Boca and the “Copa Riquelme”: the bet of the great idol who won three Libertadores, and a move that involves his past for 10 years and his success as a manager

For something, the manager hasn’t fired the player yet. For something, the former 10 kicks goodbye as far as possible. Now (we talk in the corridors of the Bombonera) it would be in December, after the World Cup. But it will be necessary to see if the deadline is extended again when the date approaches. “It’s just that, on the one hand, it will be a very happy day. But, on the other hand, It will be the last time I dress up as a Boca player and step on the Bombonera. Goodbye can be very nice, yes, but it won’t be next time. I have that feeling… ”, says his own Juan Roman riquelme every time they ask him about that last game.

Is that, if they were given a choice, Riquelme today would play with “his” jersey no. 10 against Deportivo Cali, in Colombia, making their debut in Copa Libertadores 2022. Meeting that will start at 21:30, for Group E. The jacket that “lends” every time another player wears it, now owned by Eduardo Salvio, another striker but who is on leave and still does not renew the contract expiring on June 30th.

Riquelme ignited in the most difficult games and, if they were a visitor, I enjoyed them more for the hostile climates that could be generated in the previous one or for the plus in football difficulties. This made it more Riquelme. Ask for the ball, step on it, resist your opponents’ kicks and be decisive on a goal or an assist. He won three, the Libertadores 2000, 2001 and 2007. In all of them he was decisive, especially in the last one.

Riquelme surprised me by appearing at Boca's partner party, La Bombonera (@PlanetaBoca)
Riquelme surprised me by appearing at Boca’s partner party, La Bombonera (@PlanetaBoca)

Without farewell, Riquelme continues to play. In his own way, from his role as president of the Football Council. His last professional match was on 7 December 2014: he had managed to return to Argentinos Juniorsteam in which he made the inferiors, to the First Division, after a 1-1 draw, in La Paternal, against Douglas Haig del Pergamino. “I was lucky enough to give Argentinos back everything they taught me as a child. I think we’re even now. Now I want to rest, eat barbecue and have fun, ”he declared on the 10th after the promotion. And he hasn’t come back …

Until he donned the leader’s suit and started making decisions regarding the future of Boca. He took office at the end of 2019, after winning the elections on 9 December accompanying Jorge Amor Ameal, and he played it with the return of Miguel Angel Russo as DT, the arrival of Pol Fernández as a reinforcement and a way of driving without public phrases. It took him nearly a year and a half to say his first words as vice president. But his figure, inside Boca, still had weight.

The title snatched from River with the final sprint of seven straight wins in 2020 with Tevez’s goal against Gimnasia even the eliminations against River in the Argentine Cup and the League Cup gave him a winning boost. He too “played” when, faced with criticism for the performance of the team still led by Russo, he shouted from a box of the Bombonera near the TNT Sports stand: “The river has been playing badly for a long time!”

Riquelme also knows that the Copa Libertadores, in Boca, has a political impact. With ‘macrism’ ousted but wanting to regain xeneize power in 2023, the current leader knows that to renew the fan’s confidence there would be no better result than raising a Copa Libertadores again who has eluded the club since 2007, just what he won (among other high levels such as those of Mauricio Caranta, Morel Rodríguez and Rodrigo Palacio) an extraordinary, colossal Riquelme.

“The fan will give us 8 years, like the previous management. This is very clear to me. “ it is repeated in every interview like a wish. He is even encouraged to double down when he states: “In 2023 we will win 90% -10%. And if Tevez shows up with them, it will be 85-15 … “ On the 10th, however, he knows that success goes hand in hand, and especially in a club like Boca, for the ball to enter the opponent’s goal.

Therefore this your third Copa Libertadores from the box he had an investment of reinforcements like he had never had before in the management of Jorge Amor Ameal, that’s why Pol Fernández and Darío Benedetto are back, he had the pleasure of hiring a 10 in the hierarchy like Oscar Romero and a central defender like Nicolás Figal and managed to restrain Sebastián Villa who, despite being suspended, the Colombian is regarded by Román as one of the best in Argentine football. But gets angry when he does not see Boca play well or the team does not win due to carelessness that the teams he was part of did not: “We are an innocent team”recently complained.

Juan Roman Riquelme, in his role as vice president of Boca
Juan Roman Riquelme, in his role as vice president of BocaArchive

Yes, OK in the management of Riquelme, the leader of Boca has won three local titles (Super League Argentina 2019/20 and Coppa Maradona 2020 with Russo and Argentina Cup 2021 with Battaglia), the plug is still the Copa Libertadores, That starts this Tuesday. The two previous editions that Xeneize played under his command ended – for different reasons – with negative images.

In the 2020 editionRusso’s side, after drawing 0-0 with Santos at the Bombonera, had a fuzzy performance in Brazil. Without play or attitude, with highly questioned players, as well as internally the strategic and tactical decisions of the DT were put under the magnifying glass (also the modifications), Boca was beaten 3-0. He had it all wrong in Vila Belmiro and had even gone out of control with the expulsion of Frank Fabra: With 10 minutes into the second half, the Colombian winger saw a direct red card for a shot on Marinho. It was the image of helplessness. Tevez was still there, the flag of that locker room in that semifinal. The decisive match was played by Palmeiras (the champion) and Mineiro.

Felipe Jonatan celebrates his goal during the Copa Libertadores 2020 match;  Boca were eliminated leaving a bad image against Santos
Felipe Jonatan celebrates his goal during the Copa Libertadores 2020 match; Boca were eliminated leaving a bad image against SantosGUILHERME DIONIZIO – SWIMMING POOL

The 2021 edition ended with sequels that still dot Boca today for the suspensions of Villa, Pavón, Rojo, Pulpo González, Javier García and Izquierdoz. Riquelme and Cia. have been damaged by arbitration and the application of the VARwhat did not validate two goals, one at the Bombonera and the other at Belo Horizonte; the first by Diego González, the second by Marcelo Weigandt. After two 0-0 draws, the Brazilian team went to the quarter-finals (where they would later eliminate River) on penalties.

In the 12-step definition, Mineiro won 3 to 1. But the worst came later, with the incidents in the locker room leading to the pineapple, attacks and harsh penalties from Conmebol. The newspaper went around the world, even if from Boca they justified part of the action because “they were defending themselves from attacks”.

Uruguayan referee Esteban Ostojich in front of Izquierdoz;  Boca have been eliminated from Atletico Mineiro's Copa Libertadores 2021, in a series that ended in scandal
Uruguayan referee Esteban Ostojich in front of Izquierdoz; Boca were eliminated from Atletico Mineiro’s Copa Libertadores 2021, in a series that ended in scandalBRUNA PRADO – SWIMMING POOL

Riquelme now declares more often (as do his colleagues Bermúdez and Cascini), he needs to explain why Cristian Pavón did not renew the bond or why Wanchope Abila ended up leaving; why Pol Fernández did not continue in 2020 and is now back as a reinforcement; because Battaglia is still like DT. There was a pause in which Riquelme (with still very important support from the fans) felt questioned. It was the day in which he made the boys get off the bus after the defeat with Gymnastics (0-1), at the Bombonera. That afternoon in 2021, the investigator covertly complained about the lack of hierarchy in reinforcements, transferred to squad level. In two years of management, he went from being “untouchable” as a 10 to “questionable” as a leader.

The last 1-0 win over River served Riquelme to pull the chest again. “Can you compete in the Libertadores? We are clear that there is always an obligation to compete, to give your best. Dreaming is not bad. I always think that, when you have good players, you have to have the illusion of getting to the end. This cup has given us so many joys, it has made the fans love us very much. We want to see if we are able to compete at the best and reach the finish line, and with the same enthusiasm there are those who have arrived at the club. Winning matches like the Clásico gives you more confidence and makes you feel stronger ”.

But his success will be marked by the Copa Libertadores. It was the same ex 10 who, some time ago, graphically represented: “Winning a Copa Libertadores equals ten local titles”. That’s why indoor reiterates the concept: “Winning a local tournament with Boca is important, but winning the Copa Libertadores is being a good player. If you want to prove you’re good, you have to win the Cup ”.

Sebastián Villa's goal against River, for the 2022 Professional League Cup
Sebastián Villa’s goal against River, for the 2022 Professional League CupFabián Marelli – THE NATION

He would never have thought that his own sentence (in 2015) would add pressure to the current leader in 2022. Boca’s obsession with the Libertadores already comes from the management of Daniel Angelici, the leader who has won a lot but lost the Cup (and against River) and that cost him power. The day the xeneize kicks off a new illusion in Cali, the Roman leader who decided the continuity of Battaglia and played it with reinforcements according to Boca, will try to strike as when he stepped on the ball and left easily rivals on the street. It is the Libertadores Cup. The cup that once belonged to Riquelme.

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