Sunday, 30 August 2009

Ortega Watch - Part V

Ariel Ortega has been the subject of more than one post on RFA over the last 12 months, indeed my very first foray into the 'blog-os-whatever' concerned El Burrito, his very public problems and subsequent shipping out to Independiente Rivadavia in Mendoza. Twelve months later and things appear to have come full circle - this afternoon's performance against newly promoted Chacarita Juniors confirms that that the old cliche about form being temporary and class permanent may have an element of truth.

Bubble-permed River coach Néstor Gorosito had been given assurances by President Aguilar earlier in the week that his position was safe until December although rumours persisted that this stance wasn't favoured by others on the board. A defeat in today's game against the Undertakers (Chacarita is home to the largest cemetary in Buenos Aires) may well have laid to rest Gorosito's mediocre time at River. A little over 20 minutes remained, River trailed 2-3 at home when Ortega slipped a superbly weighted ball through Daniel Villalba to round the 'keeper to equalise. On 87 minutes El Burrito received the ball from his own half and nonchalantly lobbed a stranded Nicolás Tauber in the Chacarita goal to secure River's first victory of the Apertura. An ecstatic bare-chested Ortega held his shirt aloft and received the adulation reigning down from the stands.

Watch the goals:

Hasta luego!

Friday, 21 August 2009

Transfer Chat - 2

'Does my bum look big in this?'
Cristina gets a free shirt for bailing out football.

Photo: Clarin

With the delayed Apertura finally due to commence within hours I’ll revisit the post about transfers from a few weeks ago ( Remember, this is Argentina – things are rarely as simple as the selling club receiving all of the revenue, previous clubs, business consortiums and various other parties may all get a share. Far from an exhaustive list, what follows are some deals and potential deals that have caught my eye.

I’ll start with the world’s most prolific striker – Lucas Barrios who’s moved from Colo Colo (Chile) to Borussia Dortmund for €4.5m. A significant intra-European transfer is Lisandro López – moving from Porto to Olympique Lyonnais for €24m in a four year deal. Back in Argentina – if you’re tempted to put some cash on Huracán to go one better this season think again, midfielder Javier Pastore has moved to Palermo for 5 years, with el Globo seeing little if any of the fee. Matias Defederico is on the verge of moving to Corinthians (of Brazil not England) although Huracán’s official website insists that he’ll be staying on for another 6 months. Reports in the English press also allude to an unnamed English club (Liverpool?) making an eleventh hour bid. Defender Carlos Araujo is on his way to AEK Athens subject to a medical. One positive for coach Cappa is that Mario Bolatti will continue to play for the team, albeit for 6 months. Without Pastore and Defederico to light up the play things will be a lot different.

Onto River where35 year old Matias Almeyda is the latest recruit to join Dads Army. Ariel Ortega is back from his Mendocino exile and raring to go after scoring in his return match against Everton (England). For now Diego Buonanotte remains but Colombian striker Radamel Falcao has departed for Porto at a cost of €4m. Paraguayan midfielder Miguel Paniagua has joined the Millionaires (surely time to change that nickname) from Guarani on a 1 year loan with an option to buy.

At Boca Juniors forward Rodrigo Palacio has finally moved to Europe with Genoa (the irony!) where Luciano Figueroa has also returned to. On the subject of Genoa Diego Milito has moved to Internazionale which should increase Palacio’s chances of getting some games. It is to be hoped the stylish Italians have a word with Rodrigo about ‘that haircut’. Hugo Ibarra was on the verge of quitting the club a few weeks ago but got all sentimental and decided to stay on much to the relief of fans. Chilean midfielder Gary Medel has joined on loan from Universidad Católica.

If further evidence were needed of the global appeal of Argentine talent Independiente are a great example – Daniel Montenegro has gone to Mexican side América for $3.5m, Hernán Fredes moves to Metalist in the Ukraine and Leandro Gioda goes to Jerez, Spain on loan. Forward Andres Silvera joins from San Lorenzo where he hopes to get paid on time – good luck. Neighbours Racing have lost a significant amount of talent (see earlier post) but have recruited from the dark side – Damián Ledesma arrives from Independiente. Defender Franco Sosa is the latest departure moving to Lorient of France for 3 years €800k.

San Lorenzo could have a page dedicated to themselves, interesting times for Simeone learning all those new names – I’ll keep it brief, Bergessio still remains the club will need his fighting spirit ( Midfielder Leandro Romagnoli puts heart over head and returns from Sporting Lisbon despite interest from Fluminense and goalkeeper Pablo Migliore joins from Boca. Cristian Ledesma returns to Olympiakos. Veteran Kily Gonzalez arrives from Rosario Central.

Some others: Clasura champions Vélez have been relatively quiet although striker Joaquin Larrivey has returned back to Cagliari after his loan spell. Lanús have lost prolific striker José Sand to the footballing mecca that is Al Ain in the UAE in exchange for $10m, another striker 19 year old Eduardo Salvio is also interesting Fiorentina who are ready to bid around €10m. Champions of America Estudiantes will continue to be inspirationally led by Verón who has taken a 40% paycut in order to fund youth football – what a legend! Gastón Fernández – scorer of the equaliser against Cruzeiro in the Copa Libertadores final has returned to Tigres of Mexico after his loan spell.

Transfer revenue may be less, but a similar pattern remains – young hopefuls go one way and the veterans come the other. Pastore could well have stayed at least another season with Huracán and earned himself a move to an A-list European club under the instruction of Cappa. Unfortunately the player was no doubt the last person to be aware of his next move.

Enjoy the season.

Hasta luego!

Thursday, 13 August 2009

Game On

AFA President Julio Grondona may not have been top of the popularity ratings with most football fans although developments this week have seen him recast as a rotund Argentine version of Bob Geldof. Nothing excites your average working man more than football and nothing exorcises him more than having to pay cash to watch his team on the TV. All that may change as the AFA, backed by the clubs and with Government support have broken their current broadcasting contract with Clarin/TyC in a row over increased TV revenues. The clubs need more money to settle debts with palyers and tax bills. It's now open season as to how games will be shown in the coming years but the most likely scenario is rumoured to be a $1.6bn deal from the state over 10 years to broadcast football with games being shown on free to air channels and the remainder sold to other networks. Expect this one to run and run with Contract Law professionals all over Buenos Aires and beyond salivating at the prospect of the forthcoming legal wranglings. Marcelo Bombau - head of TyC has been on the offensive and will be pursuing a multi-million dollar compensation claim against the AFA. Whatever the opinion of TyC's coverage, the way fixtures were spread over 3 nights at weekends or the amount of money they were putting into football there are two parties involved in a contract. It was after all Grondona and the AFA who negotiated the deal. TyC will have invested heavily in resources to broadcast games for the duration of the agreement, they have every right to seek compensation. How long before a club president who backed this action publicly criticises a player for breaking a contract?

It's a widely accepted fact that the current financial mess has been caused as much by club mis-management as by a depressed transfer market, the club presidents will again escape any serious repercussions and Grondona wont have to suffer the embarrassment of taking any action against his friends. Opposition politicians are also critical of the State involving itself in a private contractual dispute although their opinions may differ if in power. The season is now due to start on 21st August - who's going to ensure the extra cash is kept within the game? Stadiums need updating, security needs improving, barras don't need paying and neither do shadowy owners of players contracts. For now the game is on but the same problems remain.

Hasta luego!

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Take it as Red

When is red not red? When it's LG red of course. The Korean electronics company has what is to most people a red and white logo.....although to Boca Juniors President it's 'burgundy'. Jorge Ameal has qualified the exact shade of red in light of mounting criticism and vitriol from a proportion of Boca's fans, disgusted that the colours of Superclásico rivals River Plate should somehow find their way onto the sacred shirt.

Given the debt-ridden quagmire that most clubs find themselves in, not least Boca - the protesting fans could do worse than take heed of the ancient proverb 'Money talks and bullshit walks'. Firstly LG are paying the club in US Dollars to have their name on the shirt, not in the yo-yoing Argentine Peso, secondly it's not a bad deal - 3 years at $2m pa increasing by $250k per year too. Shirt sponsors are temporary whilst club colours are eternal.

Perhaps the fans would have other matters on their minds if the season was expected to kick off as scheduled next Friday. At time of writing that doesn't appear likely as unpaid salaries and taxes still remain. AFA President Julio Grondona should however be given credit for sucessfully shifting the focus and the blame for the current impasse from his organisation and club mis-management to the TV companies. Well dodged Julio.

Hasta luego!

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Gonzalo Bergessio - Prizefighter

Nothing dulls the senses and dampens enthusiasm for a forthcoming campaign quite like an insipid pre-season friendly the flip side being a humiliating and confidence shattering defeat, Newcastle United's 6-1 defeat at Leyton Orient springs to mind.

San Lorenzo's 'friendly' against Uruguayan amateur side Atlético El General last Thursday was anything but standard fare. Ciclón striker Gonzalo Bergessio took fighting for the cause all too literally following a tussle with Uruguayan defender Gusmán Elizarzú - punches were thrown mainly by Bergessio who used his not inconsiderable bulk to great effect (View here: Rumours that Elizarzú had made an ill-timed quip about bouncing cheques to the striker are as yet unfounded.... The match was abandoned following the ruck with the Argentines 2-0 up.

Bergessio, like most of his colleagues at San Lorenzo is the source of constant rumours about his future given the club's plight with Villarreal the latest club linked with him. More of a bar room brawler than a cultured fighter, Bergessio could however make some cash bare-knuckle fighting should the bailiffs come calling. With two World Cup qualifiers looming for Argentina the proverbial loose cannon could be a risk too far for Maradona, who hasn't called upon him for the friendly against Russia next week.

The 'opponent' 26 year old warehouse worker Gusmán Elizarzú was understandbly shaken by the affair 'You're crazy' were his final words to the raging Bergessio, later commenting on Bergessio's mass 'Have you seen the muscles on him?, He eats well, I weigh 68kgs and work 9 hours a day' he told Olé. As yet he hasn't spoken to anyone or received an apology from San Lorenzo, he is though willing to forgive but unlikely to forget his 'friendly'.

Hasta Luego!