Riquelme quits Argentina team... again

BUENOS AIRES - Playmaker Juan Roman Riquelme quit the Argentine national side for the second time in three years on Tuesday and blamed coach Diego Maradona for his decision. "The national team is over for me," the former Barcelona and Villarreal player, now with Boca Juniors, told the Canal 13 television station in an interview. "I'm going to watch the World Cup on the television."

"We don't think the same way. We don't share the same codes of ethics. While he is the coach of the national team, we can't work together."

Maradona told the same television station: "I'm very sad that Riquelme does not want to play in my team but I'm not going to cry over spilt milk."

It was the second major controversy since Maradona's surprise appointment in October.

Less than two weeks after he took over, Maradona reportedly threatened to quit after the Argentine association refused to allow him to name Oscar Ruggeri as his assistant.

The enigmatic Riquelme, 30, previously retired after the 2006 World Cup. He backtracked less than a year later and led his side to the final of the Copa America with some inspired performances.

SPLIT OPINIONS

Riquelme, who is seen as a classic South American playmaker, has split opinions throughout his career.

Many admire his elegant, unhurried style, a rarity in the fast and physical modern game, and his ability to prise open defences with slide-rule passes.

But his critics say the whole team has to be built around him and when he underperforms he drags the side down. He also has a reputation for underperforming on the big occasion.

Argentine coaches have taken differing views.

Marcelo Bielsa gave him few chances and left him out of the squad for the 2002 World Cup. In 2006 in Germany, Jose Pekerman built the team around him as did his successor Alfio Basile.

At club level, Riquelme left Villarreal in 2007 after falling out with the coaching staff who complained he had too many privileges.

Riquelme, who returned to Boca Juniors for a third stint in November 2007 after falling out with the coaching staff at Villarreal, said he was angry at being left out of the squad for last month's friendly in France and not being told first hand.

He was also upset with comments Maradona made about him in a television interview last week.

"I heard that I wasn't playing against France from (general manager Carlos) Bilardo on the radio and then last week he (Maradona) made comments about my playing style on the television," added Riquelme, who was in Argentina's Olympic gold medal winning team last year as an overage player.

"I'd die to wear the shirt of the national team and it's going to hurt me to watch the World Cup on the telly."

"This hurts me a lot and I hope the team does well."

Riquelme has made 50 appearances for Argentina scoring 17 goals. He has been left out of both Argentina's games since Maradona took over because of club commitments.

Without him, Argentina beat Scotland and then France.


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