Argentine season to start with new TV deal

BUENOS AIRES - Suspended Juan Roman Riquelme misses Boca Juniors' opening game of the Argentine league season that kicks off this weekend after being postponed due to the game's debt crisis.

The former Argentina playmaker, sent off for dissent in Boca's last match of the 2008/09 Clausura championship in early July, will serve a one-match ban when his team, under returning coach Alfio Basile, play at home to Argentinos Juniors.

The Argentine government stepped in to help resolve the debt crisis faced by the country's cash-strapped clubs who owed huge sums in wages to players and tax to the treasury.

President Cristina Fernandez has agreed to pay the Argentine Football Association $155 million to broadcast matches on terrestrial television, more than double what the private cable TV company, with which the AFA broke its contract, was paying.

The global credit crunch, as well as poor management, has caused clubs to sell players to European sides, a traditional big earner, for lower fees than in the recent past.

Most transfers have been loans or maximum one-year deals negotiated with players who have freedom of contract.

The registration of a growing number of Argentine players now belongs in part or in full to entrepreneurs rather than clubs. This trend hit England in the 2006/07 season when Iranian Kia Joorabchian placed Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano at West Ham United, a practice the Premier League has now banned.

Basile has managed to entice midfielder Federico Insua back to Boca from Mexico and also strengthened his midfield with battling Chilean international Gary "Pitbull" Medel.

"We have a good squad and I hope we can win everything. The priority is the championship but we won't let the (Copa) Sudamericana pass us by," Boca's Paraguayan defender Julio Cesar Caceres was quoted as saying in the spots daily Ole.


Title holders Velez Sarsfield have largely retained the squad that won the Clausura in July, but are bringing back 31-year-old forward Rolando Zarate, older brother of Lazio's Mauro Zarate, from Barcelona of Ecuador.

River Plate, whose 2008 Clausura win under Diego Simeone appears like a fluke amid years of mediocrity, are relying largely on an old guard of returned past heroes.

Ariel Ortega, 35, and Marcelo Gallardo, 33, are at the centre of their aspirations and River could even entice Matias Almeyda, 35, to try his hand in the top flight again after playing last season in a fourth tier team. All three played for Argentina at the 1998 and 2002 World Cups.

The "Millionaires", who earned their nickname in the 1930s for a then world record fee for striker Bernabe Ferreyra, brought in some much needed revenue, albeit a mere splash in their debts, with the sale of 23-year-old Colombian striker Radamel Falcao Garcia to Porto for 5.5 million euros.

A Porto player not returning to Portugal is Mario Bolatti, the Clausura's best player, having renewed his loan with Angel Cappa's Huracan, who were pipped at the post by Velez for the title.

Simeone's San Lorenzo, the club hardest hit by players registering salary debts with their union, have however been the most active in recruitment.

They have taken on 35-year-old former Argentina winger Cristian "Kily" Gonzalez, who left Rosario Central as a free agent, and young Nigerians Felix Orode and Chukwunonso Evans from Royal Kings Academy.

They have also brought back midfielder Leandro Romagnoli from Sporting of Portugal, while losing free agent and former Real Madrid and Inter Milan forward Santiago Solari to CONCACAF club champions Atlante of Mexico.