ERIC WEIL in BUENOS AIRES: River Plate won Argentina’s 2013-14 Final Championship with a five-point lead while much-maligned Boca Juniors finished second after a good final run . . . and it all hinged on one game.
That was the Clasico in which River beat Boca 2-0. If it had gone the other way, Boca Juniors would have been champions by one point.
After that match, there were strong protests that referee Carlos Maglio had favoured River with several decisions which, said complainants, had also been the case in other matches. Maglio’s contract will apparently not be renewed by the Argentinian football association (AFA) but that will not affect River’s title.
Claims that two one-round championships – a system being discontinued anyway – offered the big clubs less chance of titles were off target as this season demonstrated.
San Lorenzo won the Initial Championship with River Plate second while River won the Final Championship with Boca Juniors second. At least the short championships – disliked especially by AFA chief Julio Grondona – have given us seasons of interesting contests to make up for the poor quality.
Once again, 72pc of matches were either drawn or decided by one goal, about the same as in the Initial Championship. A few more goals might have made it more interesting. The average per match was only 2,09.
Indeed, wrong decisions by referees, accidental or on purpose, also affected other spheres of the competition. A winning penalty awarded to Independiente was pure invention and not seen by anybody, not even TV.
It looks as if the AFA wants to help Independiente to gain promotion back into the top division, while sending Colón down. FIFA ordered the AFA to deduct six points off Independiente and Colón for not paying debts to foreign clubs for players. Neither club have any money.
The points were immediately taken off Colón but nothing was done for a while regarding Independiente and finally it was decided to take the points off next season (if ever?) so as not to spoil their promotion chances this season.
As mentioned before, River improved once coach Ramón Díaz stopped changing the team every week. Some of that team will not be there next season, either because they ended their contracts and want to leave or the club cannot afford to pay them (Teófilo Gutierrez) or they cannot refuse to sell them (Manuel Lanzini) – a pity.
They are trying to buy, loan or sign contract free players, yet they have an enormous junior potential, and recently finished a match with eight players who began with the club. They generally have the majority of players in junior international squads from under-20 downwards, but like other clubs, do not make the best use of them and end up selling some.
Likewise, Boca Juniors finally put together a winning team but many players may not be there next season. Some said they want to leave and others are on the market. Although Boca are one of the better-off clubs, gthey say they must sell before they can buy.
Coach Carlos Bianchi says he wants to seven new players yet they also have plenty of promising juniors. Last season he chose some new players badly. Now he has been told that if he does not win a title next season, he must go.
Racing Club, looking for yet another manager after dismissing Renaldo Merlo, also finished a recent match with 12 men of the 19 player squad who had begun at the club. They sold some good youngsters and another (Rodrigo De Paul) has just left while former international striker Diego Milito – whose contract has just been terminated by Inter Milan – wants to return to Racing and bring other veterans with him from Europe.
Racing, who finished two points from the bottom, are doing things the wrong way. Many players think that Luis Zubeldia, one of many dismissed coaches, was the best and things started going wrong when he left.
Relegated Argentinos Juniors once provided so many internationals to Argentina but the flow seems to have dried up. Coach Claudio Borghi, who was one of those, says he needs at least 10 new players to make a proper team. All these clubs wanting new players for next season will have a job to get good ones.