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.