. Friendly match to be confirmed.

6th. Friendly match to be confirmed.

26th. Start of Copa America in Venezuela.

July, 2007:

15th. End of Copa America in Venezuela.

August, 2007:

22nd. Friendly match against Norway in Oslo.

September, 2007:

Start of the South American World Cup Qualifiers for South Africa 2010.

PEKERMAN quits Argentina

It is finally official, José Néstor PEKERMAN have decided to resign as Argentina manager after a little less than 2 years in charge.

Julio GRONDONA, AFA president, confirmed it late last night and the official announcement will follow soon.

Personally, I think this is a great loss for Argentina as despite failing to make the right substitutions at the right time during the World Cup, JOSE did a great job all of the time he's been involved with the AFA and was a key figure for the developement of many of the great talents we have in our team today.

The succession won't be easy and it'll start to take shape this weekend when the big bosses will meet in the AFA and start discussing who's going to replace PEKERMAN.

See below (in another post) to get a list of the main candidates.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Copa Libertadores - The season is starting again (July 18th)

A few days before the start of the World Cup, RIVER PLATE faced LIBERTAD (Paraguay) in the first leg of the Copa Libertadores' Quarterfinals.

Tonight, after more than a month, they will meet again and they'll try and book a place into the semifinals.

That 2-2 result in Buenos Aires seems to be pre-historic! Nobody remember who scored or who played that night!

That's football in this part of the World. The International calendar should be simply called: European calendar.

For those who don't know, the Copa Libertadores is the Southamerican equivalent of the Champions League. But unfortunatelly, it lacks on interest and number of sponsor in an incredible way. It used to be much more prestigious than what it is today. All those classic encounters between top teams from Argentina, Brazil or Uruguay seem to be in the past and those teams are missing some of their historic identity, but still, every team in South America would kill to win it!

This little article comes as an introduction for those of you who never heard of it and also as a place for those who are really interested in it to discuss and exchange your opinions through your comments.

Any RIVER PLATE fans around?

Anybody watching the game tonight?

I've got to go to the theatre tonight. So I'll be missing the match (which will be on TV). I'll look forward to talk about it with you anyway.

Orange anyone? (July 18th)

Of course I'm not talking about Holland and their excellent national team.

This is not a fruits and vegetables blog, so I'm not talking about the most popular fruit juice of all.

What am I talking about?

I'm talking about basketball!

The 'sport of the orange ball' is celebrating its World Championships 2006 in Japan next month and, if you like the idea, I will be writing my views on that event and the chances our boys have to repeat the excellent performance of 2002 in Indianapolis, USA, when they lost in the final after a very controversial call in the last play of the game.

In between the two World Championships (Indianapolis and Japan), Argentina have won the Gold medal in Athens 2004 in what was credited as one of the best moments in our sporting history.

In one month and one day, Manu GINOBILI and his mates will be facing Tony PARKER and the French team in our opening match. And I will be turning Japanese for a while! Because I'll watch all the matches, even though the first match starts at 1 AM (Buenos Aires) and the last one tips off at 6 AM!

I expect to live some very long hours next month and I hope you're here with me, supporting Argentina all the way!

PEKERMAN gone? Who's next? (July 18th)

The man said it in Germany right after Argentina was knocked out of the World Cup.

The man repeated it in Buenos Aires minutes after his plane landed.

He is not staying. Provided there are no miracles around, PEKERMAN will become Argentina's ex-manager and he seems to be adamant.

Hugo TOCALLI, PEKERMAN's assistant manager, could continue acting as an interim manager until the end of this year and it's very unlikely he will become a potential full-time manager for the future.

However, the final word on that will come next week. There will be a meeting at the AFA headquarters in Buenos Aires and its president Julio GRONDONA will try all the tricks in his bag to convince PEKERMAN to stay.

If he fails, then there are several names dancing in the air.

Let's take a look at some of them:

Diego MARADONA: Nobody feels the same about our national team. Nobody lived the things he lived as a player. There are no other icons such as his figure to identify our Country. He is dying to have the chance of managing Argentina but he is hardly qualified for that and his managerial jobs have been far from a success.

Alfio BASILE: Has experience at a World Cup (USA '94). Suffered from the controversy around MARADONA's suspension and the team fell to pieces. Was undefeated before that for more than 30 international matches. Have won the last 4 trophies at stake while at BOCA JUNIORS. Plays offensive and attractive football and won't be afraid of playing the likes of MESSI, TEVEZ, AGÜERO, SAVIOLA, AIMAR all together.

Daniel PASSARELLA: Managed during France '98 and was captain in Argentina '78. Knows his stuff but had a tight relationship with the media and some key players (REDONDO being the most notorious).

Américo GALLEGO: He says if he was blonde he'll be regarded as one of the best in the World. He might be right! He won league titles with RIVER PLATE, INDEPENDIENTE and NEWELL'S OLD BOYS in Argentina and with TOLUCA in Mexico. Very successful and loved by the players. Was assistant manager for PASSARELLA in France '98 and was also a player during Argentina '78.

Jorge BURRUCHAGA: Seems to be GRONDONA's favourite if he fails to convince PEKERMAN. He is a young manager (currently at INDEPENDIENTE) and has talent. Was an icon for Argentina, scoring the third goal in the World Cup final against Germany in Mexico '86.

Miguel Angel RUSSO: Another young and talented manager. Was crowned champion with VELEZ SARSFIELD and has a good image. He was left out of the World Cup Squad in 1986 in one of the final cuts made by BILARDO.

Carlos Salvador BILARDO: Speaking of which...he was the first one to apply for the job even before returning from Germany, where he was working as a TV commentator. That early postulation was not welcomed by the AFA. Has the backing of many in the media and the public opinion (however PEKERMAN continues to be the favourite in every poll). GRONDONA is not a fan of his defensive style even though noboby can forget the World Cup victory in '86 and the final four years later in Italy.

Carlos BIANCHI: He is probably the most successful manager in the history of the Argentine league and if he is not, he is right up there with the best. Failed the two times he went to manage in Europe (AC ROMA in the 90's and ATLETICO MADRID last season). He doesn't get along well with GRONDONA and that could hurt his chances. But nobody can underestimate his chances, specially being so strongly identified with every BOCA supporter.

Ramón DIAZ: Played in '82 alongside MARADONA. Had a great career playing for INTER MILAN and then became a great manager for RIVER PLATE (winning several leagues and 1 Copa Libertadores -1996-). Offensive minded. He likes his teams to play attractive football. The bad thing about him? He's been inactive at a high level for quite some time and has a tendency to be very controversial with his statements.

Héctor CUPER: He is currently unemployed. Had great spells at VALENCIA and INTER but failed to win the important final matches.

Nery PUMPIDO: Recently hired by NEWELL'S, he was the goalkeeper in Mexico '86 and had great campaigns as a manager in the Paraguayan league (even winning the Copa Libertadores with OLIMPIA). He is not a clear favourite for the job but given his low profile, he could surprise a few people.

Ricardo LA VOLPE: He recently managed Mexico in the World Cup and ended up in a war against the media. But he is a talented manager and he is Argentinian. He was the third goalkeeper in Argentina 1978 and could come as a great option for GRONDONA. On the other hand, he is not very popular with the people because he left Argentina in 1978 and never managed a club in our country so people don't know him.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Where is SAVIOLA going? (July 17th)

He left RIVER PLATE as one of the hottest prospect in the World. He had a couple of seasons in FC BARCELONA in which one of the managers (Carles REXACH) insisted on playing him only for home games (ridiculous!).

Nonetheless, he managed to score 17 league goals and 4 in the Champions League!

In total for FC BARCELONA he has 78 goals in 173 matches (including friendlies).

Then he was off-loaded to AC MONACO on loan where he scored 19 goals in 48 matches.

FC BARCELONA didn't want him back and so he went to SEVILLA where last season he was the top scorer in the UEFA Cup's winning team (with 6 goals in 12 games). He also scored 9 league goals playing only 29 matches.

Now he is in the same situation again. Owned by FC BARCELONA but not wanted by his manager Frank RIJKAARD and now SAVIOLA has a 6 million euros price tag on his shoulders. A reasonable amount for any team to pay for a proven young striker with World Cup experience.

Rumours linked him with ARSENAL but today those were denied by manager Arsene WENGER.

Where is he heading now?

Here's a little list of those teams which have shown some interest in him:











Thursday, July 13, 2006

Transfer rumours and other news (July 13th)

The World Cup is over and some Argentina players have raised their value in the transfer market. Some will change teams for this coming season and some others are still waiting to see for which club will they play soon.

Transfer rumours:

Roberto ABBONDANZIERI: The latest news indicate that he is very close to sign a contract for Spanish side GETAFE. The 34-year old keeper is looking for a chance to prove his value in an European league after a successful spell at Boca Juniors. Besides, this move will give him another financial security and the thrill he is looking for by adding a great new experience of playing in La Liga. Apparentely, he is 'fighting' for GETAFE's place between the posts against Mexican Oswaldo SANCHEZ and Uruguayan Fabian CARINI. The situation will be sorted in the next few hours.

Angel TORRES, GETAFE's president, has also indicated that his club could sign an Argentinian left-back but he refused to reveal his name.

Juan Pablo SORIN: He is an Argentine left-back and he was declared by VILLARREAL's manager Manuel PELLEGRINI as being available in the transfer market. The arrival of Robert PIRES to play on the left hand side of the Yellow Submarine's midfield, plus the great performances by Rodolfo ARRUABARRENA (another Argentine playing for VILLARREAL) have left SORIN without a role in the squad.

With no time to cry about it, Juampi is looking closer and closer to the Bundesliga outfit STUTTGART. They seem to be ready to pay 6 million euros to take the Argentina captain to Germany.

SORIN started his career in ARGENTINOS JUNIORS and went on to play for JUVENTUS (ITA), RIVER PLATE (ARG), LAZIO (ITA), PARIS SAINT GERMAIN (FRA), CRUZEIRO (BRA), BARCELONA and VILLARREAL (ESP). If he moves to Germany it will be the sixth different league he'll play, making it one of the most travelled players in the World.

Javier SAVIOLA: El Conejito (The little rabbit as he is nicknamed) could be on his way to ARSENAL. FC BARCELONA manager Frank RIJKAARD have declared he won't be counting with SAVIOLA for this season, so a move is mandatory for him. Even though VILLARREAL (Spain) PSV EINDHOVEN (Holland) and PANATHINAIKOS (Greece) were interested, the prospect of playing in the Premier League is tempting SAVIOLA and it looks as if he is going to play alongside Thierry HENRY. Could be decided as early as this week.

Gabriel HEINZE: Despite the ardent interest by Spanish giants REAL MADRID and FC BARCELONA, HEINZE has stated today that he is very grateful of the people of MANCHESTER UNITED after all the support he received when he was injured last season. He said that if the club want him to stay, he will stay.

Roberto AYALA: There were rumours taking him to VILLARREAL. Those rumours were denied but there are other versions linking the VALENCIA's central defender with TOTTENHAM HOTSPURS. LIVERPOOL is another team setting his sights on AYALA. Still no decision as VALENCIA CF is hoping to renew his contract.

Maxi RODRIGUEZ: After one season playing for ATLETICO MADRID and a great World Cup with Argentina, MAXI is heavily wanted by INTERNAZIONALE. They are rumoured to have offered 13 million euros plus fellow Argentine Santiago SOLARI.

Javier AGUIRRE, ATLETICO MADRID's Mexican manager is doing all he can to keep MAXI at the Vicente Calderón for this coming season.

Hernan CRESPO: With Didier DROGBA staying put and the arrival of Andriy SHEVCHENKO and Salomon KALOU to CHELSEA, CRESPO could be on his way back to Italy. He never hid the fact that he wanted to go back to the Italian Serie A and he could be the new addition to either AC MILAN or INTERNAZIONALE. It remains to be seen and it depends also on AC MILAN's situation after the corruption cases in Italy.

Other news:

Carlos TEVEZ: He was expected back in Brazil to re-join CORINTHIANS last night. But he have communicated the club he is very tired and he needs a couple of more days to join them. He missed last night defeat (against CRUZEIRO) and he will also skip this Sunday's derby match against PALMEIRAS. CORINTHIANS had a terrible start of the campaign and they are now in the relegation zone. Javier MASCHERANO is expected to play on Sunday.

Hugo TOCALLI, José PEKERMAN's assistant manager, could become the interim manager. It's not official yet, but it is believed Julio GRONDONA, president of the AFA, will offer him and the rest of PEKERMAN's staff to continue until the end of 2006.

This decision would be based on the idea to give the current process some continuity and to avoid major and sudden changes by naming another manager in a rush.

From Russia with love (and a lot of money!) (July 13th)

I was playing mysterious here. I was telling you I had some big news coming regarding Argentina and it’s time for me to deliver and finally give you this information.

You all remember that friendly match we played against Angola (May 31st in Salerno, Italy). You all know we won with Maxi RODRIGUEZ and Juan Pablo SORIN scoring our goals in a 2-0 result.

But what none of us knew back then was that it was going to become the most important Argentina friendly match of all times!
Why? Because amongst the crowd there were a few men that were ready to sing a contract that is going to determine the future of our national team during the next four years.

Viktor Feliksovich VEKSELBERG is the third wealthiest man in Russia (behind Mikhail KHODORKOVSKY and Chelsea’s owner Roman ABRAMOVICH). He owns a number of companies related to the steel production and oil refinery in Russia and recently he bought a Gustav KLIMT’s painting for a record fee of 107 million euros (beating the record fee ever paid for a painting –a Picasso one-).

Guillermo TOFONI (picture here to the left of FIFA President, Sepp Blatter) is a former Argentinos Juniors’ youth team goalkeeper and the only FIFA agent born in Argentina legally allowed to organise international friendly matches. ( They have an English version on their website)

Julio GRONDONA is the president of the AFA (Argentine Football Association) and one of FIFA’s vice-presidents. He is in charge of the AFA since 1978 and he plans to continue at the helm.

The three of them were watching PEKERMAN’s team defeating Angola but at the same time were finalising the details of this incredible contract that was signed soon after that night.

What is this all about?

VEKSELBERG’s company –Gulgong- (teamed-up with TOFONI’s company –World Eleven-) has bought the rights to organise and distribute the broadcasting of 24 friendly matches that Argentina must play between the recent World Cup and the 1st of August, 2011.

For that privilege, the Russian millionaire will pay a total of 18 million dollars. Nine of them were already paid and the rest will be effective in amounts of 350.000 per game (half before each match and the other half hours after each friendly).

Not only that. There is a clause in this contract that forces the AFA (or the manager that will be in charge of the National Team) to field at least 7 players out of the list that was handed out by VEKSELBERG and TOFONI to GRONDONA.

They created the list before the World Cup and it includes the 23 players that made it to Germany 2006, plus 7 other raising stars.

It was a way that the Russians found to avoid organising a friendly match and realising just before the game that there were no prime-time players taking part of it. By including this clause, they guarantee at least 7 big names.

The 30 players are the following:

German LUX (River Plate - Goalkeeper)
Roberto AYALA
Juan Pablo SORIN
Gabriel HEINZE
Gabriel MILITO
Leandro CUFRE
Hernan PELLERANO (Velez Sarsfield – Defender)
Fernando GAGO (Boca Juniors - Midfielder)
Fernando BELLUSCHI (River Plate - Midfielder)
Federico INSUA (Recently bought by Borussia Dortmund, Germany)
Leandro SOMOZA (Velez Sarsfield – Midfielder)
Martin DEMICHELIS (Bayern Munich - Midfielder)
Carlos TEVEZ
Lionel MESSI
Julio CRUZ

You may be wondering…WHAT ABOUT KUN AGÜERO? Well…they thought about it and they decided to leave him out of the list because they presume that KUN will be called up by whoever becomes Argentina’s manager. So they left KUN out of the list to pick another of the players they want to see and give him the chance to be included in the squad.

It sounds incredible and I’ve got two ways of reading this whole thing about this contract.

On one hand, we all know about the struggling economy of Argentina and its football is not something different. This rich contract and all the money coming in will help the clubs and the AFA to survive and invest a little bit more in the infrastructure and the youth systems.

Argentina will play more often and its ‘brand’ will become more popular. The team will become more competitive as all of our players will be used to face International opposition (not only South American). The Russians will manage the broadcasting rights and Argentina could benefit from that because the Albiceleste will reach millions and millions of new homes and more supporters will join us.

But on the other hand, this contract seems to force the new manager to pick the names that are included in a list. That won’t give the manager a total freedom and will probably create a bad atmosphere around the team. I can already see that if one of the players included in the list has a bad game, he’ll be criticised and people will start saying that he shouldn’t have been in the list in the first place. I know it’s silly, but it’ll happen. Take my word on that.

We’re going to have to wait and see if this contract proves to be beneficial or disruptive.

There are a lot of rumours around the AFA stating that PEKERMAN is actually leaving because he does not want to be conditioned by an investor designing who should play or not.

I don’t know how much those rumours are true, but it make sense if they are.

True rumours or not, the official word is that the first friendly will be against South Africa and will take place somewhere in Africa (still to be determined) the 16th of August (yes, in a month!). Then on November 15th, we’ll play against Turkey at Dortmund, Germany. They want to make the most out of the great number of Turkish leaving in that area to guarantee a sold out. Plus with Federico INSUA now playing for Borussia Dortmund, some of their fans will be attracted by him and will also attend to that match.

Here are some other aspects covered by the contract:

The Russians will take care of the travel and accommodation of the players and
the staff before each match. They will pay for 35 plane tickets and 4
daily meals.
They will give the AFA 100 VIP tickets to distribute
at will (protocol, fans’ contest to win the ticket as a prize, sponsors,
After each game, there’ll be 2 players attending the
press conference. One will be chosen by the AFA and the other by the
Out of the 24 friendly matches contemplated in the
contract, 10 should be category ‘A’ (as FIFA determines each friendly depending
on FIFA Ranking or simply the status of both teams), 7 should be ‘B’ rivals and
7 ‘C’.

Are you happy with this ‘Magical Mystery Argentour’?

A look into the future (part 3 - final act) - Forwards (July 13th)

It’s time to talk about what everybody was waiting for. Yes, there was some interest to know the names of our future defensive unit or our midfield core, but let’s face it: goals are the engine of football, its heart and soul. Even though this World Cup and the previous Euro (won by Greece in 2004) were clear examples of the predominance of the defensive game, people are far from falling in love with teams like Greece in 2004 or Italy in 2006. Fans all over the World (thank goodness) still lose their sleep dreaming of skilful players scoring those impossible goals and becoming legends.

Argentina has a history to respect and the best way to honour that glorious past is by keep on generating more exciting talents with only one objective: to burn the net!
As we saw during the recent World Cup, we’ve got some powerful attackers and a solid base to start working on for South Africa 2010.

Let’s take a look:

Carlos TEVEZ: There is a commercial ad decorating the streets in Buenos Aires. It has Carlitos’ picture and a sentence that says it all: ‘Nacido en Fuerte Apache, querido en todas partes’ (‘Born in Fuerte Apache (a poor and marginal neighbourhood in Buenos Aires), loved everywhere’. That’s what stands out more about this immensely talented young man. Never in the past an Argentine was beloved in Brazil like he is ever since he went to play for Corinthians. There were some Brazilians supporting Argentina because of CARLITOS! Believe me, that says a lot!

He had a great World Cup and I think he was the best player (along with AYALA) in our game against Germany. He will surely sign a big contract sometime in the near future for a big European club (hope it’s not Chelsea!) and he will become a real star for our National Team. He is irreplaceable!

Javier SAVIOLA: Some where saying this was his last World Cup and I hope they are wrong! He is about to sign a contract for Arsenal to play alongside Thierry HENRY after being incredible neglected by FC Barcelona (AGAIN!). He always scored. No matter where he played.

I still remember the first time I saw him. He was 16 and made his debut in the first division for River Plate against the tricky Gimnasia y Esgrima Jujuy. He came in with a few minutes left in a difficult away match and he scored. He never stopped. Had a great World Cup too (specially the first two matches). Faded out a little against Mexico (not making the most in a couple of crucial chances) and then he didn’t play against Germany. But he will still be playing in Europe’s elite and will have great experience come South Africa 2010. I expect to have him in our team.

Hernan CRESPO: Well...I think that was it. A ‘Silver Shoe’ award for being the second placed striker (ahead of RONALDO only because CRESPO played less minutes) will come as a consolation prize I’m sure he rather not have and would exchange it for a better placement by Argentina.

But there went his third World Cup. First as a starter but I think also the last. He will continue to play in our National Team (I believe so) but I’m sure he won’t be making it to South Africa, his age being the main reason.

Julio CRUZ: I feel sorry for the guy. People think he was the obstacle we had from being able to watch MESSI those last minutes against Germany. But the truth is that CRUZ was always committed to the cause. He had no problems to travel the whole world with no previous notice and always declared ready to play only to be benched again and again by BIELSA, PEKERMAN or whoever was in charge.

He never complained. He is a serious hard worker and has shown in more than one occasion that he can score. He will continue to do so for Inter (or maybe somewhere else if Inter signs Luca TONI) but I’m afraid he won’t be playing for Argentina anymore.

Lionel MESSI: He is a gem for the Argentine football and football in general. ‘A blessing’ as PEKERMAN once said. No doubt he’ll become the nucleus of this new era. He just need to grow up and gain some experience that will only be beneficial for our National Team.

In 2010, he will be the kind of player that can lead a team to stardom. The way I see it, there is no other player today that can make an impact quite like him in four years time.

Rodrigo PALACIO: Yeah, he struggled against Ivory Coast. A little bit because of inadequate shoes (he was slipping all the time!) but also because of inappropriate tactics (he was left alone in our attacking front and had no partners to play with in those horrible last 20 minutes we played in that opening match).

He will use that experience for the future. He will also make the quality leap towards a European league in the near future and if he can emulate his performances for Boca somewhere else, he’ll be one to watch in the future.

So far, so good. You all know these players and I suppose we are pretty much in the same page regarding who of those will make it to South Africa 2010 and who won’t.

I know you, so I will stop going round and round and round and I’ll go straight to what you want to read: our future attackers! Here they are:

Sergio AGÜERO: I remember Jorge VALDANO once said about the great Brazilian legend
ROMARIO: ‘That player is a cartoon’s character! The way he plays, there is something fantastic about him’. Now there are two things that relate a lot about that sentence and Sergio: First of all, he was compared to ROMARIO soon after he made his appearance for Independiente. Physically he is very similar, those bent legs, that killing pace...

Secondly, and most incredibly, he has a cartoon’s character nickname! Many of you may be wondering what’s all that about the name KUN. Well...KUN is a Japanese cartoon character from AGÜERO’s favourite anime series when he was a little boy. He loved that character (actually named KUN KUN) so much that very soon everybody started calling him simply KUN. And boy he does play like a cartoon’s character! He is elastic. He’s fast. He’s also tough.

Signed by Atletico Madrid, KUN is already an idol in Spain’s capital and will try and carry Atletico’s flag to the top of La Liga once again. Expect him to be a key member for Argentina starting NOW!

Diego MILITO: He was very close to join his brother GABRIEL in this recent World Cup. He
plays for Zaragoza with him and he is a terrific goal scorer. Ever since he made his debut for Racing Club (did I tell you I support Racing? Ha!) I knew he was something special. Had a couple of great seasons here and was soon signed by one of the sleeping giants in Italian football: GENOA.

Diego (what a name he has, right?) became their top scorer and won promotion to Serie A, only for Genoa to be relegated to Serie C after a ‘little bit’ of corruption by their president.

Then he decided to go to Zaragoza and he became very famous after scoring 4 goals in a match against Real Madrid for the Copa del Rey. He also became Zaragoza’s main target man and he continued to deliver. If he maintains his level of performances, I won’t be surprise if he becomes the striker of our future.

Luciano FIGUEROA: Poor LUCHO (same nickname of GONZALEZ). He suffered a leg fracture while playing for River Plate when he was getting ready to join Argentina’s World Cup squad.

Never really showed his real potential when he went to play for Villarreal, but he did great everytime he pulled the Albiceleste at every level. Had a great Confederations Cup and scored some important goals in the World Cup Qualifiers. But had that horrible injury and missed out. If he comes back strong, he should have some chances in the future.

Luciano GALLETTI: In terms of age and experience, he could be making the trip to South Africa. But will he play to the best of his ability in the future? Is he past his prime? He is the only one who can reply to these answers and it all depends on him and how can he perform from now on.

All of these are proven attackers and not risky bets when we are talking of the chances they have to play for Argentina. Below you’ll read some names you probably never heard of. Some young, up and coming talents who could also be in our next manager radar.

But before we get to that, let me throw another name to you. A player that made a bad move in his career and was soon forgotten.

Fernando CAVENAGHI: What a great striker he is! Started playing for River Plate and started breaking scoring records. Sensational instinct and scoring ability.

He was rumoured to move to Italy, Spain or England but instead he (probably ill advised) took the first offer and went on to play for Spartak Moscow. Hardly an exciting team in a hardly competitive league.

Now he is struggling to find his old form and at the same time, he is out of the radar everytime a national manager thinks about the players to pick for a match or a tournament.

Can he put his career back on track? Will somebody take him to the biggest leagues in Europe? Will he come back to Argentina to build up his career once again? If the answer to one of this questions is ‘yes’, then we could add an amazing goal scorer to our team. I hope we do.

Now ‘Los pibes’ ('the lads' or 'the kids') as we say in Argentina when refering to the young men.

Ignacio SCOCCO: OK, could be a one time wonder but he scored 13 goals in his first season playing for Newell’s Old Boys (’ve got it, same team where a certain Gabriel Omar BATISTUTA started his career!).

He was unstoppable! He scored with both feet and he is as powerful as he is skilled. So much that he was already signed by the Mexican club PUMAS UNAM. Too soon to call. We need to see if he keeps on scoring in Mexico. One to watch, no doubt about it.

Diego BUONANOTTE: Another fine product of River Plate’s youth system, ‘COTI’ is only 17 years old and 1,60 mts.

Left footed, blue eyed, Diego (what is it with that name?) is yet to make his first division debut but is already raising a few eye-brows. Watch out for him.

And of course you can’t forget the strikers of last year’s Youth World Cup in The Netherlands:

Gustavo OBERMAN (River Plate), Neri CARDOZO (Boca Juniors) and Pablo VITTI (Rosario Central). They are not quite there in the mix, but they are still young and have time on their side.

I like what I see here. There will be a ‘good fight’ for places and that will only make them improve and get better.

Who’s your favourite out of these group?

Monday, July 10, 2006

A look into the future (part 2) - Midfielders (July 10th)

The place of the most ardent battles in every football match. The midfield is not when you win or lose matches, but it’s the place in which you set up those victories, you build them up and ultimately you sustain them. You will get nowhere if your midfield is weak even if your defense and offense are strong. You need to link them through your midfield men.

Argentina had a strong midfield in this World Cup but in occasions it failed to control the game. Nevertheless, looking forward to 2010, there are a few names that give us reasons to be confident. Young players who performed superbly in Germany 2006 and will have an invaluable experience for South Africa.

Below I’ll talk about those names and I’ll also look somewhere else to try and find the gems that will make us a serious contender next time.

But first, a look at those midfielders who won’t be making it to South Africa 2010.

Juan Roman RIQUELME: He was flirting with retirement even before the World Cup. He said he was probably going to quit football if he was crowned as champion in Germany 2006. He’ll keep on playing now, but I don’t see him making it to our squad in four years time. People in Argentina are somewhat disappointed with his performances in the World Cup and that won’t help him.

Pablo AIMAR: The favourite of the majority of readers who have sent me e-mails during this World Cup, the Valencia play-maker will have a hard time to make it to 2010. He’ll be 31 years old and will have less pace and agility, crucial aspects of his game. Too bad he didn’t have a good chance to show them. That said, it will only depend on him. If he performs these coming 4 seasons and stays out of injuries. Will he?

The following players have a place guaranteed in our next World Cup squad:

Javier MASCHERANO: What else can you ask after what he did in Germany 2006 with only 22 years of age? He looked like a veteran being always in the right place at the right time. I expect him to sign a big contract in the next couple of seasons with an European powerhouse and become one of the best defensive midfielders in the World.

Maxi RODRIGUEZ: 3 goals in a World Cup coming from midfield. Had everything you can ask a complete midfielder and he is now being look after by Inter Milan. But will Atletico Madrid let him go? He’ll be 29 but he has done a great World Cup and the experience he got from it will be a key to get another call. Gracias MAXI!


These are a couple of players that have question marks above them. Be it for age reasons or simply for performances.

Esteban CAMBIASSO: For some reason I tend to think he will always be young! It must be because I first saw him when he was 15, playing a South American Under-17 tournament for Argentina. Then he was one of the youngest and he scored a goal in the final of the Youth World Cup in Malaysia 97. Well…for the next World Cup he will be almost 30 and will have to battle it out with a lot of talented and younger players in four years.

Luis GONZALEZ: 29 years old for a midfielder that bases his game on running up and down the left or right flank could be too many. Again, it depends on him. If he continues to impress in Portugal (FC Porto) and he keeps on playing for Argentina (Copa America, World Cup Qualifiers, etc) he might have a chance.


Very nice, right? But I know you want to read about up and coming players, those youngsters who can become the next big thing or maybe you’re looking for a replacement for RIQUELME as a playmaker.

Well...I’ve got some answers to that, and just like you, I have many questions!

First thing we need to know is who will be our next manager if GRONDONA fails to convince PEKERMAN to stay.

Because knowing who will be our next manager could help us know what type of players will he be interested in.

Here are a few names that should be considered regardless of the manager:

Pablo ZABALETA: Already settled in an important European league (Spain) and playing a great part in Espanyol’s fortunes. He won the Copa del Rey with them but the highlight of his career so far has been captaining Argentina to The Netherlands 2005 Youth World Cup alongside Lionel MESSI, Sergio ‘Kun’ AGÜERO and Oscar USTARI. He plays on the right and his game is similar to that of Maxi RODRIGUEZ.

Fernando GAGO: Boca Juniors are enjoying while they can get a hold on him. Real Madrid and other big clubs are after this elegant defensive midfielder who has already being tagged as ‘The new Fernando REDONDO’. His exquisite play will be a great asset for Argentina for years to come and I’m already dreaming of a midfield with him alongside MASCHERANO so Javier can recover balls and Fernando can distribute them. Will he move up to become a play-maker? It’s a possibility, but I don’t think he’ll do it. For the record, he is only 20 years old.

Martin DEMICHELIS: He is not a part of the next generation, but he was really close to make it to this World Cup. Maybe next time. If he continues to perform like he is doing it for Bayern Munich he can become a useful member of our team in the next few years and maybe show up as an experienced 30-year old midfielder who can also move back and play in defense.

Juan Manuel TORRES: ‘Chaco’ as he is nicknamed after the province in which he was born, plays for my team Racing Club and I know him very well. He also played for Argentina in The Netherlands 2005 Youth World Cup and he is a key member for Racing for quite a few seasons now, despite his young age. He’s been rumoured to be on his way to Europe soon, but he will stay in Racing at least for one more season. His style is similar to MASCHERANO’s. He is not near MASCHERANO’s level but he has plenty of room to improve. Has to learn how to keep his head cool as he has a tendency to see the red card very often.

Lucas BIGLIA: Another of the Youth World Cup winners last year in Holland. He is a key part of Independiente (Racing’s fieriest rivals!) and he is multifunctional. Kind of a CAMBIASSO’s style of play. The next four years will be a splendid platform for him or could be the end of his quest for a place in Argentina’s World Cup squad. Again, a move to Europe will help his chances.


Leandro DEPETRIS: He is 17 now. He became very famous when he was signed by AC Milan aged 11! He then played for the youth teams for River Plate and he is now playing for Brescia in Italy. He is far from impressing the way he did when he first appear but no doubt he has something and he can burst into the World’s attention in the next couple of years. Very skilled with the ball.


And I’ll ask you to pay attention to the next name I’ll bring up to the table. This is a very risky bet, but I’m taking my chances here. I’m yet to see him play and he is yet to prove himself at the best level, but from what I’m hearing about him so far, I think he is worthy of a mention and could become (yes…this is what many of you wanted to hear!) our play-maker of the future!

His name is Lucas TRECARICHI.

Who is he?

First of all let me tell you he is only 15 now. But his story is similar to another prodigy of ours: Lionel MESSI. Why? Because just as the ‘Atomic Flea’, Lucas went to Spain being very young (after being incredibly released by River Plate) and started playing there. Not in Barcelona, but Leganes gave him an opportunity and now there are clubs the likes of Arsenal, Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid are after him! He has a contract with Leganes for the next 8 years and there is already a rescission clause that will be of 6 million euros near the end of that contract.

He is a play-maker and he’ll surely be a part of our next Under-17 National Team. It’s difficult to speak about certainties when the player is so young as Lucas, but nobody can stop us from dreaming, can they?


Andres D’ALESSANDRO impressed everyone when he first burst into the scene for River Plate and won the Youth World Cup in Argentina 2001 playing with his childhood friend Javier SAVIOLA and with Maxi RODRIGUEZ, amongst others. He was transferred to Wolfsburg in Germany and people lost track on him. A rupture in his relationship with his former manager have paved the way for him to move out of there. A short spell at Portsmouth, when they won the battle to avoid relegation last season, has taken him to Spain. He’ll start all over at Zaragoza this season and will try to recover his old form to gain back a place in our national team. He performed as a play-maker with BIELSA in the last Copa America. Will he come back?

That leaves us with the following midfielders for 2010:

Fernando GAGO
Juan Manuel TORRES
(I think one of these three)

6 sure bets, 3 oldies-but-goldies who might still have a chances, 1 big bet to the future, 1 dark-horse and 1 come-back kid who wants to return to his old self. That’s the outcome of this little exercise trying to foresee our midfield of the future. I hope you’re happy with it and remember, if I forgot to mention a player you think deserves to be included in this list, just send me your comments.

Oh...and by the way...if there are problems to fill up the midfielders spots available, there is a little lad called Lionel MESSI who can move back a couple of meters and become a speedy play-maker to help them out!

Thursday, July 06, 2006

A look into the future - Goalkeepers and Defenders for 2010 (July 6th)

Some might say it’s too early to think about this. The majority of you who have been writing me e-mails don’t agree with this. There seem to be a desperate thirst for revenge and even if we are four years away from having that chance, every Argentina fan wants to start to imagine our team for South Africa 2010.

Well, here is my first approach to the players that could (in my humble opinion) make it to the next World Cup.

It is such a hard work and it’ll be impossible to talk about all the names I’ll mention below. Because of that, in this first article about our future National Team, I’ll concentrate only on goalkeepers and defenders.


Roberto ABBONDANZIERI was one of the highest points for Argentina in 2006, but he might be too old for the next World Cup. He is almost 34 and even though Jens LEHMANN is 36 now and he had a great World Cup, ABBONDANZIERI will have almost 38 and will be almost impossible for him to be included. That said, he is poised to get a contract in Spain and start a brand new international career at his age. So you never know.

There is nothing to be worried about. Argentina has other options between the three posts. Oscar USTARI was our only player in the squad not to play a single minute in this World Cup, but he gained experience by being with the team in such circumstances.

Leo FRANCO will be 33 and if he keeps up his performances in Spain he could become our first choice.

Running behind these two there is German LUX (who very narrowly missed the trip to Germany). He is very young and he is established in River Plate (and may be going to play in Europe very soon).

Other candidates?

Mariano BARBOSA made a move to Spain to play for Villarreal and will continue to gain experience and improve in this coming four seasons.

Franco COSTANZO is another product of River Plate’s youth system and has incredible reflexes. He got relegated with Deportivo Alavés in Spain but no doubt he has the qualities. He has four years to establish himself once again.


Out of the current squad, there might be some defenders still in contention to play in 2010.

Instead of going case by case, I’ll name those who I think will have to stay and try and explain why.

Gabriel MILITO: Solid. Played a great game against Holland and has the best years of his career still to come. He’ll be 30.

Nicolas BURDISSO: Adaptability. He can play in every defensive position. Had a great World Cup before his injury against Holland. If he keeps up his performances for Inter Milan, he should be heading for South Africa. He’ll be 29.

Gabriel HEINZE: Experience. He’ll be 32 and he better use his experience to avoid silly mistakes like those he made in Germany. Playing at a high level for Manchester United could help his case.

Of those I like from our defensive core these three are the only ones who have a chance to make it to the next World Cup in terms of age. Captain Juan Pablo SORIN (34 in 2010) and former skipper Roberto AYALA (37) will miss out. And guys like Fabricio COLOCCINI, Lionel SCALONI and Leandro CUFRE should not play unless they improve dramatically in the next few seasons.

New faces?

Gonzalo RODRIGUEZ should have played in this World Cup if it wasn’t for his nasty injury sustained in a Champions League encounter last season. He will be one of the top central defenders for the next years to come. I’m thinking of a couple of central defenders formed by him and Gabriel MILITO. We have a future there! By the way, if you want to follow GONZALO, he plays for Villarreal and he’ll be 26 in 2010. He has 5 caps with Argentina and scored 1 goal (against Mexico in a friendly match).

Walter SAMUEL did not make it to Germany. He never got to be the same he was when he won the Scudetto with AC Roma (2000/2001). But he can make a comeback and be an experienced 32-year old central defender in our next World Cup squad.

So we’ve got 5 already. No room for surprises so far! We might take 6 or 7 defenders to the next World Cup and the last two spots could be filled up by new-comers. Four years is a lot of time in football and lots of careers are build up in less than that.

But here are a couple of bets to the future:

Gustavo CABRAL. He plays for Racing Club and is familiar with Argentina Youth Teams. He is already established in the first division and if he manages to secure a move to Europe, he’ll be better regarded by everybody. Has speed. Knows how to head the ball and will be 24 at the time of the World Cup.

Daniel DIAZ. While this is not exactly a bet to the future, he’s a player who can become a power house in the next couple of years. With experience in Mexico and being a key to Boca’s recent success, there might be a spot available for him. Some defenders seem to hit their best form in their late-20’s so a move to Europe would not be something crazy to think. He’ll be almost 31 in the next World Cup.

Nicolas PAREJA. He comes from Argentinos Juniors (just like MARADONA, REDONDO, CAMBIASSO, SORIN and RIQUELME to name a few) and he have just secured a move to Anderletch (Belgium). Watch out for him in the coming seasons. He’ll be 26 and he can present a good battle for a starting position come 2010.

We’ll continue to follow all our worthy contenders to get a place in our next World Cup team and in the meantime, you’re welcome to suggest your favourite players and send me your comments about my picks for the future.

Crystal balls anyone?

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Memories of a World Cup (July 5th)

When a World Cup campaign is over, one of the first things you have to do is a recap. Look back and recognise our positives and negatives. What worked great, what worked good and what didn’t work.

Here’s a brief list of things, players, situations that were the key to get the result we’ve got.

KILLING THE GHOSTS: The first game against Ivory Coast was more important than how it looks like today. Argentina had the horrible images of being out of the last World Cup in the first round and our players were carrying a heavy burden. We tasted some good feelings (going up 2-0 and playing solidly) but we also received a couple of bad signals that were going to turn into disaster eventually (we started playing defensively to defend our lead and ended up suffering).

TURNING ON THE STYLE: My question at that time was: ‘How to keep the cool?’ I still want to smile when I remember that match against Serbia & Montenegro. I think it was the best performance by Argentina in the history of the World Cup. Granted we defeated what turned out to be the worst team in this tournament (they ended up in the 32nd position behind Togo and Trinidad and Tobago). But the way we played was beyond those analysis. Some might say we peaked very early while France, for instance, had a shocking first round and then they eliminated Brazil. I don’t think that is necessarily like that. Our form didn’t quite decrease after that. We crashed out for other reasons: call it bad substitutions, inability to take penalty kicks, lack of killer instinct.

SUPER SUBS: Against Serbia & Montenegro Argentina became the first team in the history of the World Cup having all 3 substitutes in the scoreline. Carlos TEVEZ, Lionel MESSI and Esteban CAMBIASSO came off the bench and each had a goal in that match. Before the World Cup, Carlos Alberto PARREIRA (Brazil’s manager) said ‘our substitutes are levelled with Croatia’s starting eleven’. I thought Brazil was the one with the best bench in this World Cup, but it turned out to be Argentina. Having MESSI, AIMAR and TEVEZ on the bench gave us an X-Factor. Unfortunately they were unable to play all-together against Germany and we suffered from that. But I think this was one of the strongest points of our team in Germany 2006.

KEEPING THE CRITICS AWAY: Very few people before the World Cup believed in Roberto ABBONDANZIERI. PEKERMAN trusted him and he started delivering from day 1 (when he stopped a very difficult header against Ivory Coast). He then kept a clean sheet for two games in a row (Serbia & Montenegro and Holland) and had no responsibility in none of the two goals he conceded (Drogba’s and Marquez’). He was one of the finest goalkeeper in this World Cup and was unlucky to be injured with 20 minutes to go against Germany.

HIGHS AND LOWS: Our defense was the main source of troubles in those weeks prior to the World Cup. AYALA and HEINZE were both coming back from injury and missed a huge portion of their seasons. They were tested right before the World Cup and they were able to play. Whilst I must admit HEINZE really let me down (yellow cards against Ivory Coast and Serbia & Montenegro. Yellow card against Mexico –when some say he should have seen red-). He was never in control. He looked shaky and I had the impression he felt uncomfortable when he had the ball. He used to give it away cheaply or simply throw it out of bounds. Whilst he plays with his heart, sometimes he should think first and react later. To me, he was at fault when Mexico scored (he should have marked Rafa MARQUEZ) and against Germany, I think he was the one supposed to go with KLOSE. AYALA went to challenge BOROWSKI, SORIN was paying attention to ODONKOR’s moves down the left of our defense and HEINZE is caught in between BOROWSKI and KLOSE. Marking nobody and making it look like SORIN lost him. Yes, it was a collective error. But if I have to blame somebody, then in my opinion the only one totally out of position and marking nobody was Gabriel. On the other hand, I have to give my apologies to Roberto AYALA. When I wrote a few lines about each and everyone of our players before the World Cup, I said AYALA was ‘past his prime’. Well…ROBERTO proved me wrong. He was, along with CANNAVARO, the top central defender in this World Cup. Had a goal disallowed against Ivory Coast and then scored against Germany. He was one of the highest points in our team and he showed he still have great pace and a Jordanesque leaping ability. I felt terribly sorry for him when he missed his penalty but I think he had an excellent World Cup.
SORIN was more concentrated on defense than offensively. He did a good job but we lost probably his best asset which we can see when he goes forward. A prove to that is the start of our first goal against Serbia (a back-heel pass to SAVIOLA before MAXI scored) and that ‘assist’ to MAXI against Mexico.
Our right back was well covered by BURDISSO but then he got injured against Serbia and we never got a good option to replace him. SCALONI had a couple of good moments against Mexico but overall, his performance was not the best. COLOCCINI struggled against Holland and improved a little bit against Germany but apart from his colourful haircut, nobody will remember him. Gabriel MILITO did a good job against Holland and I'll talk a little bit about him and some more players that could become the core of our defense in the next four years.

LOW PROFILE, HIGH PERFORMANCE: It’s time to give credit where it’s due. GRACIAS MAXI! What a great revelation this guy was! Not only he scored 3 goals playing from midfield, he gave us the ticket to the Quarter-Finals thanks to a brilliant goal (probably the best in this World Cup if you consider the moment in which he scored). He was all over the park. He helped in defense, he obviously had a big part on offense. Here’s to a long career in our National Team. See you in 2010 MAXI!

KILLER INSTINCT: You need it. If you want to win the World Cup, then you have to be ruthless. You have to kill off the match when you have the opportunity and you have to do what you do best. In Italy’s case, that’s to defend. In our case…we should have attacked, attacked and attacked all the time. I’m not saying sending all your men forward when you’re winning. I’m saying keep the ball beyond the midfield line and keep on threatening your rival with runs forward and fluid passing game. If you have the tools to do so, then DO IT! Or pay the consequences. That’s what we did in the end.

ACCEPT DEFEAT: I’m hurt after what happened between our players and the Germans in that big brawl during and after the penalty shoot-out. It seems to be a horrible habit we Argentines have every now and then. We can’t accept defeat, or at least many of us. If the Germans were celebrating before it was over…then let them. Why do you have to start a brawl and fight them? I was surprised when MAXI got involved and threw a punch towards SCHWENSTEIGER. Those are not the kind of images we wanted to see from them. Specially after being used to winning, not only the Youth World Cup with PEKERMAN, but also the FAIR PLAY TROPHY. I’m not surprised by CUFRE instead. I don’t know what’s going on with him, but he always seem to have this kinds of troubles. He has a history of violence and I think it’s time he leaves that behind and grow up professionally. Yes, it’s horrible to lose on penalties, but it’s even uglier to be looked as a bad loser and a violent person.

ONE TEAM, MANY COUNTRIES: I’ve been in Argentina in each of the World Cups I have memories of. And believe me, I don’t know if it is because of the great TV coverage we had during the tournament (a couple of channels broadcasting almost 24 hours live from Germany) or because this was a better time-zone than Korea-Japan 2002 when we had to get up at 4 AM to watch Argentina. But the truth is I’ve never seen the people so actively behind the team. Even in defeat, they were received by many in the airport and they are still looked in admiration. It’s not so easy for a manager to have the backing of the vast majority of the people after he loses before getting to the final. And PEKERMAN has it. I’m not sure he will answer the people’s invitation to continue at the helm, but he has it.
But in all honesty, the best thing I’ll remember about Germany 2006 is this great experience of sharing all my thoughts and views with die-hard fans from all over the World! Thank you very much! You’ve made me look at my National Team with another perspective. Ever since I opened an e-mail account especially for this occasion, I’ve been getting messages from places I couldn’t have imagined we had supporters in!


Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Death Penalty (July 4th)

It might sound a little old. Germany is about to face Italy in one of the semifinal matches and I’m still here talking about what could’ve happened last Friday.

Well, I wanted to write this a little bit before but I couldn’t so I hope you understand this and don’t take it like I’m still crying (even though, maybe I am!).

Because I want to talk about Lubos MICHEL and the way he influenced the quarter-final encounter between Argentina and Germany.

First of all, I don’t think he was scandalously one-sided. But in my eyes, there have been a number of dubious calls that inclined the game in Germany’s favour. His tendency to call every little episode in favour of the Germans, made our footballers play conditioned.

I might not list them in chronological order. I’ll throw them here as I remember them.

The first one that comes to my mind is probably the most exemplifier of all. It was a foul he (and only he!) saw from Carlos TEVEZ when the Apache simply touched the ball backwards really near Argentina’s box. It was a very dangerous free-kick for Germany and there was no way in the whole galaxy that was near to be a foul.

The most popular of his infamous calls seems to be the penalty claim we all made when Maxi RODRIGUEZ was brought down by LAHM inside the German box. Yes, MAXI exaggerates his fall a little bit, but there was contact. LAHM touches MAXI with his right leg and a foul should have been called. What would have happened if it was the opposite and a German player was brought down inside Argentina’s box? Would Mr. MICHEL signal a foul if that tackle was anywhere but inside the German box? I think so. Oh yes. Just watch the action and pay attention to the complimentary hand in the back by LAHM to MICHEL in a way of saying: "Way to go, ref. This is exactly what you have to do all day!" (Thanks Orlin for the link)

When KLOSE charged with his elevated knee against the anatomy of poor ABBONDANZIERI there was a foul called and there is not much more to add to that. Maybe a yellow card would have been an option. Oh…no…I’m sorry…KLOSE is German. No way he was going to see yellow for that action.

And here’s one that really shocked me. Unfortunately the official transmission didn’t show the replay (I wonder why?). But there was a ball falling inside the German box and Michael BALLACK touched it with his hand. A few Argentina players started asking the ref about it, but all their claims fell in deft ears.

There was also contact between AYALA’s arm and BALLACK’s head inside the Argentina box, but I don’t think it was a foul. AYALA was looking the other way. In any case, BALLACK’s exaggerated fall should have been awarded with a yellow card (if the ref thinks it was not a foul). Or didn’t he cautioned MAXI because he thought he dived?

People, before some of you start to send me e-mails questioning my opinions, I would like to point out that ARGENTINA DID NOT LOSE BECAUSE OF LUBOS MICHEL. Make sure you get that straight. We lost because we were incapable of defending a lead and there is no question about it.

This article was just an exercise to let it all out and to give an echo of all the complaints I’ve been receiving about the refereeing of this match.

Hope next time around, we leave no ground to a bad referee and we can win with all justice. Since it looks like the refs in this World Cup are only making justice to keep the usual suspects happy.

Until the next Group of Death, or until the next time you keep Germany from playing Brazil before the dreamt final, dear FIFA!

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Sometimes I hate you, beautiful game! (June 2nd)

June 12th, 2002. Miyagi Stadium, Japan. Argentina need to beat Sweden to advance to the Eight Finals of the World Cup Korea-Japan 2002. The two teams are evenly matched and they are still to break the scoreline.

Manager Marcelo BIELSA made Argentina one of the favourites to win the World Cup over the previous four years, but his style and his decision not to play with BATISTUTA and CRESPO together are about to take him down and leave the team and his dream to win the bloody cup in shambles.

58th minutes into the match, a free-kick for Sweden just outside Argentina’s box and BIELSA decides to replace BATISTUTA with his long-term back-up Hernan CRESPO.

The younger striker takes Batigol’s place in the wall as Anders SVENSSON prepares to shoot towards Pablo CAVALLERO’s goal.

The Swede’s strike is superb and our helpless keeper can’t do a single thing to help the ball going into the back of the net.

Argentina had to score twice in half an hour without his recently replaced all-time goal scoring leader. The team fails to deliver, while consistently keeps on trying the same formula it tried against England in the previous game: running through the wings and crossing the ball to cheaply give it away to the big opposing central defenders.

Our talented offensive midfielders like Pablo AIMAR, Ariel ORTEGA or Marcelo GALLARDO are totally ignored and left out with this incredibly silly style of football that, of course, doesn’t suit them like the creative passing game they are used to play since they were little boys.

June 30th, 2006. Olympiastadion, Berlin, Germany. Argentina is beating the hosts 1-0 and is ready to advance to the World Cup semifinals for the first time since Italy 90. The team is playing a good game (not brilliant) and is in control since kick-off.

Germany is starting to run out of ideas (if they ever had one, in the first place). Another cross comes to Argentina’s box and as Roberto ABBONDANZIERI prepares to catch the ball in mid-air, he is meet by Miroslav KLOSE’s right knee and the referee Lubos MICHEL sees none of this.

71 minutes into the match and Argentina is forced to change their first choice keeper, one of the pillars of the team throughout the tournament.

One minute later and PEKERMAN decides to make a move that was going to be very controversial after the game. He takes playmaker Juan Roman RIQUELME out and he sends defensive midfielder Esteban CAMBIASSO to replace him.

By doing this, he sends a clear message to his rivals and to his own players: ‘I’m going to defend this lead for the next 20 minutes and hopefully we will win’.

Things are not looking bad, to be honest. CAMBIASSO gives the team a renewed energy while Lucho GONZALEZ and Maxi RODRIGUEZ can move forward a little bit and have some more possession beyond the midfield line. While TEVEZ remains a threat down the left and CRESPO navigates in dull ostracism between the German central defenders.

The problem came a little bit later.

Just like BIELSA four years before, PEKERMAN made a move that was going to haunt him down, maybe forever.

With 79 minutes gone, he brings his third and last substitute in Julio CRUZ, replacing Hernan CRESPO.

That was his last bet to maintain the lead for the last 11 minutes of the game.
He thought CRUZ, the tallest player in our squad (apart from the keepers), could help the team by winning some headers in both, our box and the German box.

Well, call it fate, call it misfortune, call it bad judgement, exactly like what happened with BIELSA four years before, one minute after that controversial substitution and Germany scores!

I think all of us thought in that very moment that it was the end. It was beautiful while it lasted, but that was it. We had three of our best players sitting on the bench (MESSI, AIMAR and SAVIOLA), while our most dangerous striker (CRESPO), our unique playmaker (RIQUELME) and, on top of that, our goalkeeper were already substituted.

Did we have the team to go after a second goal in those last 10 minutes?

Granted, losing ABBONDANZIERI meant not only that a totally untested keeper took his place instead of our ‘Ace of Spades’ when it comes to penalty shoot-outs. It also left us with one less possibility for a change.

That’s no excuse to get it wrong.

Right after the game, PEKERMAN said in a press conference, that we were forced to make to substitutions (ABBONDANZIERI was injured and RIQUELME was exhausted).
Now, I’ve got a couple of things to say about that. I love RIQUELME and the regular readers of this blog can testify that. But I can’t understand why can a professional football player be tired after 70 minutes of play? This was not the extra time. I don’t care if he played 120 exhausting minutes against Mexico. That was one week before!

Seriously, that’s really beyond me. I don’t want to accept it. I won’t accept it.

If I’m wrong and he really couldn’t move his legs, then OK, replace him. But can you just replace him with somebody who plays in the same position? What the hell is wrong with playing AIMAR for those 20 minutes in which a player like him would be a real nightmare for the German defense with his flashy runs forward?

In any case, that substitution was more justifiable than the other one.

PEKERMAN said that against Holland, when he played TEVEZ and MESSI together, the team played greatly but they needed to have a reference inside the box. We were controlling the ball but we had no real threat in the form of a striker.

I agree with that. But here are my questions. If we wanted to just defend our 1-goal lead. Did you need to have a big man inside the box? Did you need to score? Did you need something else than having the ball and causing troubles like TEVEZ did all day long against FRIEDRICH?

The answer to all of those questions is an implacable NO!

We didn’t need a big man in the box. We had CRESPO and he did very little those 70 minutes he played.

We didn’t need to score. It was OK with a 1-0 result. We were in the semifinals. And deservedly so.

We didn’t need anything else than to keep possession. We were just fine when we were in possession and MESSI is arguably one of the best at keeping the ball and generating fouls by the opposition.

Horrible decision and we paid for them. The match went to a penalty shoot-out and there was one particularity about that. Both, Germany and Argentina were undefeated in those kinds of situations. 3 wins a piece.

But a couple of key factors eventually proved to be enough to give Germany the upper hand:

ABBONDANZIERI. A keeper with a great tradition of winning cups at club level with Boca Juniors, stopping several shots in this kind of tie-breakers, was out.

LEHMANN. A keeper with great reflexes but even better information sources. He ‘guessed’ in each and every shot by our players and later on it was discovered that he received a piece of paper containing information about the place where each Argentina penalty taker will most likely place his shot. Rocket-science? I don’t think so. I think all credit should go to the German’s goalkeeping staff for getting together this crucial information that today proves to be the difference between a great team knocked out of the cup and an average team qualified for the semifinals.

I think that I (like many millions around the World) was not prepared to be knocked out of the World Cup so early.

That said, I want PEKERMAN to stay and I'll give you my reasons in another article soon.

But as one of the biggest sporting brands in the world says in an advertising campaign: ‘A team that suffers after being placed between the top 8 in the World, deserves our admiration’

I subscribe.

I hope, and this goes for those who have been reading my blog for some time now, that next time if we are ahead in the score, we play the only way we should never abandon:

If any of you know where can I buy a DeLorean, just let me know. I want to travel through time and go back to the future to see if a 23-year-old MESSI is lifting the cup in South Africa 2010.

I apologise to all of those who still didn't get my reply after writing me at I couldn't cope with all of the messages, but I'll find the time to try and answer all of them