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Why the Argentine rollercoaster fails to thrill

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Tim Vickery | 14:09 UK time, Monday, 20 September 2010

Chelsea's start to the season shows it is not easy for a competition to retain both quality and competitive balance.

The Premier League has a collective TV deal, with a more equitable distribution of television money than some other major leagues. Even so, those clubs with a wealthy benefactor or a huge fan base can put themselves streets ahead of weaker rivals, while only a handful of clubs go into the season with any realistic chance of winning. A dose of predictability is the price paid for the quality on show.

It is the opposite of domestic football in Argentina, where the first division has become wildly unpredictable. However, the price paid for this excitement is a lack of quality.

The last eight championships have been won by eight different clubs, including first-time champions Banfield and Lanus. Argentinos Juniors won the last title, only the third in their history, but are down at the bottom of the table after seven games of the new campaign.

Rogelio Funes Mori in action for River Plater

Funes Mori was scouted by River while training with Chelsea. Photo: AP

It is a typical story. A relatively small club clicks for one campaign but then drops back down again after losing their coach and their best players. And the space for these small clubs to break through comes from the fact that the big clubs are continually parting company with their best players.

A survey published last week found that Argentina has now overtaken Brazil as the leading exporter of footballers - a remarkable statistic given that Brazil's population is nearly five times bigger. And when everyone is selling, all the teams are in a permanent state of flux and the playing field is levelled - downwards, because the standard of play inevitably suffers from the loss of both players and continuity.

The level of unpredictability is increased by the fact that Argentina stages two separate championships a year, in which the 20 teams play each other once. The shorter the season, the greater the chance of a surprise.

Largely to protect the big clubs from a bad campaign, relegation is worked out on an average of points accumulated over three years, or six championships.

This helps explain the bizarre position in which River Plate find themselves.

The Buenos Aires giants have more domestic titles than anyone else and are in contention this time. On Sunday, they lost 1-0 away to Newells Old Boys. A win would have left them on top of the table. As it is, they lie sixth, only two points behind the leaders.

Yet River Plate are also in danger of relegation. Bad results for two years mean they entered this campaign with a noose around their neck. Next May, two clubs will go down automatically and two more will go into the play-offs. Using this average of points picked up since the 2008/09 season, River are in 18th position, third from bottom.

They still have plenty of time to pull clear - another 12 games of this campaign and all 19 of the next - but the players are currently feeling twin forces of pressure: both of winning the title and of fighting the drop.

It is a situation that cries out for experience. River have it in the form of two former internationals, both now 36. There is captain Matias Almeyda, who played some of his best football in the holding role for Lazio and who has made an unexpected comeback after retiring from the game. Then there is playmaker Ariel Ortega, a victim of his own demons but still capable of flashes of extraordinary talent.

River Plate's Matias Almeyda

Almeyda began his career at River Plate. Photo: Reuters

The main beneficiary of Ortega's creative ability is 19-year-old centre forward Rogelio Funes Mori, touted by some at the club as a new Hernan Crespo.

The rangy Funes Mori has an interesting life story. A decade ago, the Argentine economy collapsed and Funes Mori's family re-located to the USA. While he was there, he won a reality TV show with the aim of unearthing a new football star. Part of the prize was to spend some time training with Chelsea. His spell at Stamford Bridge coincided with a visit from one of River Plate's youth sides, who ended up taking him back to Argentina.

Another River Plate youngster who must feel as if he has spent his life in a reality TV programme is Erik Lamela.

The 18-year-old was given his first senior start against Newells on Sunday but has been a household name for six years. When he was 12, there was a huge fuss about Barcelona wanting to take him to Spain. River managed to hang on to him and developed him through their youth ranks. His promise was apparent in the hour he played against Newells. A lanky, left-sided midfielder, he showed composure, played some lovely left-footed passes and produced one excellent moment of tight dribbling skills when he took three defenders out of the game.

Lamela is half the age of fellow midfielder Almeyda. Funes Mori is only just over half the age of strike partner Ortega. They represent the twin extremes of contemporary South American football - veterans winding down and youngsters on the way up. In the middle are those who were not successful in Europe or who were never considered good enough to receive the call.

It means that Argentine crowds have very few opportunities to see top players performing in their peak years. But, on the other hand, with everyone in a permanent state of transition, there is no danger of the championship race becoming predictable.

Comments on the piece in the space provided. Questions on South American football to vickerycolumn@hotmail.com, and I'll pick out a couple for next week.

From last week's postbag;

Q) I was wondering about your opinion on leggy Colombia striker Giovanni Moreno. I get such delight from the languid way he expresses his ability but simultaneously recognise that he might not have the mentality to succeed at the highest level. What do you think are his prospects at Racing in Argentina? Has he moved at the right time?
Martha Fischer

A) I'm a fan. He has lots of imagination and ability. I am also optimistic about his mental strength. He is from a tough mining background in Colombia.

Problems? As you say, he is languid. Will he cope with the extra pace of the European game if and when he moves? As for his position, right up off the main striker, where space is tight, or a bit deeper where he might lack the acceleration to get into the box?

I do think, though, that he has made a good move. Argentina can serve as a good finishing school for Colombians and he is working with a top coach in Miguel Angel Russo.

Q) What do you think of Arsenal's new signing due to arrive in January, Wellington Silva? Do you think he could make it to the top?
Peter Hornsby

A) Tiny, talented and a very tricky support striker who can beat the defender on either side. Any move across continents is a gamble, especially so at this age. Can he cope with all the changes he is going through? I have heard that there are already fears about things going to his head.

He has been eased in gently, spending some time with Arsenal and then going back to Fluminense in Brazil. Recently on his return to Rio, he awarded himself some holiday at a time when the club had an injury crisis with their strikers. Coach Muricy Ramalho was not impressed. To be honest, I think I would have preferred for him to stay in Brazil and build a career at home for a couple of years before making the move.

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Do the fans of these clubs approve of the way the league is set-up or is there a desire to have the league set up to those in Europe? And why is it like this? Any reason

  • Comment number 2.

    Do the fans of these clubs approve of the way the league is set-up or is there a desire to have the league set up like those in Europe? And why is it like this? Any reason

  • Comment number 3.

    Hi Tim,

    Interesting blog as always.

    In 2007, Mati Almeyda and former Libertadores and Intercontental Cup winner Turu Flores attempted a comeback with FC Lyn in the Norwegian top flight (a decidedly average league currently 27th in Europe): neither player was capable of making any impact whatsoever, so it's frankly quite shocking to learn that Almeyda is still capable of commanding a first-team place at River Plate.

    The Almeyda/Flores deal was brokered by a Montevideo-based football fixer called Terje Liverød (also responsible for Sebastian Eguren's first venture into European football with Rosenborg). Do you know anything about him? In his homeland, he's frequently portrayed as someone with significant influence in South American football, particularly in Uruguay and Argentina (he arranged for Maradona to play five-a-side exhibition football here a few years back) - but I suspect this is due to the overhyping tendencies of the Norwegian sports press. Any idea?

  • Comment number 4.

    And there was me thinking I'd be first for a change!

    Great insight yet again, Tim. I'm surprised that Argentina has now overtaken Brazil in terms of player exporting. What are the main reasons for this? I can't imagine there is a close rival to either of the two countries in terms of player production. It seems nowadays that half the teams in Europe have numerous Brazilians and/or Argentinians; the Inter team that won the CL last year had 8 players from the two countries in the starting line-up. Says it all, really.

  • Comment number 5.

    Tim, another insightful piece. I was not aware that Argentina has overtaken Brazil as the biggest exporting nation. I wonder is that because there is more demand for Argentines considering their recent crop of stars (Messi, Aguero, Higuain, Tevez etc) which at the moment seems to be more successful than its Brazilian counterpart? Or is it because the Brazilian teams are managing to hold on to its players for longer? I have a hunch it is a combination of both, comments from other readers on this debate are welcome.

    Nonetheless, again a good portrait of the instability of the main South American leagues. It is a plague that has been also affecting Brazilian teams aver the last decades - often small clubs will have their 15 minutes of fame but then retreat to obscurity - whilst big clubs live in a cycle where one or two years at the top will then be succeeded by one or two years in mid table or even in relegation struggles.

    I really feel that there is a lot of potential in the Brazilian and Argentine leagues if both were able to remove that instability. If the big South American sides could maintain top quality squads at their peak, I am confident the trophies fought there could become as attractive as the EPL, La Liga or Serie A. The history, tradition and fan base is there, in teams like Boca, Santos, Sao Paulo, River, Flamengo, Corinthians, Independiente and Inter, could you imagine all those sides playing at their full potential (i.e. with the South American stars that today enrich the European teams), in a competition with all the quality and organization that the CL has today? It could be great

    As a Brazilian I can only speak for Brazil, and I still see a lot of non-professionalism in the main clubs, with personal interests, illogical short term actions (example: Santos refusal to sell Neymar to Chelsea, now that was dumb and it is already showing…) and dependence on public support prevailing over business acumen, vision and the quest for self sustainability. I would hope the upward trend of the local economy is spilled onto the football world though, and that can slowly change.

  • Comment number 6.

    I'm not surprised that Argentina has now overtaken Brazil in terms of player exporting. Brazil has a strong economy and their players earn a lot of money. Brazilian players are more expensive than argentines

  • Comment number 7.

    The AFA have changed the rules before and will again if River are in danger of going down.

    I'm surprised you didn't mention that the Argentinian league introduced averaging in 1983 so that River in '83 and Boca in '84 didn't go down. None of the top five clubs in Argentina have been relegated since averaging was introduced.

  • Comment number 8.

    @Yorkieyra:

    The reason for this system is to protect the big clubs. If any of the big clubs has a very poor season, they can prevent being relegated by relying on points from the previous 2 seasons assuming, of course, their previous seasons were good ones.

  • Comment number 9.

    The system is not unique to Argentina and I remember a couple of years ago when San Luis Potosí of Mexico were one result away from either relegation or entry into la Liguilla, the knockout stage of the season. One could argue that the averaging is fairer in the sense that a team that has one particularly disastrous season (maybe injuries to star players) does not go down based purely on those results, and perennial relegation candidates do not loiter around the bottom of the table season after season. It does, however, take away the surprise element.
    It is interesting, for me, that the two supposed giants of Argentinian football, River and Boca, no longer enjoy a domination of the league; something that has become even more marked over the last five years or so, and that has to be a good thing, doesn't it?

  • Comment number 10.

    The average system is a nonsense. As some of the other comments suggest, it's more than likely there will be some rule change to keep River up.

    As for the Apertura and Clausura, I would have no objection to this system if the winners played each other to decide on an overall champion.

    http://footballfutbolfitba.wordpress.com/

  • Comment number 11.

    If everything was done for the big clubs as some here imagine there would not be short tournamentes which make it easier for small clubs to win.Nor indeed would Argentina have the tv deal which is the most democratic anywhere.
    Right now there is a big debate about returning to the longer season with the likes of Angel Cappa supporting it.
    Tim is on his usual effort at trying to show Brasils futbol is better than la nuestra but i havent seen many better Serie A this year(Brasils) games than Nuls-River for example.
    I dont know why it would surprise anyone Argentina has more footballers than Brasil when we have always had more skill than the Brasucas.

    This year however more Argentines returned from Europe to the Primera than left

  • Comment number 12.

    @ 11. moreno

    change the record, mate

  • Comment number 13.

    Good article, River are in a very odd situation but as mentioned above there is no way the AFA will actually let them get relegated (unless Grondona is not the same Grondona he was in 1983/84).

    Nice mention about Ortega an Almeyda I recently included them in my blog about the Top Ten Argentines to have returned to the Argentinian League (The Beeb won't let me put the website on because it thinks I'm advertising something for financial reward even though it is just a personal blog - however if you google "footballtoptens Argentina" you should find it)


    Finally talking about excitement, have you been following the Paraguayan league this season, there is a great title race hotting up between Libertad and Cerro Porteño even if the league lacks quality (especially outside of the traditional big 4).

  • Comment number 14.

    @AlexD: I think Santos refusal to sell Neymar was spot on. Its good to brazilian football in general that an IMMATURE player, doesnt ruin even more the image of brazilians abroad, like Robinho did.

    The fact Neymar had teen seizures at being substituted or fouled just proves he isnt ready yet for a move. Better let him mature here.

  • Comment number 15.

    just want to comment on a sentence from the article
    "A dose of predictability is the price paid for the quality on show."

    Yes, a dose is a good price to pay. Unfortunatelly, the english league received an OVERDOSE of predictability. Its a major price to pay.

  • Comment number 16.

    The Argentinean league system is an absolute nightmare to follow and consequently, uninteresting. This lack of stability and consistency is probably the sole reason why the number of exported players has increased to such ridiculous levels. The 'apetura'and 'clausura' tournaments are unnecessary excesses of a pretentious and overly complicated national football machine, the sole purpose of which is to produce talented footballers like shoes or flyswatters so as to sell them like products at the first sign of maturation, leaving the league to scrounge by with tactically unaware boys and stiff, aging stars of a football past. The Brazilian Serie A is a much better league to pay attention to.

  • Comment number 17.

    Tim:

    All the points you make are true and valid, but there an aspect that is sadly forgotten and I am speaking of Argentina only, although young Brazilian exports could be suffering the same fate: Players are being taken away too young. Besides the economic fact that these kids are being bred to 'save the family' there is also a huge semi-black market of agents and 'empresarios, that is making a killing.

    And these happens right when the player is starting to show potential. So in many cases, a South American talent stops its natural cycle of technical development and is landed in Ukraine, Russia, Turkey or Greece (for the least well promoted and/or having the lousiest agent) or in the best case scenario the EPL, La Liga or Serie A (or B). I can think of a player like Franco Di Santo, hanging on to the Chelsea bench for entire seasons or tiny Maxi Morales who returns from MVP status in winning the U20 Worlds in 2007 and is sold to FC Moscow right away for close to nothing. The same thing happened to Monzon, an immensely gifted left back who was prematurely sold by Boca to Spain after playing only 37 games at age 20.

    For the clubs the pressure to balance the books is too much and the players do not want to live with the uncertainty of Argentinian life, understandably. Moralez and Monzon are now back in Argentina but for each Messi or Aguero there are bunches of players out there that left too early and commanded very low transfer fees.

    The players rights belong to businessmen since early age. Their rights are bought at 14 or 15 and people are invited to chip in (I was personally invited to buy a portion of Gimnasia y Esgrima's centre back Ariel Aguero for U$ 10,000 in 2008!!!) with speculation in mind. A Boca board executive (these are volunteer positions...) owned a chunk of Carlos Tevez transfer which he had bought for U$ 10K when Tevez was an unknown! He dutifully collected a few hundred thousand when Tevez departed to Corinthians, under Kia's guiding light...

    And so it goes on, players continue to be bound by bizarre arrangements between investors, agents and clubs. Some stagnate, some develop and a few are great. Conversely, one would only hope that @11 Moreno is sold ASAP to Belarus' Serie C and never comes back...

  • Comment number 18.

    17 - many thanks for your contribution marcelao.

    I have raged (perhaps more on radio than in print) many times about this industry of premature sales, teenagers turned into commodities - you have fleshed it out very well and given people an understanding of how it works.

  • Comment number 19.

    I like reading your views from South America especially Argentina, I enjoy watching the Argentine league especially Boca Juniors, what draws me to this league is the passion shown from the terraces and although the football is not always spectacular I do find the League format exciting and unpredictable. I wish a similar format would be introduced to the SPL in Scotland. I think its unfair to question the quality of the league by compairing it to La Liga or the EPL but it is better than most European leagues. With the constant export of players from the Primera Liga in Argentina it allows a constant influx of young up and coming players from the youth teams which means the Argentine National side will always have a abundance of talent to choose from.

  • Comment number 20.

    I finally feel my licence money is being well spent. Thanks for a great blog, and excellent contribution by those of you who left comments.

  • Comment number 21.

    It is an exciting league indeed... even though technically diluted.

    There are a few other peculiarities about Argentina's futbol, speaking about the 'terraces...' and they are not pretty stories. Dangerous struggle for power between different factions at each club (especially the 5 big ones, Velez Sarsfield and maybe also the two Rosario giants) mean that violence breaks out every weekend (several murders and convictions on this account in the last few years, Boca, River, Rosario central, etc.). The club directors abet the 'barras' mafia-like endeavours because they will get voted at election time by these same groups who exert enormous pressure with less 'radical' followers. In exchange, the barras with the connivance of the police (who also get their side money for looking the other way) will develop vast networks of money making enterprises: matchday parking control (you do not just park your car... you have to pay the guy that controls each city block), sales of hotdogs and pop, resale of much sought after tickets, 'adrenaline' tours (tourists pay up to U$ 200 per head for a Bombonera experience smack in the middle of the goons). This amounts to huge loads of cash for the barra leaders and their followers, and these power struggles still in most clubs. And all of this without mentioning the club vs club fights that break out every weekend. Last week a huge brawl was caused by a Velez flag making fun of San Lorenzo's poor Libertadores Cup record!!!

    The barras get other perks: they get to break into practice grounds to 'motivate' a losing-record team or, as it happened this last June, they get 'invited' to South Africa by the respective club politicians, with the blessing of il capo mafia himself, Don Julio Grondona to support the boys in the Albiceleste. Don Julio keeps the clubs in toe because they should actually all be playing in third division due to their financial woes... yet he buys their allegiance by not enforcing the AFA rules. Hear that, Portsmouth?

    It is so out of hand that in Primera B the visiting team is not allowed fans in the stadium! And to complete the bizarre picture, while clubs cannot balance the books and sell their talent at a too-early discounted rate, the home clubs limit the visiting team ticket allotment to 3 or 4 thousand people (a remnant of Boca Juniors' instituting this limit to protect their fan base accessibility to La Bombonera years ago), while they themselves cannot fill the stadium up. This means a huge loss of revenue... as you can often see entire lengths of stands absolutely empty.

    As for the most democratic TV deal anywhere... well. The government unilaterally cancelled the contract with a private provider and is now, yes, THE NATIONAL GOVERNMENT! televising every game for free, at two times the production cost per game... all of this will give Tim' readers a bit of context: 'futbol' as the ultimate political propaganda; back to Orwell and Rollerball.

  • Comment number 22.

    i recently told a friend who was moving to Buenos Aires that if he got too close to the football he would end up with a feeling of bitterness - marcelao explains why.

  • Comment number 23.

    PS Tim: if you can read Spanish, which I am sure you can... try to get your hands on a book by Alejandro Grabia called La Doce, where he elaborates to minute detail the history and inside info on Boca's barras... he is the ultimate expert on this cancer of Argentine football and his writing is very engaging and well researched. He writes for Ole in Bs As and you can get to read some of his pieces (in Spanish) at http://buscador.ole.com.ar/grabia

    ... and if you are interested also read Juan Pablo Varsky's editorials for La Nacion (he writes about other sports as well)... he is at least as knowledgeable as you... http://buscar.lanacion.com.ar/varsky

  • Comment number 24.

    thanks for the recommendation - i have only vague knowledge of Grabia, but am already a big fan of Varsky

  • Comment number 25.

    the EPL as a title race this season is pretty boring, but the matches are still very interesting to watch, like Man U vs Liverpool this past weekend. The Argentina league might not have the quality of the to European leagues, but some of the matches are very exciting and the players fight every ball... is not like for example the Blackpool players already know the will lose against Chelsea, while in Argentina teams like All Boys leave everything on the pitch and sometimes they excel to defeat teams like Estudiantes.

  • Comment number 26.

    The case of the Barras in Argentina is just so imbedded into the fabric of the game its sickening. They are ruining the experiences of the real fans who work all week to go see their team play.

    At River, we had an incident where the Barras were asking players for money and one of our idols, Marcelo Gallardo, refused to pay them so they hung a banner up against him, but for the real fans, this made him more of a hero for standing up to the mercenaries that ruin the game.

    That being said, you can go to a River match and there will never be any trouble. The stadium is in a nice, suburban neighborhood and everything is always under control. You can sit wherever, the popular (terrace) or platea (seated) without problems. Plenty of women and children go to the games too. Hell, I go to games with my Mother a couple times a year. I see plenty of tourists at all the River games too- they go to our museum than sit in the Platea San Martin, which is the most expensive section.

    If you are smart, you won't have any problems going to games. I've been to games as a visitor many times and its fine (when River played Huracan we had over 10,000 visiting fans) I go to the superclasicos in Mar del Plata every summer, copa libertadores, and not once have I ever felt unsafe or uncomfortable at a match.

    I know it is different for fans of other teams, but for River I can go enjoy the futbol without issues :)

  • Comment number 27.

    Thanks for the blog Tim - educational and enlightening as always.

    I never knew that the Argentine league was set up this way - it's a bit farcical to imagine that the same team that wins the league gets relegated in the same year.

    Has there been no pressure for the Argentinian football authorities to change this format? Or are they thinking of changing it to be more in line with the traditional league systems around the world?

  • Comment number 28.

    It is to protect the bigger clubs, and the culture is still a bit corrupt. So no, it is unlikely to change...

    though there's gay marriage in argentina now despite a homophobic culture so maybe one day....

  • Comment number 29.

    Great read Tim, I am new to South American football but am finding it very interesting, especially how Argentinian Football is set up, mist perculiar. Will continue to read with interest and thanks to marcelao for all his wonderful information and knowledge that gives you a real perspective of the football there whilst we sit here moaning with all our footballing prima-donna's....

  • Comment number 30.

    I guess the upside of the player ownership and quick turnover issues mentioned by Tim and Marcelao above is that each and every club must focus on its youth teams? If the only real source of revenue is developing and selling players, and you need replacements every season, then they have to have excellent youth systems to bring new guys through. Something I'd love to see happening in my home league of the SPL, and which may now be happening at some of the smaller clubs, due to severe financial restrictions.

  • Comment number 31.

    Here's a dose of unpredictability for you:

    Chelsea 6-0 WBA
    Wigan 0-6 Chelsea


    WBA 1-1 Spurs
    Spurs 0-1 Wigan

  • Comment number 32.

    It's frustrating enough following European soccer watching all the wheeling and dealing going on in the transfer market with players effectively being poached and others even on long term contracts showing little loyalty - their agents always looking for the next big deal. It must be totally disheartening for South American fans to see their sides ripped apart most seasons? I can understand Tim's comment about feeling bitterness getting too close to football as it's all about money now.

    One question..if it takes 3 years to get relegated on points averages, how long does it take to get promoted?

  • Comment number 33.

    What a coincidence, was just playing some River tunes on my head this morning "En Mar del Plata, no te plantaste..."

    Always look forward to your blogs Tim, and great comments/debates from all too.

  • Comment number 34.

    I'd rather have Argentina's unpredictable league than the "Rubber Stamp PL".

    I wonder which one of two teams will win it this year yawwwwnnnn....

  • Comment number 35.

    Siunds like a similar story to that we have here in Scotland (up to a point) - even Rangers and Celtic are losing their best players to Championship clubs, although to suggest we produce anything like the quality or quantity of young talent that comes out of Argentina is obviously a fallacy!

    Anyway, your mention of Mati Almeyda reminded me of one of the greatest goals I've ever seen. Lazio vs Parma, Thuram clears a cross to fully 40 yards where it is met by Almeyda who barely seems to break stride from a full sprint to hammer a dipping, swerving volley past Buffon straight into the top corner of the net.

    If you've not seen it, I implore you to youtube it!

  • Comment number 36.

    From what I understand the South American leagues use this format because of the lure of European Football.

    A presitigious, title winning side that wins 3 consecutive in Argentina could then have half its team poached from European sides. Having won 3 consecutive titles could mean relegation the following season.

    I might be wrong, but I believe it began in Brazil when either Palmeiras or Fluminese finished one season in the relegation spaces, and the league authorities just decided they were too big a club to be relegated and kept them in the league for the following year?

  • Comment number 37.

    I know the relegation average system used so widely in latin america is designed to protect big clubs from one bad season...but River's current situation is just ridiculous !
    Contending for the title, whilst fighting against relegation at the same time ! Just bizarre !!

  • Comment number 38.

    Excellent blog as usual Tim!

    Quite remarkable like you say that Argentina has overtaken Brazil as the leading exporter of South American talent, is this perhaps beacuse Argentina can produce players of a high standard for all positions when Brazil tends to specialise in attacking players?

    No suprise however to hear that Arsenals latest signing is 'tiny'.

  • Comment number 39.

    I agree with some of the criticisms of Argentine domestic football from Tim and the commentariat but a few things bother me.

    Marcelao's criticism of the decision to cancel the subscription TyC contract (like the Sky football monopoly in the UK) and return football to terrestrial TV reads like something from the pages of Clarin.

    The fact that Argentine clubs export players too young is not just an Argentine issue, part of the blame must be put on the European/N. American/Middle Eastern clubs that cannot be bothered to find local youngsters to develop and just buy in teenagers from Argentina, Brazil, etc.

    The fact that people are criticising the Argentine league structure when they don't even understand how it works. River are in a shit situation because they have been embarrasingly poor for the last 2 years, they would have already been relegated under an European system. They could theoretically win the league and still get relegated, but this would require all the newly promoted teams (and the consistently poor Gimnasia) to thrive and for River to find some consistency all of which is extremely unlikely.

    The Argentine league is enjoyable to watch for many reasons, the fantastic support, the unpredictability of the league (11 different champions since 2001) the differing styles and personalities of the managers and the lack of pretentios egos with overblown senses of self entitlement on the pitch.

  • Comment number 40.

    Good blog.

    What a exciting league system Argentina have and never realised it was structured this way. I suppose if the system is designed to protect big clubs River can have little complaint if they find themselves in the bottom spots next May.

    I suppose we can expect this relegation-average system to be introduced in Scotland in the very unlikely event that the Old Firm will ever find themselves in a lowly league position. The SPL though did once act to save Aberdeen from relegation one year because Falkirk failed to meet the stadium criteria..shame that!

  • Comment number 41.

    Tim,

    Excellent blog, I have two questions.

    Firstly, in regards the bizarre setup of the Argentinian league system and the Brasil State system (which I know you're not the biggest fan of), did Argentina and Brasil respectively need any FIFA approval to introduce these systems? Here in the UK we always hear that an Old Firm move to the EPL would be blocked by UEFA & FIFA, and there are rules for leagues wishing to submit teams to the Champions League. If UEFA & FIFA respectively can influence league setup's in Europe I was wondering if they have could have stopped these South American systems? Presumably the organisation that runs the Copa America has some say on how leagues are run?

    Secondly, comments here have moved the subject on to the problem of hooliganism in South American football. Without meaning to blow England's trumpet as it were, the transition from a game dominated by violence, racism and biggoted chanting in the 80's, to games at safe, family friendly environments where racist/biggoted chanting are thankfully rare is surely a model for the world? What genuinely enforcable lessons do you think South American football could take from how the English game is now run? No alcohol in stadiums? Compulsary seating? Banning certain banners and slogans?

    Any thoughts you had on this would be gratefully recieved (if you have the time)

  • Comment number 42.

    Another insightful post Tim, keep up the good work. I'd be interested to know whether having been a resident of the USA for a fair few years, whether both the Funes Mori brothers would be eligible for the States as well as Argentina, or whether they aren't dual nationals, or have pledged allegiance to their country of birth already?

  • Comment number 43.

    Hi Tim,

    I enjoyed reading your article. I am a huge fan of domesctic football in Argentina, I think the passion on the terraces is not be equalled anywhere else in the world, but I agree with you it is very unpredictable, which in a way,which I think is intereseting, Im an Independiente fan and havent seen success in a long time, just yesterday another manager has been sacked, it seems to me if you last over a year for one of the top teams as a manager you can count yourself lukcy, managers come and go like there's no tomorrow.
    Also Tim do you have an opinion on who you think will go far in the Copa Sudamericana?

  • Comment number 44.

    @32 JoC

    The second division championship is called Primera B Nacional. It is played on the old 'long' format of 20 teams, home and away fixture, 38 matches for each team... year long league spanning fall to spring through the summer break. The beginning of the league matches the start of the Apertura, 19-game championship, and the end matches the finish of the Clausura, 19-game championship. This means that both Primera A and Primera B more or less run concurrently with Europe's calendar. This way transfer dates and transfer deadlines for both continents are the same, FIFA match-dates coincide, etc.

    To get promoted to Primera A you have to come in top four in Primera B. The top two teams (Quilmes and Olimpo this year) are promoted directly. The third and fourth place teams play a home and away 'promotion' matches against the third and fourth last Primera A teams (two last A teams go down directly). After these two games are played, in case of a tie in points the Primera A team stays. This year B's All Boys was promoted after beating A's Rosario Central, and Gimnasia remained in A by beating Atletico Rafaela.

    One interesting fact is that the newly promoted teams do not get the benefit of the three year averaging system. Many of them go up to come straight down the year after. This talks very highly of formerly Primera B dwellers Banfield, Lanus, Arsenal and Tigre who have managed to field consistently resilient teams and compete with success for the top positions, especially Banfield and Lanus.

  • Comment number 45.

    Marcelao, very informative posts. Tweak them a little and you could be talking about the scenario of the Brazilian football. Same bizarre arrangements involving agents and private 'investors' in teenagers, similar violence and unjustified influence of organised fan groups, even the same story of the bloodsuckers that control parking around the venues (the infamous 'flanelinhas').
    In an ideal word, Brazilian, Argentine and Libertadores tournments should be marketed by powerful professional club leagues, as a business product in the EPL mold. Today AFA and CBF run the show and that is totally flawed, they have their own interests and are all subject to dark figures such as Teixeira and Grondona. Such enterprises could regulate the business with young players, restricting agents and encouraging investment but only under strict rules to protect players and leagues, transform stadia to make them more welcoming to true supporters, negotiate TV deals that fairly reward all participating clubs. Do I see that happenning? In the short term, not a chance. I dream that at least it does happen even if at snail pace.

    AcesHigh, yes, right, Neymar will mature playing for Santos. He is treated as a prima donna, and in order to maintain him Santos elevated his wages to ten times more than the average of the other players. Supporters, press and club managemement refer to him as "genius-boy" and "new Pele", and demand he has some sort of special treatment from referees and adversaries. His acts of arrogance and defiance are ever more frequent and go scarcely punished - this weekend the Santos coach had to threat resigning to force the Santos board to suspend him for one game, after his tantrum in the previous match (how undermined is the manager now?).
    At Chelsea he would be a talented looked after kid but having to fight to slowly get some playing time amongst the likes of Drogba, Anelka and Malouda - now that would be a lesson in maturity, and if a player wants to make it big it is the sort of challenge he needs to be prepared to win.

  • Comment number 46.

    #44 marcelao - thanks for the info..really great explanation too, cheers! It seems the Argentine league system is even more weighted towards the 'big teams' if the newly promoted sides don't even get the protection of the 3 year average rule - doesn't give them time to find their feet does it?

    #45 AlexAD - Be careful what you wish for in terms of wanting the Brazilian, Argentine and Libertadores tournaments run along similar lines to the EPL mold. The English F.A. - as flawed and self-interested as the AFA and CBF appear to be, at least have the interests of domestic football as a whole under it's remit. The Premier League (long since bereft of it's F.A. forename) is a monster all of it's own with little national allegiance or identity. Won't the Brazilian WC improve stadia and encourage Argentina to keep face?

  • Comment number 47.

    JoC, sure we still need an association such as the FA to look after the national team, and uphold the interests of domestic football. But today CBF has a much more abrangent reach than that, and it totally fails in selling the Brazilian league as a viable consumption product (from Marcelao words I take it is the same in Argentina with AFA). In Brazil there was a botched attempt to create such a league - the "Clube dos 13" (a reference to the 13 big Brazilian clubs) which today is totally subjected to the will of CBF.
    I am of a cynical nature, so would not think that a strong League of Clubs would not have its own flaws such as the EPL has, but I still believe it would be the solution for Brazil and Argentina to have domestic championships that have on display similar quality to that of South American players that ply their trade in Europe.

  • Comment number 48.

    AlexAD, I understand your reasoning, but don't forget the EPL was set up purely on the back of a huge TV deal...would the media set-up in Brazil or Argentina with games on terrestrial TV make this workable? Would you be able to get public support and a consensus of agreement as to which clubs actually joined the Super Leagues? What actually led to the abandonment of "Clube dos 13"?

    There was an organisation in Europe up until quite recently called the G14 - replaced by the European Club Association representing 191 pro-clubs and they used the combined power to force UEFA into certain concessions over how the Champions League is run - theatening an unharmonious breakaway. Couldn't clubs in Brazil and Argentina combine to bring about similar changes...if it's really required?

  • Comment number 49.

    So often I'm delighted with the standard of respnses that this blog receives - and this week especially so. Thasnks to everyone who's taken part.

    41 - the domestic arrangements of Argentina, Brazil or anyone else are not really concerns of FIFA - who might get involved in the event of Scottish clubs wanting to come into the English league because then the issue ceases to be domestic. In the eyes of FIFA there is no UK - just the four seperate countries, each with its own FA.

    And, yes, the English experience is a vital reference for the South American authorities in their own attempts to deal with football violence - lots of legislative examples have beenn looked at, and a recent operation in Brazil went by the name of Operation Hooligans.

    But one point that always gets overlooked in their examination of the English example is the part played by the fans themselves - what happened in England was a bootom up movement as well as top down regulation.

  • Comment number 50.

    Tim..maybe next weeks blog might expand more on Joe G's comments #41 and your reply regarding hooliganism? You're right exhalting 'the bottom up' movement fans played whilst examining the English example of how we dealt with the problem - the country grew tired of being labelled the international pariah of footballing violence and knew something had to be done about it. However, we mustn't forget the tragedies of Heysel and Hillsborough (not hooligan related) forced a political and cultural change in mindset towards our game and led to clubs reappraising how they treated supporters inside stadia with regard to seating etc.

    It is also important we recognise that with with great gains in terms of safety and improved facilities we lost a lot of the atmosphere inside our grounds (something South American fans are renowned for) and as prices rose, the class of clientele in many cases rose with it and many 'real' supporters were priced out of 'their' sport.

  • Comment number 51.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 52.

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  • Comment number 53.

    JoC, I am enjoying this, mate. I don't think at all we disagree, but you are making me deepen my arguments at each time.
    Yes, the EPL was initially backed by a top money TV deal which Brazil will not have at the moment. That is why a strong league is still just a dream - it depends on the clubs realising they need to work in a unified way for the common good. The Clube dos 13 broke up because of the lack of unity.
    My point has been that, again, I repeat, in a dream scenario, were the clubs managed with business acumen, and worked for the common good realising that together they earn more than if trying constantly to pull the rug from each others' feet as they do now, then there is an increasing market for bigger TV deals, audiences willing and able to afford season tickets, and investors and sponsors interested in financially backing modern stadia - all due to the progress of Brazilian economy in sectors other than football (I am not at all a Lula supporter, mind you, but in fact there is a positive cycle right now that domestic football should try to profit from). Granted, this will not be an EPL sized business for the simple fact Brazil is still not a rich market as Europe, but I think conditions for this process to start are there.

  • Comment number 54.

    I was reading a blog today about how Neymar is becoming a hinderance to Santos these days, whilst I think this is probably an exaggeration, how is his development coming along?

    Another Santos related question, I heard that Ganso will be out for 6 months after surgery, how do you think his career will be effected by this period out?

    Finally, just to ask you to stick your neck out, who do you consider a better prospect out of the two?

    Thanks Tim.

  • Comment number 55.

    Moreno

    How the hell is the argentinean championship better than the Brazilian if in the last 2 libertadores Brazil had all teams passing group phase and Argentina only two teams not to mention the semi finals quarter finals etc.. not to mention the sponsorship.. i think a medium club like Cruzeiro has 15 times more money from sponsors than the biggest argentina club Boca Juniors.. The gap is massive

  • Comment number 56.

    Tim Vickery

    I am a Fluminense fan and I think wellington silva is a smokey player.. hes not good at all, and 80% of our fans hate him.. he never passes the ball.. we all know what happens to these types of players in europe.. Coutinho is another one I can't stand.. I dont understand all his hype.. he never passes the ball and doesnt have enough technique to cross or shoot well.. he doesnt even dribble all that well..

    IMO The best brazilian players (im usually right) that will have success in europe are : WILLIANS(flamengo) - box-to-box monster.. better than ramires.
    MIRANDA (SAO PAULO)- Cenral Defender. Similar to Juan, but less injuries.

    Also theres a pattern of good teams playing with 3 box-to-box midfielders like Cruzeiro and Corinthians.. Plenty of good midfield talent there.. namely - Elias and Jucilei from Corinthians and Everton and Fabinho Cruzeiro

    Not to mention Montillo and D'alessandro - great players

  • Comment number 57.

    #56- I'm (obviously) a Flamengo fan, but certainly Willians is not even close to be as good as Ramires, let alone better. He's easily one of the best ball-stealers in the world, but his passing is poor, and he tends to hold the ball for too long, so much that is a joke among some Flamengo fans that he's so good at winning the ball that he immediately gives it back to his opponent so he can win it again.

    #54- Neymar has now prima donna syndrome. Last week, he had a fight with his manager and his team's captain during a match because he wasn't allowed to take a penalty he suffered (and the teammate that did take the penalty ended up scoring), and he was removed from the squad for the following games. The fame and stardom seems to be going over his head.

  • Comment number 58.

    I live in Colombia and we can watch almost all Argentinian League matches in channels like ESPN or Fox Sports, while the Brazilian league is nowhere to be seen. I think there is a problem of marketing, while the rest of the continent become supporters of Argentinian clubs like Boca or River, there is few information on the brazilian ones, we just know them when they play Libertadores or Sudamericana. It also deals with the language barrier that makes Brazil feel different from the rest of the continent.

  • Comment number 59.

    @AlexD: yes, it did work with Robinho right? He went to Europe at a young age and he ceased having prima donna attacks! Well, quite the contrary.

    Is Neymar having prima donna atacks at Santos. Yes. And he would CERTAINLY have if he was at Chelsea right now. Maybe he would keep it quiet, but would that matter. He would start saying he was unhappy for not playing, start making deals with his agent for a transfer, etc. Just like Robinho himself. At the best hypothesis, he would start acting like Adriano, all depressive and such.

    Let him have his prima donna attacks in Brazil. The brazilian league can be quite violent on tackles and he will have to endure them. Referees already seem to be considering him as a "cai-cai", thus, who cares what Santos thinks? He will have to deal HERE with not being awarded a foul everytime he is touched.

    Plus, playing in Brazil obviously has the benefict of UNPREDICTABILITY. Lets see how Prima Donna Neymar will act when Santos is on the brink of the relegation zone. This is the kind of humbling situation that Neymar will never pass through in Chelsea, but its NORMAL for any player in Brazil playing at the same club for more than 2 years.

    When fans start chanting against him, he will have a reality shock.

  • Comment number 60.

    @JoeG: some brazilian state leagues PRE-DATE the creation of FIFA (Campeonato Paulista is from 1902, FIFA is from 1904). It was set-up long before FIFA had any power worldwide to dictate anything.

    also, FIFA doesnt get involved in such internal matters. As long as all brazilian state federations are associated to CBF (which is a Confederation), FIFA allows it.

    its also obvious that FIFA always understood the need for smaller teams to play LOCALLY in a continental country like Brazil. Even today, smaller teams dont have the budget to play in the other side of the country, thus, state leagues are still needed. (I dont think Tim is against State Leagues, he is against the bigger brazilian clubs playing State Leagues, but maybe I am wrong)

  • Comment number 61.

    @Brummerdickens and Pekster11 (posts 36 and 37). Not all S.American leagues use this relegation/promotion system.

    Brazil NEVER used a relegation/promotion system based on "averages".

    What happened, IN THE PAST, in Brazil, was that CBF would give a "hand" to help big relegated teams to get back to Serie A, specially in cases where the team was having difficulty getting promoted again.

    What would happen was that the Serie A format would be changed next year so more teams would take part. So if a big team finished 12th in Serie B in the year after relegation, in the next year, 12 teams would be promoted from Serie B to Serie A.

    But this has not happened for more than a decade. Several BIG brazilian clubs have been relegated and had to fought their way back to Serie A (sometimes, even with referees clearly being AGAINST that team returning, like when Grêmio faced Náutico in 2005 and the referee tried everything to make Grêmio lose and remain in Serie B another year)

    Some clubs, like Fluminense, have even been relegated to Serie C!

  • Comment number 62.

    All the bovine bleating about the predictability of the PL is so boring, fact is the PL now has some of the best players in the world entertaining the fans, how this is a bad thing? i do not know, i guess if your club is not part of the success well you would be a little bored, and as for predictability last season was full of unimagined results, its a typically English negativism, moaning seems to be the way, the south american paradox is really about political corruption and poverty.

  • Comment number 63.

    Englands bad relations with FIFA go back to the beginning of FIFA, England had created the game and thought they owned it, the French did not play till later as it was considered an English game same as the Germans.

  • Comment number 64.

    @Blues55: 99% of clubs in England are NOT part of the success. When only two teams have won almost all titles in the last decades, its OBVIOUS that its boring for anyone not rooting for those two teams.

    thats why the EPL is successful: because fans from other countries are glory hunters. They only root for successful teams. Thus, the more predictable a league is, the best for foreigners.

  • Comment number 65.

    What a coincidence, my club is linked with Funes Mori today. Probably no real evidence on it, but a link is a link!

  • Comment number 66.

    61# i already knew that some s american leagues don't use the relegation average system.
    I see from looking at this season brazilian league table that another big club, Atletico Mineiro could be getting relegated by the end of the season

  • Comment number 67.

    AcesHigh congratulations, you had a spell of replies yesterday to several posts and managed to show lack of information and judgement in all of them!

    You insist in mentioning Robinho as a bad example of Brazilian players that did not mature coming at early stages to Europe - well, for starters Robinho's situation was totally different to Neymar's, at the time of his transfer to Madrid he had already amassed two Brazilian leagues and was hailed as a fully formed star, he also moved into a team that had a Brazilian manager most willing to make him his top player from day one. Nonetheless, he did not throw any tantrums and played fairly well until sold to Man City. By then he was already settled in Europe so whatever was Robinho's behaviour in England (I am not judging it) it was not down to flaws in his maturity process, it is down to his professionalism (or lack of) to which he has only himself to blame. Since you like to throw examples, there is a bunch of success stories much more fitting to Neymar's situation - Pato and Kaka (both under Ancelotti by the way), Ronaldo, Ronaldinho and even Adriano who was doing pretty well and fell off the wagon already at an older age. On top of everything, my initial point had been that Santos made an awful business decision in not selling him as they missed out on a euro 30mil that Neymar is highly unlikely to command again so it had nothing to do with where he is going to mature better anyway.

    You then go on to say in another post that Brazil never had a relegation system based on average. Wrong again, the Brasileirao of 1999 had a relegation system based on average of two last years. True that it was not enforced, for all the bizarre organization issues in South American leagues already much alluded to in previous posts, but the rule was there during the whole season

    Finally, you show you agree with that old and tired argument that Brazilian and Argentine leagues are better because there are more teams fighting for the title. Well, my pub's team league also has that same advantage then, there are at least 20 sides with a shot at the title this season. I wonder why we don't get the same deal from Sky the EPL does… competitiveness is good but it cannot be at the cost of quality, we have to live with the fact that are a few clubs with a bigger support base that if well managed will become more powerful and consistent over the years, the yoyo nature of big South American clubs is what stopping them from being looked at in the same light that the likes of Real Madrid, Barcelona, AC Milan and Man U are. You say fans from other countries are glory hunters - I dare you find amongst them more Sao Paulo and River supporters than you will find Everton, Napoli and Valencia enthusiasts then…

    I am Brazilian but I am not blinded in defence of all things Brazilian - that is a recipe for failure unless you want to become some sort of North Korea in which case whatever happens around you does not matter anyway. I want to see the country progress at realistic pace, with the use of methods with proven track records, and with the maintenance of all that is good and excellent about us - not only in football but actually in all walks of life.

  • Comment number 68.

    ... and immediately after I posted this I came to know that Santos last night sacked the coach because he dared ban Neymar for two games after another one of his tantrums...

    It is so sweet to be right, isn't it?

  • Comment number 69.

    #41
    Here in the UK we always hear that an Old Firm move to the EPL would be blocked by UEFA & FIFA, and there are rules for leagues wishing to submit teams to the Champions League.
    ----------------------------------------------------------------------
    The OF move is much talked up by some football chairmen but I've yet to hear any Celtic or Rangers fans in favour of such a move, in fact quite the converse as this would expose us to the need for outrageous spending. FIFA and UEFA do threaten but this is largely noise and any any move would be decided by their respective leagues (or really by the TV companies that run the EPL!) and not by FIFA/UEFA. Its a pretty 'small-scale' globalisation scenario that will not happen because of a lack of support on both sides.

    But alongside this runs an bigger globalisation arguement for a series of European Leagues for the domestic top teams (not just those in the Big 5 countries) and I would suggest that this is the aspect that FIFA/UEFA are far more concerned about. After all given the chance to play Bolton or Wigan twice a season or Ajax and Porto then the latter would be more beneficial in my view

  • Comment number 70.

    Great blog as usual Tim, I love reading your work on south american football, seems worlds apart from the european game.

    Learnt a lot from everyone else's contributions as well, nice to see intelligent football posts from others instead of the normal "my team is better than yours" trash

    Also @35 just youtubed that goal, ridiculous strike, how good did italian football used to be? Thuram, Buffon, Veron, Almeyda - big names.

  • Comment number 71.

    It strikes me that every week, at least once, whilst all around the world different countries debate football in different ways - there is space on the internet where interesting, thought provoking and sometimes downright shocking (in a good way) discussions take place. It is of course the home of Tim Vickery's blog.

    I've said it before - I'd love it if we could get your angle/approach to writing into other areas of the game - but then we'd all miss out on the good stuff that you somehow REPEATEDLY churn out. I know S.America is an entire continent with many countries to discuss topics on, but I'd have expected to come across at least 1x article that was rushed/not really that interesting...and yet you're still ticking boxes and I've never been let down yet! Sensational...

    I'd also like to say a thankyou to guys like Marcelao (spelling?) for giving even further insight. It's a sign of quality that people that post in rooms with such clear thinking and strong arugments comment in here. Every blog is a school day for me with you guys - love it!

    I look forward to getting my football sanity fix from all present next week (if not before!).

  • Comment number 72.

    55 joao you are surely deluded.I dont know how much Cruzeiro get in sponsorship but I do know what River get and I bet its more than Cruzeiro not one fifteenth as you suggest.Like Tim i suspect you are a victim of TV Globos excitement about the rise of Brasil.If Serie A is so marvellous why is Argentinas league watched all over the Americas whilst the only time anyone gets to see Internacional and co is in the Libertadores.Well because the punters want to see River even in our worst crisis ever.
    Anyway tell me how Cruzeiro are about to outspend manchester City and Madrid

  • Comment number 73.

    @AlexD: you criticize me saying I made errors in ALL posts when in fact my only mistake was in the one about the relegation average, which is in fact INCONSEQUENTIAL enough that makes it ridiculous your criticism against me. So... in ONE single season there was an average relegation system... and it was not even enforced. Your sole reason to post that was to try to show the world that I made errors in all my posts, and thus, trying to show that if I cant get that right, my other opinions will be wrong too.

    I did NOT say Argentine and Brazilian leagues are better because there are more teams contending for the title. Thats your own invention. What I DID say was that too much predictability, like it happened with the EPL, is BORING.

    As for the TV deals, I explained it, and you didnt even touch the fact: predictability is GOOD for getting international viewers and fans. Because international fans are mostly glory hunters who will only root for teams that always win something. Those fans are not interested in a good league. They are interested in a few AWESOME teams that will be predictable and win most stuff.

    "competitiveness is good but it cannot be at the cost of quality"

    oh rly??? Did I say anything different? No. Again, it was your own delusion. And you accuse me of making errors in ALL my posts? lol

    I just added, to the above sentence, that QUALITY cannot come at the cost of COMPETITIVENESS.


    As for Dorival Junior, yes, its sweet to be right. And I was right Neymar shouldnt move to Europe yet. All this just proves he is immature. DOnt know why you think YOU are right. :rolleyes:

    Just READ what I said, because it seems you had a prima donna attack yourself, because I disagreed with you.

    I didnt even say it would be Santos COACH or CLUB who would teach Neymar. Thus, READ it. I would just add to my previous post that the Libertadores will also teach him some humility.


    finally, you said I made errors in ALL my posts, thus, please correct my errors in the post about brazilian state leagues.

  • Comment number 74.

    @73 I said your replies showed lack of information and judgement. The later is a question of opinion, so we will just have to agree to disagree.

  • Comment number 75.

    What happened to Boca?

  • Comment number 76.

    All I see on this blog is people arguing about what league is best, the Argentine Primera Liga or the Brazilian Serie A? For me its the Argentine league all day long, the football is exciting most of the big derbies have full stadiums (Boca vs River, Independiente vs Racing, Newells vs Central etc) but the other night I watched the Fla Flu derby and yes its was a good game with plenty goals but the atmosphere was poor and the stadium was half empty. I watch as many of the Primera games as possible and often I'm not left disapointed. As a great Celtic manager said " A good game with a great atmosphere makes it a great game, A great game with no fans or no atmosphere is nothing". Great hatrick Martin Palermo, Go Boca.

  • Comment number 77.

    The best blogger on the BBC website by a country mile. Absolutely love Vickers.

    My favourite River player Diego Buananotte's in a bit of bother with the authorities at the mo, gonna ring you up tomorrow night on the World Football Phone in to ask about him..

  • Comment number 78.

    Great blog and Marcelao's comments have been very informative.
    Phil's blog is a breath of fresh air after you read a certain Mcnulty's blog.

  • Comment number 79.

    For me, this Neymar seems a lot like a younger Robinho

    destined for th big time, but will moan like a brat everywhere until he is 100% happy... and no doubt will still moan when he goes to Chelsea (if at all)

    Tim,
    What's happened to Nicolas Millan?
    He seemed destined for bigger things a few years ago (with major european teams following him) but has since disappeared into the nothing

  • Comment number 80.

    @Stephen: of course the stadium was half full. These teams always play at Maracanã, but Maracanã has been closed to reforms. They are playing in Botafogo´s stadium, which is kinda hated by fans from all Rio clubs because its terrible location. This was not the first derby between the two this year. Check the other derbies. Check other brazilian derbies.

  • Comment number 81.

    AcesHigh: I accept what you say about the game being played at another rivals stadium but the fact that the Fla Flu is one of the biggest matches in South America therefore it's not really a excuse for a half empty stadium. My team Celtic could play Rangers in LA or New York and they would still sell out. Flamengo are supposed to have approx 30 million supporters in Brazil, where are they??? I enjoy watching the Inter vs Gremio derby, full stadium lots of colour and noise, to be honest its probably the closest thing Brazil has to the Boca/River match in my opinion.

  • Comment number 82.

    @81 Stephen, sorry mate but I am fully with AcesHigh on that one. You have all the right to prefer the Argentina league, but to suggest that Brazilian football lack atmosphere on the evidence of that one game sounds barmy to me.
    Have you personaally witnessed all the derbies in Sao Paulo, Rio and Minas to suggest Inter v Gremio is the only one with a proper atmosphere?

  • Comment number 83.

    Very interesting piece. Overly-complicated means of working out who the 'best' team is, but would England not welcome a return to less-predictable times (pre-Liverpool 1970s, 1980s dominance, I suppose), when any one of six or seven clubs began the season in August with the belief that they stood a reasonable chance of winning the title ? I don't believe in contrived ways of determining champions, but what about a limitation on how much a club can spend on players as a starting point for levelling the playing field ?

    Thought-provoking article on how a club - Arsenal - that is extremely wealthy, in real terms, but has won nothing for six years, tolerates lack of 'success' on www.seriousfootball.biz

  • Comment number 84.

    Could anyone advise whether the Brazilian or Argentine leagues are broadcast in the UK? This blog has revitalized my thirst for the south American leagues but googling this question seems to constantly give me P2P sites and other unwanted spam.

    Would really appreciate any help so I can resume watching these fascinating league competitions...

    Great blog!

  • Comment number 85.

    Dave D - If you sign up to bet365 they broadcast quality streams of Argentine football, although the commentary leaves a lot to be desired. The commentator last night was going on about how Argentinos Juniors would edge away from the dreaded relegation zone with their win over Gimnasia several times. Argentinos were near the bottom of the table, but nowhere near the relegation zone thanks to the promedios points averaging system. When Franco Niell scored against Gimnasia, the commentator didn't even mention that 2 years ago Niell was a Gimnasia hero when his 2 goals in the relegation playoff against Atlético Rafaela kept them in the Primera Division.

    http://southamerican-futbol.blogspot.com/

  • Comment number 86.

    Hi Tim. What do you make of Fluminense player Dario Conca? There's been calls for him possibly playing for Brazil through sections of the Brazilian media, even though he's Argentinian. What do you make of it? and what do you make of him as a player? I'm surprised no team from Europe has snapped him up yet, with him being named best player of the Brazilian Championship in 2009.

  • Comment number 87.

    It seems a lot less likely that River Will win the championship today, than it did when you wrote this. They have only picked up 2 points from the last 3 games. The possibility of relegation is still very real.

    8 different champions in the last 8 tournaments is exciting enough, but the fact that 3 of these went down to the very last game, 2 playoffs and the most epic game I've ever seen between Vélez & Huracán for the Clausura 2009.

    http://southamerican-futbol.blogspot.com/2010/10/classic-encounters-velez-sarsfield-1-0.html

  • Comment number 88.

    Nice, I did not realize that Argentina has caught up with Brazil for the biggest exporting nation. Maybe it's because of their (Argentina) top players getting more successful than the Brazilian players? Although i think Brazilian players get bigger salary. Lol.

  • Comment number 89.

    Wow, I remember watching Erik Lamela on a TV show doing kickups when he was 12, looked like a miniature Diego Placente with his long blonde pony tail. I had been looking out for his professional debut ever since!

    @88 IMO, the exporting of talent to Europe over the last 10-15 years has been more prominent in Argentina than Brazil. Consider the lineage in the attacking midfield role over the years: Ortega, Gallardo, Veron, Riquelme, Aimar, D'alessandro and dare I throw in there somwhere - the Argentine Ginola - Guillermo Barros Schelotto! The production of talent in the 2000's was almost conveyor-belt-like and their marketing for big transfer deals was nowhere more heavily institutionalised than at River Plate and Boca Juniors.

  • Comment number 90.

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  • Comment number 91.

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  • Comment number 93.

    @88 IMO, the exporting of talent to Europe over the last 10-15 years has been more prominent in Argentina than Brazil. Consider the lineage in the attacking midfield role over the years: Ortega, Gallardo, Veron, Riquelme, Aimar, D'alessandro and dare I throw in there somwhere - the Argentine Ginola - Guillermo Barros Schelotto! The production of talent in the 2000's was almost conveyor-belt-like and their marketing for big transfer deals was nowhere more heavily institutionalised than at River Plate and Boca Juniors.

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  • Comment number 94.

    Yet River Plate are also in danger of relegation. Bad results for two years mean they entered this campaign with a noose around their neck. Next May, two clubs will go down automatically and two more will go into the play-offs. Using this average of points picked up since the 2008/09 season, River are in 18th position, third from bottom.
    70-271 | 70-294 | 70-685 | CISA | JN0-522

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