ERIC WEIL in BUENOS AIRES: Juan Román Riquelme was an exceptional player from that unending production line Argentinos Juniors whose former players could form several national teams.
But Riquelme was one of the few players who may have been slow movers but fast thinkers who thought out every move before making it successfully.
He stood out everywhere he played – Boca Juniors (who acquired him from Argentinos Juniors), Villarreal, the national team and back at Boca . . . except in Barcelona under Louis Van Gaal.
He walked out of the national team years ago because he said he was being criticised and it did not do his mother any good.
But the only coach he got on with was Carlos Bianchi at Boca Juniors where he won most of his many honours (Libertadores Cups and league titles)
When I interviewed him at the beginning at Boca Juniors as a youngster, he was very shy and it was not easy to get a word out of him. But later he became outspoken and did not get on well with some players and officials, apart from coaches.
He produced unrest in changing rooms and often it became a case of either Riquelme or the coach leaving the club.
Last year he left Boca Juniors and his joining Argentinos Juniors, where he began, to help them return to the top division, was a good gesture. But here again he produced controversy and at the end of the season it was again a case of him or the coach (Nestor Gorosito) leaving and this time he lost out – although Argentinos said his expensive contract was not renewed because they had to cut costs.
While many Boca fans want him back, club president Daniel Angelici and some officials do not because of the internal rifts he produced.
At 36 he is no longer in top form and misses a lot of games through injury but the fans do not forget that with him in the team the club won most points – even in their poor 2014 – and most honours.
He would still be keen to continue playing and it would be a poor way to go for a great player. Many other clubs are wary of signing him because of his reputation as a trouble maker . . . although, of course, some clubs are still thinking about it.
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