I know all of the above. I had an FM education, you know!
Speaking of which, I read that the following Argentine lower league clubs have great youth facilities. Can you confirm this for us? Perhaps go on a scouting mission?
C.A.I de Chubut
Haha! Well, I'll see what I can do. Huracán definitely does. It's by far the most important club in that list and used to be quite important. Indeed, it's the historic rival of San Lorenzo, last year's Libertadores champion. But the club has declined these past decades.
Mourinho is so annoying, especially this thing he does now where he laughs contemptuously every time the officials refuse to reward one of his players' dives with a penalty.
It's nice that his sides appear to be more fallible now. I can't imagine Mourinho teams of the past losing a 2-0 lead to a third tier side or going out of Europe with a man advantage for a whole 90 minutes.
MLS' new tv deals in europe and continued legit DP signings is pretty exciting imo. Even though some of the DPs are overpaid (to get them here) MLS still gets more dollar value than any other league in the world.
cloak wrote:MLS' new tv deals in europe and continued legit DP signings is pretty exciting imo. Even though some of the DPs are overpaid (to get them here) MLS still gets more dollar value than any other league in the world.
edit: except maybe Argentina...
In what sense? As in the quality of players relative to their wages?
I have no clue what the EuroAmerican Supercup is, outside of the facts that DirectTV invented it and that River and Sevilla are competing for it tonight. River's going with their C team, though. It's like a friendly, but at a time when neither club really has time for a friendly.
Ever since I was a teenager I've wanted either for Argentina to win a World Cup or for River to win the Libertadores. The former almost came true last year, but it wasn't meant to be. The latter finally happened yesterday. Of course, I was already a River fan in 1996, when River last won the cup with the likes of Francescoli, Ortega, Crespo, and Almeyda on the pitch. But I was eight and, I guess, not very conscious of what the Libertadores was. I don't even remember watching the final: a couple of weeks ago, I caught the whole 90 minutes on YouTube, and I must admit it roused no memories whatsoever. Great watch, though: Ortega killed it.
This team doesn't have the flourish of the 1996 squad. But it makes up for it in sheer gutsiness and physicality. All eleven men defend, run everywhere, cooperate. Many journalists in Argentina have likened their movements on the field to the inner workings of the coach's mind, the coach being none other than Marcelo Gallardo, who, as a player, lifted the Libertadores trophy in 1996 (although he was a substitute, then).
This team's game-play can often get a little ugly. But that's their style: relentless pressure in the midfield to win the ball back and kickstart quick attacks. Not exactly counterattacks, because they don't wait inside their own half for the other team to make a move. They never wait for anything, really. Wherever the ball is, that's where they are, kicking and fighting. And then their attacks, though frequently imprecise and haphazardly bungled, are absolutely gorgeous when they connect: a highlight reel of this year's goals would be beautiful indeed. And last night was no exception, with the opening goal being particularly precious.
There have been prettier River sides, but almost none with as much heart. River's historic karma has always been the undoing of its offensive genius by the weakness of its defence. For instance, River fans fondly recall the Magic Four team of the early 2000s, with Saviola, Aimar, Juan Pablo Angel, and Ortega offering some outlandishly beautiful soccer. But the fact is those guys won nothing for River at the international level, despite their brilliance. They were just standout individuals in a weaker team. What the current squad has done is trade some of River's patented technique for more effective, practical, ruthless tenacity. It's not always fun to watch, but it's always emotional. It should come as no surprise, then, that the team's real stars are either defenders, like the center-backs Maidana and Funes Mori, who have been likened to an impassable wall; or defensive midfielders, like Ponzio and Kranevitter, who has been touted as Mascherano's heir, for good reason.
There is also the Uruguayan international Carlos Sánchez, a gutsy, all-terrain midfielder, who has found his top form at the age of 30, which has allowed his world-class talent to remain in South America, as Europe prefers to pick them up young. The same can be said of many other players in this team: Ponzio has already been to Europe, but he's never been this good, though he's well in his 30s; Maidana, already mentioned, is 30; and Mercado and Vangioni, who complete the back four, are both 28. River's management has had the luck or the vision to nurture these men, who were perhaps not promising enough in their youth to get picked up by the European train (or, if they were picked up at some point, they didn't stay) and, now mature, have unsuspectedly blossomed late into their careers. But no South American side can do without its young prodigies: 22-year-old Alario, a lanky, intelligent center-forward, was an unsung addition to the team, just a few weeks (!) ago, called in to replace Colombian star Teo Gutiérrez, a strange, versatile, emotionally-unstable, irregular player, now in Portugal, who would put in one really good match and then drag his weight for the next three (admittedly, one of those really good matches was against Cruzeiro, in Brazil, during the quarter-finals, for River's historic 3-0 victory). Alario, after only four matches for River - the semifinals and the final of the Libertadores - has quickly turned into one of the main reasons behind River's win and has written his name into the club's history books.
River can often be a rugged, gritty team. But the club's historic, trademark beautiful soccer shines through in their goals. I picked just five, based on the quality of the individual plays and their importance in the campaign. Coincidentally, however, they ended up reflecting a chronological order. Which makes sense, given that this team started out quite badly (with a defeat, even) and improved with time.
5. Rodrigo Mora vs Tigres
This is where it all started. Perhaps the most crucial, fateful goal of the entire tournament. Nobody thought, then, that River would go on to win the Libertadores. They had been miserable throughout the group stage, tying or losing against subpar Peruvian and Bolivian sides. The defence, which had been so important in lifting the Sudamericana cup in December, had forgotten their identity. They looked lost, confused, without confidence. And the star forwards, Rodrigo Mora and Teo Gutiérrez, kept missing chance after chance. In Buenos Aires, they barely scraped a tie against Tigres - the same Tigres they would meet again, in the final. Some weeks later came the visit to Mexico. Only two matches were left in the group stage. River had to win both to comfortably advance. But, crushingly, they suddenly found themselves down by two goals in Monterrey. The dream was over, apparently. But then, in the 87th minute, Gutiérrez improbably found the back of the net. And in the 90th minute, miraculously, unexpectedly, after a skilful run by Mayada down the right flank and a brilliant center from Gutiérrez, Mora crashed the second goal and managed, against all odds, to tie the score. It was the night Tigres allowed River to rise from the dead, a mistake that would cost them dearly.
4. Teo Gutiérrez vs Cruzeiro
A beautiful individual bit of magic to seal the deal against a confused Brazilian side, during the quarterfinals. After losing in Buenos Aires, few thought River could possibly turn things around in Belo Horizonte. But that's exactly what they did, with a stunning 3-0 drubbing of the over-confident, sluggish Cruzeiro. From minute one, River dominated the match with a degree of resolve that surprised everyone, most of all the whiplashed Brazilians. Teo Gutiérrez, always an inconstant man, is a bag of surprises: he can disappear for weeks at a time, and then have career-defining nights like this one. In a few seconds of concentrated skill, he erased the memory of all his missed chances during the group stage.
3. Rodrigo Mora vs Guaraní
After an excruciating two-month recess, while the continent hosted the Copa America, the Libertadores finally resumed. By then, several things had changed at River. Gutiérrez and Chilean midfielder Rojas, both key figures in the squad, had left to Portugal and Mexico, respectively. To replace them, several reinforcements arrived, mere weeks or days from the semifinal. Returning veterans Javier Saviola and Lucho Gonzalez kindled the hopes of fans, but it quickly became clear that age had caught up with them and that, at most, they would lend a helping hand, not solve the team's troubles. Instead, the decisive signings ended up being two younger men picked by coach Marcelo Gallardo, both little-known in Argentina: Alario, a low-scoring but promising center-forward from humble Colón of Santa Fe; and Viudez, who Gallardo knew from his Nacional days, but who had moved on to the Turkish league, where he had all but disappeared from the soccer map. However, due to a transfer technicality, Viudez would have to wait to make his grand entrance at Monumental stadium. Alario, on the other hand, was ready to make history in Buenos Aires, in the first leg of the semifinal. His goals were yet to come, though. What fans got to watch, instead, was his preternatural ability to quickly, immediately adapt to the team and assist his mates. Here, he sends a deep, one-touch pass to Rodrigo Mora, who, cool-headed, effortlessly chips it over the goalie. It would be a 2-0 victory for River over Guaraní. The final was ever so close. But before that could happen, they still had to make the trip to Paraguay, for the second leg.
2. Alario vs Guaraní
After Alario's stellar - if goalless - turn against Guaraní during the first leg, many River fans perhaps wondered if it had been a fluke. After all, who was this guy? Could he really be this good? His performance during the second leg, in Paraguay, confirmed that he was no one-hit wonder. And this time, he wasn't doing the assisting but scoring the goals. In fact, the assist, this time, came from Viudez, now able to finally put on the River jersey. Coming in as a substitute, Viudez sent two or three killer passes in ten minutes, the most crucial of which was this one, which he sent with the outside of his foot to Alario, who completed the play, as if mimicking Mora in the previous match, by tapping the ball over the goalie. It was not only an attractive goal but a supremely important one: River was winning 2-1 on aggregate, yes, but one more goal by Guaraní would have sent both to the Russian roulette of penalties. Alario gave his team the chance to breathe and ensured their passage to the final.
1. Alario vs Tigres
Not the best of the goals here, viewed in isolation, but in context obviously the most momentous one. River had managed a hard-fought 0-0 draw in Mexico and was the favourite to win in Buenos Aires. But there was no reason to celebrate just yet: Tigres were an undeniably strong team and, money-wise, had spent many more millions in building their high-salaried squad. River had bought the relatively obscure Alario and Viudez; Tigres, on the other hand, had gone all the way to France to nab one of the local league's top scorers, André-Pierre Gignac, and had also incorporated the 22-year-old Mexican (but German-named) midfielder Jürgen Damm, presumably (according to FIFA, at least) one of the fastest players in the world, behind only Gareth Bale. Moreover, after 270 minutes of play, in over three matches, between the group stage and the final, neither team had been able to beat the other. The first half of the last match of the tournament was predictably tense. Few well-made passes, many mistakes, lots of tough defending. River had the better attitude, but Tigres had the best chances and more fluid play. For River to win, someone would have to do something unpredictable and open the score. And someone did: at the 45th minute, left-back Vangioni left two Mexican players in the dust (or the mud, given the amount of rain) with an impressive turn and sent a perfect, quick center to Alario, who did what center-forwards are supposed to do and, with a diving header, scored the first goal of three that would send River fans screaming into the stormy midnight.
Beau wrote:River's management has had the luck or the vision to nurture these men, who were perhaps not promising enough in their youth to get picked up by the European train (or, if they were picked up at some point, they didn't stay) and, now mature, have unsuspectedly blossomed late into their careers.
Man, Ajax could use some of that, as they were just kicked out of the Champions League qualifications with a team that barely averages 20 years old. This just after the realisation that Dutch teams need to perform well in Europe this year, otherwise even the champion next year might not qualify for the Champions League directly, creating even more financial disparity with the larger countries that already treat the Dutch competition like a youth program.
What helps Argentina, I guess, is that we're the Europe of the rest of South America, in the sense that Colombian, Uruguayan, Chilean, and Paraguayan players, before making their jump to Europe, if they ever make the jump, usually have to go through Argentina (think Colombians like Falcao, former River player; or James, former Banfield). River had several important internationals in its squad, among them Colombian Teo Gutiérrez and an army of Uruguayans: Mora, Viudez, Mayada, Sánchez. And then there was Rojas, from Chile. So, that helps keep the quality up, because otherwise the flight of talent to Europe is extraordinary and dispiriting. You barely get to enjoy a promising youth and he's already sent to Europe. Hell, sometimes you don't even get to enjoy them: Alexis Sánchez and Lamela were so young and inexperienced during their stints in River that, quite frankly, they sucked. Oh, they don't suck now, especially Alexis. But they sucked for us. It's very frustrating. Which is why, when it happens that players peak late into their careers and avoid settling in Europe during their early 20s, well, that's great for River, and for South American teams in general. But it often feels like catching lightning in a bottle. Like so much needs to happen for the team to be just right. I hope River's current management keeps it up. So far, they've been able to maintain the basic structure of a winning team for several years, now. It's been good and, sadly, unusual in South American soccer.