Riquelme not feeling the Amor

The fans who love Boca, love Riquelme. Riquelme loves Boca. Riquelme loves the fans. Boca’s president loves Boca and, presumably, the fans.

Given the amount of love being thrown about in this cosy threesome, renewing the contract for, arguably the club’s greatest player of all time, should pose no problems whatsoever.

Only, there is a problem. A big one. Boca’s appropriately named president Jorge Amor Ameal isn’t showing any amor for Juan Román Riquelme. Or so says Riquelme.

Riquelme’s contract with Boca ran out in June. The playmaker, who his critics argue hasn’t been making as much play as he could have been over the past couple of seasons, wants a four year deal.

Boca made a first offer but, taking a leaf out of the Ashley Cole book of humility, Riquelme said that it just ‘made him laugh.’

Boca then emailed a new deal, said to be worth $5 million (£3.2m) over the four years, which for Argentina is a fortune. The means with which the club contacted the player is actually important here, because Riquelme then said that he was going to ask for a hard copy because ‘he didn’t understand’ the offer.

Riquelme claims the problems over his deal are not about money. Yet he still hasn’t tired of telling everyone who will put a microphone in front of him that he played last year ‘for free.’ Under his previous deal Boca paid him a lump sum – a two year deal – to play for three years.

So basically he took a pay cut over the three years, but Román preferred to put it that he was paid in full for two years and played for free the final year. Shades of grey.

Anyway, the current problems are based on certain minutiae, which do actually have everything to do with money i.e. bonuses, the rate of the dollar to the peso (seriously) and the like. Oh, and Boca want to buy out Riquelme’s transfer rights, which Riquelme himself pointed out would bankrupt the club if they bought the rights and paid him his wages.

Boca’s new coach, Claudio Bichi Borghi, recently said that he ‘could imagine a side without Riquelme,’ but in no way was he saying he wanted a side without the number 10. It is hard, though, to imagine Boca without Riquelme.

Regardless of his recent form, he is still the best player in Argentina. Boca need his quality to challenge for the title. And on a more pragmatic level, Jorge Amor Ameal cannot afford, in a political and historical sense, to be the man who allowed Riquelme to leave Boca. Most bosteros put Riquelme above Maradona as their club idols.

Riquelme in the meantime happily tells interviewers that he is indeed happy, because he has offers from other Argentine clubs, from Brazilian side Flamengo and that his former coach, Carlos Ischia, is ‘breaking his balls’ to go to Mexico.

Yet for all the interest and his talent, Riquelme is 32. His famously languid work rate will no doubt dip as he nears his mid-30s and retirement. He has also just had knee surgery.

Oh, and the man he spent all last year in a cold war with, Martin Palermo, also has renewed for another year at the club.

It won’t be plain sailing, but Boca can ill-afford not to show Riquelme some love, or amor.

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