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Riquelme whips up another storm
Less than a year after being forced out of Villarreal, who tired of what they said were his excessive privileges and lack of commitment, Juan Roman Riquelme is at the centre of a similar storm at Boca Juniors.
A sequence of listless performances from the enigmatic number 10 prompted public criticism from team mate Julio Cesar Caceres. And it all sounded very familiar.
“Riquelme appears to be saturated mentally,” said the Paraguayan central defender. “In some games, he gives the appearance that he is running, in others he is passive.”
Those were the only really cutting comments in an otherwise fairly tame assessment, yet Riquelme was furious.
For a player whose interviews rarely offer anything more insightful than “I’m happy to be in the team and it’s going to be a difficult match”, Riquelme immediately popped up on Fox Sports to launch an outspoken attack on Cacares.
“These things should be kept in the dressing room, he’s broken all the codes of football,” said Riquelme.
“I’m surprised because during training he jogs alongside me, makes out that he’s being friendly, so this is all very odd.”
Argentine media said that Caceres was speaking up for the rest of the team and that Riquelme’s powers extend far beyond his playmaking role on the field.
It has already been suggested that Riquelme vetoed an attempt to bring former Boca forward Guillermo Barros Schelotto in as coach earlier this year and he has also been blamed for attempting to get goalkeeper Maurico Caranta dropped.
In interviews, Riquelme comes across as an introverted character who only wants what’s good for the team. On the field, he can hardly be described as a selfish player, apart from laying claim to the exclusive right to take free kicks.
But who knows what he is like within the walls of the dressing room?
His role with Argentina is being similarly questioned. Coach Alfio Basile is a self-confessed Riquelme fan who has built his team around the elegant midfielder.
But, after six games without a win, Basile himself is under growing pressure. And Argentina’s best performance this year was a 4-0 friendly win over Mexico — when Riquelme was absent.
PHOTO: Argentina’s Juan Roman Riquelme heads the ball during a training session in Lima Sept. 9. REUTERS/Pilar Olivares