Local soccer loses skill
Local soccer, in which skill has gone to the winds, loses more of the remaining skill with the retirement this season of Estudiantes de La Plata’s Juan Sebastián Verón at 38. After a long career, playing in England and Italy and also gaining 75 caps for Argentina, he returned to his original club, Estudiantes, when still in good form. It was his 500th competitive professional match, although statistics only showed 187 played for Estudiantes at the start of the current championship. He wanted to continue playing and even played in a La Plata amateur league recently for a season after he first “retired”, and returned to play for almost nothing to fulfil his wish. But injuries during his long career forced him to take the decision this time.
Verón was a tactical midfield organizer which every team really needs, but today there are hardly any left. And local soccer could lose another one — Juan Román Riquelme who felt that his match for Boca Juniors yesterday was his last at home at the “Bombonera” stadium. Statistics say he has played not quite 300 matches for the club, but it seemed more. He is an idol of the fans as they feel he was the main reason for many of Boca’s honours gained this century. Even today, at 35, the team won the majority of its points in the current championship when he was playing which, unfortunately, is not all that often because of injuries.
Riquelme is the only technical player in the team today. Yet the club committee is still in two minds about renewing his contract which ends on June 30, because of his more frequent injuries and because it accuses him of causing divisions in the squad. Riquelme also played in Spain and 49 times for Argentina which could have been more, but he withdrew “because of criticism which made his mother ill.” Riquelme, who is a bit strange sometimes, says he wants to continue playing, preferably for Boca. We will see.
Coinciding with these retirements in Argentina is of a defender — Javier Zanetti (40) who has the Argentine record of 145 internationals and will leave Inter Milan this season after playing a total of 1,113 professional matches of which he played 857 for them in 19 seasons, many as captain (there is one more match to play). His record reveals his outstanding quality. Zanetti started at Talleres (Escalada) and also played for Banfield before leaving for Italy.