Riquelme and Palermo, the story of the perfect club that has left the rivalry behind and finds itself at the Bombonera

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Sunday, when his team, Platensein front of Mouth for the fourth appointment of Professional soccer league, Martin Palermo will return to candy box for an official party after nine years. Although he has already occupied the away bench twice as manager (with Godoy Cruz in December 2012 and with Arsenal in April 2014), it will be the first time he will do so under Jorge Amor Ameal. And of Juan Roman Riquelmehis once perfect partner and also nemesis in his football days, with whom in recent years he has been able to rebuild a bond that had been shattered.

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“Palermo will be welcomed as it deserves. He is one of Boca’s biggest idols. I was lucky to play with him, he gave me a lot of fun and joy as a partner and as a fan. He will undoubtedly enjoy going home on Sunday, because La Bombonera is his home,” Riquelme warned on Thursday. It was a formal response from the vice president of the institute, but he also demonstrated that there is no longer the hostility between the two of the past.

Tyrria has never been a secret and the protagonists themselves have recognized it. We didn’t have the best value, but we lived together because there was one priority above all, which was Boca. We have always tried to win. If we had lost, the media would have said it was because Palermo and Riquelme had parted ways” the former striker said last October.

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Riquelme greets Palermo, then coach of Godoy Cruz, before the start of a match between Tomba and Boca in Mendoza in June 2013. Photo: Delfo Rodríguez

Riquelme greets Palermo, then coach of Godoy Cruz, before the start of a match between Tomba and Boca in Mendoza in June 2013. Photo: Delfo Rodríguez

The differences have not prevented that during the seven and a half years in which they have shared a team in Boca from forming an incomparable duo which gave the club four local titles (the Apertura 1998, 2000 and 2008 tournaments and Clausura 1999) and four international titles (Copa Libertadores 2000 and 2007, Intercontinental 2000 and Recopa Sudamericana 2008).

During the first three and a half years, from the Titano’s arrival from Estudiantes de La Plata in mid-1997 (Riquelme had made his debut on 10 November 1996 in a 2-0 win against Unión) until his departure for Villarreal in January 2001, the link was harmonioushand in hand with the sporting successes and the management of the group Carl Bianchi, the great architect of that multi-champion team. At that time they were also teammates in the Argentina national team which he managed Marcello Bielsa.

When finding the breaking point, many have pointed to the end of Intercontinental Cup 2000 against Real Madrid, in Tokyo. Legend has it that two days before that match Palermo asked Bianchi to be included in the team Guillermo Barros Schelotto and don’t do it Marcello Delgado as his strike partner, which would have annoyed Riquelme, Chelo’s historic shoulder. In that game, Delgado started and provided the assist for the striker’s first of two goals (the other was by Román).

The Boca team that beat Real Madrid in Tokyo, led by Riquelme and Palermo.  Photo: Clarin Archive.

The Boca team that beat Real Madrid in Tokyo, led by Riquelme and Palermo. Photo: Clarin Archive.

However, some members of that campus have denied that version. “It was a lie. Martín never asked Bianchi that “insured last year Christian Traverso, who also pointed out that while there were “gaps” between some players, it hadn’t broken the group. “I concentrated with Román and played pool and cards every day with Guillermo (Barros Schelotto) and Martín. Sometimes we had a collaborator who brought us food because we were hungry at night and they all came to our room to eat,” he exemplified.

something like this he recalled Rodolfo Arruabarrena, who failed to play in that intercontinental final (he had been sold to Villarreal in mid-2000), but had been a mainstay in that cycle. “When I left, there were no problems. Later I found out that they said there was a difference when playing the final against Real Madrid, but it wasn’t like that. There were affinities, but no groups. I saw there was a relationship and they were talking to each other constantly,” she said in March 2020.

The two idols have been separated for six years, although they have crossed paths on a few pitches while playing in Spain and Riquelme too, when he joined Villarreal in 2003, he rented the house that belonged to Palermo, which had been loaned from the Yellow Submarine to Betis. They had a short and fruitful meeting in the first half of 2007, when the down payment was lent by the club from the Valencian Community and was a fundamental element in obtaining the Copa Libertadores that year. And they joined their paths again when 10 returned for good in early 2008.

Together, Palermo and Riquelme have won eight titles at Boca.  Photo: Clarin Archive.

Together, Palermo and Riquelme have won eight titles at Boca. Photo: Clarin Archive.

By that time, the bond was already extremely deteriorated. Rodolfo Arruabarrena told it, who recalled his return to his homeland that year, after eight seasons between Spain and Greece: “I wanted to organize a barbecue with former colleagues, but I had to make two different ones because there was no harmony between them”. Also Uruguayan Álvaro González, who recalled his early days at the club: “I went into a difficult dressing room, with people who didn’t even say ‘good morning’ to each other.”

In that team there were two very different factions: the one that referred to Palermo and which brought together a good part of the more experienced men (Sebastián Battaglia, Rodrigo Palacio, Claudio Morel Rodríguez, Mauricio Caranta, Leandro Gracián) and the one that aligned with Riquelme, with Hugo Ibarra at the helm and some of the youngsters who were taking their first steps in the senior team (Javier García, Lucas Viatri). The former barely hid their annoyance at the supposed privileges enjoyed by Román.

In October 2008, that latent conflict erupted. First Caranta expressed his annoyance at Charles Ischia, then team DT, and ended up separated from the team. Just hours later, Paraguayan Julio César Cáceres, who was in his country to play a match for South Africa 2010 qualifiers, detonated the bomb.

Riquelme and Palermo together with Lucas Castromán during Boca's preseason in January 2008 in Tandil.  Photo: Jorge Sanchez.

Riquelme and Palermo together with Lucas Castromán during Boca’s preseason in January 2008 in Tandil. Photo: Jorge Sanchez.

“Riquelme is a complicated person and some colleagues get annoyed by his attitudes. In some games he appears to run. I should work a little more. If one is not well, he should step aside. The difference between Riquelme and Palermo is that Martín is 34 years old and plays the pre-season alongside a 17-year-old boy, he never pouts. He can be the leader of the group ”, fired the central scorer.

Roman’s quick response was slow in coming: “It’s strange, this guy jogs next to me, he eats at my table, he seems nice to me. Ask a guy to do what he did… I can no longer defend this guy. He just wants to create more problems in our dressing room”. There were those who believed, including the 10, that Cáceres’ words were a poisoned dart fired from the Palermo barracks.

Since then they were partner within the field and opponents outside. That gap was evident on April 12, 2010, when Boca defeated Arsenal 4-0 on the 14th date of the Clausura tournament. That day, 10′ into the first half, Riquelme, from a position to be defined as unbeatable, preferred to assist Palermo, who opened the scoring and thus scored his 219th goal with the blue and gold shirt, overcoming the goal that had belonged to Roberto since 1938 Cherro (218) and became the top scorer in the club’s history. During the celebration, the midfielder and forward did not greet each other.

“When I score a goal, I try to hug the person who gave me the pass and the other teammates. I know what was seen and I know what happened. But I don’t have to go out and say something on this subject. It makes me uncomfortable, I’m not interested in speculating. Everyone draws their own conclusions,” Palermo said at the end of the game. Roman opted for silence.

They continued like this until Palermo’s retirement in June 2011. Eight months later, on 4 February 2012, they had their farewell match. At the Bombonera there were Bianchi and most of the multiple champions from Boca: Arruabarrena, Ibarra, Guillermo and Gustavo Barros Schelotto, Carlos Tevez, Diego Cagna, Jorge Bermúdez, Mauricio Serna, Óscar Córdoba, Roberto Abbondanzieri, Rolando Schiavi and Clemente Rodríguez. Riquelme? NO. “I didn’t invite him because we didn’t have a good relationship,” the scorer justified. Three years later, they would share the lawn at Sebastián Battaglia’s farewell.

Palermo and Riquelme say goodbye during Sebastián Battaglia's farewell party in July 2015. Photo: Juano Tesone.

Palermo and Riquelme say goodbye during Sebastián Battaglia’s farewell party in July 2015. Photo: Juano Tesone.

Beyond the tensions, the two have always recognized each other’s sporting merits. “Palermo was the best 9 of the last 20 or 30 years of Argentine football,” praised him in 2017 by Román, who placed him above who would be the Ballon d’Or winner in 2022:” ( Karim) Benzema is a technically incredible player, but he misses more times than goals. Palermo has never missed him”.

Weeks later, the striker picked up the glove: “Playing alongside him made me the player I was. If Román had taken the lead, he would have been one of the great players in Europe. What he did at Villarreal could have been repeated in Barcelona or wherever he wanted ”.

The passing of the years has been smoothing the edges and allowed a rapprochement. While no one would consider them friends, they have developed a bond of respect. This allowed, for example, Palermo to pick up the phone and communicate with Riquelme in January last year, when Aldosivi was in charge, to ask him for the transfer of some young players (Tucuman goalkeeper Agustín Lastra and Junín defender Nicolás Valentini were finally lent). . And that he repeat the procedure this summer to bring forward Maximiliano Zalazar to Platense.

Even the Football Council, with Riquelme at the helm, considered the name of Palermo in July last year, when he was looking for a replacement for Sebastián Battaglia and before opting for the continuity of Hugo Ibarra. Nobody rules out that sooner or later the Titan could be the coach of Boca. For now, this afternoon he will be back on the bench at La Bombonera, where a great welcome from the management and the fans is expected. Surely from his box, a few meters above the former striker’s head, Román will observe him.

Source: Clarin

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