Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Departure of an Idol: Ariel Ortega to Independiente de Rivadavia

It was bound to happen eventually: Diego Simeone could no longer stand Ariel Ortega's alcoholic problem and finally decided to seperate him from the team. After another incident this weekend, the ex-Estudiantes coach chose to have a long chat with Jose Maria Aguilar to decide where the idol's future would be, and it most definitely wasn't in Nuñez.

Nothing could stop the decision from occuring, not even Simeone's recent statements to the press that "Ortega was having a fantastic pre-season" and that he was "more fit than even the younger players". At first everyone speculated that "el Burrito" would be leaving to the United Arab Emirates, where he would received a $2,000,000 salary for playing for a local club for 10 months. Despite the juicy offer, the city's close-to-non-existant social life and the lack of interest to move there on behalf of his family made the #10 reject the proposal. Phone calls from several Argentine clubs then began to flood the offices in the Monumental regarding a possible loan, but all options were discarded since River did not want to benefit any direct rivals. One may call it fate, but this ultimately lead to the opening of one of the most surprising door: a move to Argentina's second division.

Both River and Ortega soon came to an agreement to let the "Jujeño" go to Independiente de Rivadavia for the rest of the year. Along with fighting to get the team from Mendoza to the first division, Ariel will also be looking to win the battle against alcohol. As part of his contract, he has agreed to cross the border to Chile every week to go seek professional help and try to get his addiction out of his life once and for all. River, meanwhile, will receive $500,000 for the 10-month deal.

It is truly sad that all this had to come to an end in this manner. Ortega is arguably the biggest club idol of the decade, and will always have a spot reserved in the heart of every true Riverplatense. He had been playing great lately, and was said to be having one of his best pre-seasons in years. I can assure that I was anxious to see him on the pitch, though we will have to see if that ever happens again: he'll be returning to the club in 2009 with over 35-years of age, and god knows if he'll still be in shape to earn himself a spot on the starting line-up. As far as the present goes, his empty spot has temporarily been taken over by recent incorporation Robert Flores, who will be looking to prove himself to the River crowd as Ariel's replacement.

Good luck "burrito"!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Fourth Incorporation: Santiago Salcedo

Simeone demanded his arrival, River accepted his request. After a hard fought battle to bring in Santiago Salcedo, "los Millonarios" were finally able to acquire the Paraguayan forward from Newell's Old Boys.

The 26-year old has shown his talent throughout his career, but became River's main target after his successful 2007-2008 season with the "Rosarinos". He continuously scored goals for Newell's and eventually ended as the squad's topscorer. An interesting fact is that he was able to score vs. all five of the "big teams" (River, Boca, Racing, Independiente, and San Lorenzo), most notably twice vs. our arch-rivals. Being the owner of a powerful and precise shot, as well as good heading characteristics, Salcedo seems as the perfect replacement for Sebastian Abreu.

Unfortunately, for now he still isn't "our" player. Yes, he has officially joined River, yet we do not possess his transfer rights: just this last week he was bought by two businessmen for $6,000,000. Those two businessmen then decided to place him in Nuñez, where he will sport "la banda" for the next 18 months in exchange for a $1,000,000 fee. Once the loan ends, an option to purchase Salcedo for $9,000,000 will be presented.

In ways this is both good and bad. It is good in the sense that we won't have to spend a huge sum of money on him and won't be risking too much: A few years ago we spent millions on Jairo Patiño and Gustavo Oberman, though neither of the two were able to adapt to the club and were later left as free agents. The negative to this, though, is that if we do want to purchase him in the future, he will end up costing 50% more ($3 million) than his current value.

Another thing I dislike about this whole transfer is that we are once again dealing with businessmen. Instead of directly negociating with the clubs, Aguilar has had a tendency to bring in business groups and deal with percentages. In the long run this has made River lose lots of money (we barely recieved anything for Gonzalo Higuain's move to Real Madrid, we technically no longer "own" Augusto Fernandez, etc.). In fact, Mateo Mussachio -a huge prospect from our lower divisions- is close to sealing a deal with football giants Real Madrid. The defender is one of our most promising players in the position since Martin Demichelis, and already has six official games in Primera despite only being 17-years old. Unfortunately, he would be leaving in exchange for some "debt" River has with these infamous businessmen, and the club would not be seeing a single penny in return for his services.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Quiroga and Galmarini: New "Millonarios"

After an unsuccessful attempt to bring back Roberto Ayala, River have finally achieved the incorporqtion of Facundo Quiroga. The 30-year old Argentine defender has been the main target to reinforce River's defense for the last three years, yet Aguilar had never been successful in completing his objective till now. Facundo's arrival finally became accessible recently, due to the expiration of his contract with Wolfsburg of Germany.

Quiroga will arrive to the club as a free agent full of years of experience. He officially debuted as a professional football player at Newell's Old Boys with just 19 years of age. Less than a year later, he was transfered to Sporting Lisbon of Portugal, where he began a European career that lasted ten years. He raked up over 240 games, combining his appearances in Sporting Lisbon, Napoli, and Wolfsburg. He was also featured on the Argentine National Team a total of sixteen times under the guidance of Marcelo Bielsa. He definitely seems as a good acquisition, who could help erase some of River's defensive problems.

Facundo Quiroga's transfer is also complimented by that of Martin Galmarini. Galmarini, a less known player, is a 26-year old who will be arriving from Tigre. He is less likely to rush in to a spot in the first team for now, though Simeone considers him as an interesting alternative for Ferrari (the ex-Tigre player can play either as a right-back or as a right midfielder).

Aguilar will now aim to fulfill Simeone's other request by bringing in Santiago Salcedo. The Paraguayan forward has a heavy price tag on him, but both River and Salcedo are very enthusiatic with the possibility of completing the operation. In fact, Caruso Lombardi (Newell's coach) no longer considers him a Newell's player and believes he is well on his way to Nunez.

As for other transfers, Simeone wants another central defender (Yepes recently expressed his desire to return). Alexis Sanchez could also be heading back to the Monumental: River are currently trying to find a business group to purchase part of his transfer and bring him back.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Ahumada Staying, Legend Returning?

The problems with Oscar Ahumada have finally been resolved: The defensive midfielder is close to reaching an agreement with River for a contract renewal worth $1,000,000 ($500,000 annually for 2 years). He will also be handed 30% of a future transfer (a total of 40% if one adds the 10% he already owns) and has been promised to be sold in the near future. Due to the agreement, Andres San Martin has been "freed" and will once again be joining Arsenal de Sarandi on loan.

Meanwhile, Jose Maria Aguilar keeps on moving in the transfer market and looking for incorporations. Surprisingly, River and Argentine National Team legend Roberto Ayala could be close to hitting a return. His name had been mentioned in the past, but "el Raton" usually discarded the opportunity. Now, his representative said the central defender is willing to return, and Real Zaragoza would be willing to let him go in exchange for 3 million euros. River doesn't find the price tag too excessive and may actually be making an offer for Ayala within the next few days.

In case the ex-National Team captain doesn't join the squad, Simeone has already decided to take a look at alternative options. A member of Diego's coaching staff went to see 23-year old Gerardo Alcoba on Sunday and gave "el Cholo" a heads up on the current Peñarol defender.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Oscar Ahumada: Uncertain Future

When it comes to controversies, Oscar Ahumada has been the first one on the list lately. Upon River's incredible elimination in the Copa Libertadores in May of this year, Ahumada made some shocking remarks to the press, suggesting that the loss came in the hands of the fans who were momentarily silent after San Lorenzo's first goal. He even went furthur than this and praised arch-rivals Boca Juniors fanbase.

Many River fans were upset with his comments, and most were hoping that he lost his spot in the first team. Despite that, Diego Simeone decided to stick with his usual tactics and kept Ahumada as one of the starting eleven players. Oscar slowly began regaining the respect of the fans, and his declarations were soon left behind.

It's been less than two months since this occured, but Ahumada is at it again. This time he didn't critisize anybody, but has made his future at the club uncertain: Jose Maria Aguilar had been negociating a new contract with the defensive midfielder for a while now (his old contract expired on June 30th), though no resolution has been made as of yet. There is said to be a clause on that contract which would make him a River player for an additional two years (till 2010), though Ahumada has decided to play the role of the blind man who knows nothing of this. Still, River have offered a new contract (worth $500,000 dollars annually), yet he wants more. Not only is he requesting to be one of the best paid players in the whole Argentine league ($800,000 a year), but he also wants to be paid a certain amount of money the club had owed him. Notice I said "had owed him", because an agreement had previously been reached to erase this debt in exchange for 10% of a future transfer fee. Many directives of the club believe that Oscar is making things complicated because he'd rather leave to another club as a free agent and recieve a juicy contract, as well as all of the transfer fees.

There will be another meeting held between Aguilar and Ahumada this afternoon. Our President is expected to offer him the contract he requests since Simeone stated he is an important part of the team. I personally wouldn't mind seeing him leave: I didn't take his comments about our fans in a good manner, he seems like a thief who puts money over the club who gave him everything, and I'd love to see Nicolas Domingo given more opportunities (the youngster is behind Ahumada and Ponzio and receives very little minutes). Updates will be posted as soon as the situation is resolved.

As for Robert Flores's arrival, more details on the transfer have been made public. Unlike Alexis Sanchez's loan (I had made an incorrect comparison to it in my previous post), River will actually have a chance to purchase part of the Uruguayan's transfer. Villarreal have given River the option to buy 30% of his rights in exchange for 1.75 million euros. The loan will be free unless "los Millonarios" lift a trophy at the end of the season: in the case of a local tournament -such as the Apertura and Clausura- the Spaniards will be owed 75,000 euros. Winning the Sudamericana and/or Libertadores, on the other hand, will raise the fee to 100,000 euros. A positive to the acquisition is that River may end up gaining free money: despite not currently holding any of his transfer rights, 15% of his next transfer will be owed to us if he is sold within the next 12 months. Not nearly as bad as I thought. Hopefully we get to see him stick around for more than a year, though.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Robert Flores: From River to River

River Plate have made their first incorporation by bringing in Robert Flores. The 22-year old midfielder may not be known outside of his native country, but in Uruguay he was praised by both fans and critics alike, gaining him a strong comparison to the legendary Enzo Francescoli. In his first season as a starter for River Plate of Uruguay (yes, his now ex-club holds the same name as us), he shined and was even chosen as the best player of the tournament by a group 100 of the country's best journalists.

So far, so good. But the worst part is that his case may end up being the same as Alexis Sanchez's. Flores was purchased by Villarreal a while back, and is still owned by the Spanish side. Since there is a good relationship between Villarreal and River following the recent transfer of 50% of 6 River players (in exchange for 9 million euros), the Uruguayan has arrived on loan for one year free of charge. The big question remains: what will happen after those 12 months? Aguilar plans on purchasing a small percentage of the player, though Robert will most likely be taking a flight to Europe instead.

In terms of other incorporations, River still have two main targets in mind: Mariano Andujar (goalkeeper; Estudiantes) and Santiago Salcedo (forward; Newell's). Both are becoming more accessible as time passes. In the goalkeeper's case, Mariano Barbosa's arrival to the team has changed Andujar's "untransferable" status to "negotiable". Although he will most likely end up in Europe, Simeone still has some hope that his favorite goalkeeper will join the club. Salcedo, on the other hand, seems impossible since Newell's President Eduardo Lopez has valued him at $10,000,000. The positive? The Paraguayan was said to be very excited with the possibility of joining "los Millonarios" and upon hearing Lopez's irrealistic price tag became very dissappointed. He even went as far as missing the first two days of pre-season training with the Rosarinos to let Lopez know that the standards should be lowered. River are analyzing a part exchange offer (money + Mauro Rosales), though if it isn't accepted they are already looking at alternative options.

As for loans, many will be arriving and many will be leaving:

- Rubens Sambueza, Diego Barrado, and Andres San Martin have returned from Pumas, Olimpo, and Arsenal de Sarandi respectively. All will be given a chance during this Pre-Season, though none are guaranteed to stay.
- Cristian Nasuti is highly likely to join Racing for the next twelve months, though Godoy Cruz, Newell's, and Banfield are also after him.
- Sebastian Sciorilli will be joining Colon with hopes of gaining some valuable first-team experience.
- Omar Merlo had joined River on loan in January. The central defender arrived from Colon as an interesting prospect, though Simeone never gave him a chance. He is heavily considering cutting his loan short in order to join Estudiantes.
- Rene Lima had everything straightened out to join PAOK of Greece on loan, though he will finally be joining Gimnasia (LP).

There is currently a bit of a problem with Oscar Ahumada and his contract. Make sure to check back for the next post, which will be regarding the problem.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Torneo Apertura 2008 Schedule Released

The schedule for the 2008-2009 season of the Argentine Primera Division has been released. River will begin the Torneo Apertura 2008 in Santa Fe, where they will face Colon. Many difficult matches will follow this one, but the one that everyone is curious about (the Superclasico) will be played on the 10th round (October 19th) in the Monumental. Meanwhile, what could be an extremely decisive match vs. Estudiantes will be played on the last round. Both River and Estudiantes have been some of the most competitive teams in Argentina recently, so it wouldn't be crazy to consider that the winner of this game could be the one lifting the trophy. The following is the complete list of match dates the "millonarios" will encounter this season:

1st Round - 08/10/2008 - Colon - River Plate
2nd Round - 08/17/2008 - River Plate - Rosario Central
3rd Round - 08/24/2008 - Banfield - River Plate
4th Round - 08/31/2008 - River Plate - San Lorenzo
5th Round - 09/14/2008 - Arsenal - River Plate
6th Round - 09/17/2008 - River Plate - Velez Sarsfield
7th Round - 09/21/2008 - San Martin (Tucuman) - River Plate
8th Round - 09/28/2008 - River Plate - Racing Club
9th Round - 10/05/2008 - Gimnasia (LP) - River Plate
10th Round - 10/19/2008 - River Plate - Boca Juniors
11th Round - 10/26/2008 - Gimnasia (JJ) - River Plate
12th Round - 10/29/2008 - River Plate - Newell's Old Boys
13th Round - 11/02/2008 - Lanus - River Plate
14th Round - 11/09/2008 - River Plate - Huracan
15th Round - 11/16/2008 - Independiente - River Plate
16th Round - 11/23/2008 - River Plate - Argentinos Juniors
17th Round - 11/30/2008 - Tigre - River Plate
18th Round - 12/07/2008 - River Plate - Godoy Cruz
19th Round - 12/14/2008 - Estudiantes (LP) - River Plate

As far as pre-season friendly matches go, I haven't heard anything official but we are rumored to face both Godoy Cruz and San Martin de Tucuman (the two teams who have been promoted to the first division this season) towards the end of July. Updates will be posted ASAP.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Transfer Market: June 29th Update

With the transfer market already officially open, River are after quite a few players. Ex-players Roberto Ayala, Pablo Aimar, and Santiago Solari have already backed off, so here's a list with the current candidates to reinforce the squad:

Goalkeepers: Nicolas Navarro (Napoli), Mariano Barbosa (Free Agent; ex-Banfield and Villarreal), Mariano Andujar (Estudiantes; very complicated).
Defenders: Nicolas Spolli (Newell's), Sebastian Dominguez (America; coached by Simeone in Estudiantes), Facundo Quiroga (Wolfsburg), Juan Pablo Sorin (Hamburg; would be a target if Villagra leaves).
Midfielders: Ignacio Piatti (Gimnasia LP; a business group wants to buy him and loan him to us), Diego Barrado (owned by River and returning from a loan with Olimpo; Simeone is said to be interested in his services).
Forwards: Santiago Salcedo (Newell's).

Mario Yepes's name is also floating around a bit, and the Colombian himself even expressed his interest in returning. Either way, I don't see him arriving anytime soon..

As for players out:

Goalkeepers: Juan Pablo Carrizo (to Lazio), Juan Marcelo Ojeda (unknown destination; highly likely to be transferred if another goalkeeper arrives).
Defenders: Cristian Nasuti (unknown destination - wanted by a few Mexican clubs and Godoy Cruz; fed up with being a "back-up" player), Danilo Gerlo (wanted by Asteras Trípoli of Greece).
Midfielders: Oscar Ahumada (hasn't renewed his soon-to-be-expired-contract yet), Rene Lima (to PAOK FC of Greece on loan), Diego Barrado (if Simeone decides to not use him, Godoy Cruz and a few other "small" clubs are interested in acquiring the midfielder on loan), Nicolas Domingo (wanted by Atlas of Mexico), Rubens Sambueza (his loan with Pumas will finish, but his future remains in the Mexican league with a different club next season).
Forwards: Sebastian Abreu (to Beitar Jerusalem), Alexis Sanchez (returning to Udinese from his loan with River).

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Banfield: 2 - River Plate: 3 - Torneo Clausura 2008

On Sunday, River flipped a 0-2 partial score vs. Banfield to eventually win 3-2. The following video reviews the match:

Friday, June 20, 2008

Video: River Plate's Best Goals (Part II)

I have created a second segment to add to my video collection of River Plate's best goals:

The first part can be seen here. Enjoy!