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Riquelme - one of a dying breed

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Tim Vickery | 08:29 UK time, Monday, 6 October 2008

After last month's World Cup qualifiers left Argentina without a win in five games, I wrote a piece about their problems.

It focused on the team's deficiencies in both penalty areas - and for this reason I made a point of not even mentioning key midfielder Juan Roman Riquelme.

It was no surprise to me, however, when the comments section was full of references to him, many of them hostile.

Riquelme divides opinions, and with the qualification campaign resuming this weekend, the debate will rage once more. But it is much more than a discussion about a player; it deals with the very nature of the contemporary game.

So much of modern football is a desire for 'bigger, faster, stronger' and with the emphasis now on ever greater athleticism, is there still room for an old fashioned foot-on-the-ball playmaker who moves with the ungainly gait of someone wading through water?

Many, even in Argentina, would now say no. They would argue that Riquelme is a throwback to the 1940s, an expensive luxury always likely to be crowded, hustled and cancelled out in today's packed midfields.

I'm in the opposite camp, though I am fully aware that we have no monopoly on the truth.

One of the great strengths of football is that it can be interpreted in many different ways, but I love watching a player who does his part to keep alive two unfashionable concepts in modern football.

One is change of rhythm, the idea that the game can be slowed down before the application of the killer pass. The other is surprise - the ball that no one was expecting, that wrong foots the entire defence.

Riquelme was tighly marked against Paraguay

Riquelme seeks to pass his way through the opposition whereas so many these days are more concerned with forcing their way through. His type is an endangered species. Something special will be lost from football if they die out altogether.

This Saturday, Argentina are at home to Uruguay and I well remember this fixture four years ago, in the qualifiers for the 2006 World Cup.

It was Jose Pekerman's first game in charge of the senior side, and Riquelme's big chance. When Pekerman took over Riquelme had been an international for seven years, but had been given very few opportunities.

The Uruguay game was the first World Cup qualifier he started and the stadium rose to him, even the River Plate fans, and he took Uruguay apart with a magnificent display of passing football.

Those who saw it were therefiore not surprised - thrilled but not surprised - two years later by the famous Cambiasso goal against Serbia in the 2006 World Cup, where Riquelme was the hub of a hypnotic exchange of passes which left a defence which had conceded just one goal in Serbia's 10 qualifying matches in tatters.

This, perhaps, is the key to Riquelme. He may be an introvert, but he is no individualist. Many modern stars specialise in moments of individual genius and seek to win the World Player of the Year award.

Riquelme is a team player who helps bring out the best in those around him. For this reason it is vital that he is placed in the right context. He can pass the ball like no-one else - but he needs people to pass to.

The man without the ball makes the play, because he provides the options. Argentina look best when Riquelme and Messi are close enough to exchange passes. If the pair can truly click, then they can be like a single beast where Riquelme is the brain, and Messi is the legs and the bite.

Argentina also lack width, a problem since the demise of Sorin as a rampaging left-back. Angel Di Maria, the hero of the Olympic campaign, looks like an interesting addition and if Argentina's passing game sucks the opposition into the centre, Di Maria can then be sprung on the left.

It looked a very useful option last month against Paraguay, until Tevez was sent off and coach Basile had to rejig. Three days later, away to Peru, Basile, fearing a battle, went with Jonas Gutierrez.

The tackles were indeed flying, and when Gutierrez was injured early the coach brought on holding midfielder Battaglia, and once again left himself short of width.

Riquelme played badly in both games. He was sluggish, often caught in possession and unable to dictate the rhythm of the matches. Even so, he he set up Argentina's goal against Peru with the pass of the round, a diagonal slide through to Gago on the right that split the defence.

He was also involved in the goal against Paraguay, where his one-two with Messi paved the way for Aguero's strike and in the same game he also put in a high cross that Coloccini headed just wide, and a low one that Aguero struck over from close range - plus rattling the bar with a free kick.

There are very, very few players around who can play badly that well.

Same drill as usual - space below is for comments relating to this article. Questions on other topics to and I'll pick out a couple next week.

I wondered if you could recommend any literature on football, both relating particularly to South America and if you knew of any general works that you feel help put football in a global context. I am particularly interested in the history of football and its development in relation to major cultural and historical events.
Peter Cook

I think I can send you to the right place - David Goldbatt's 'The Ball is Round: a global history of football.' It's an absolutely magnificent achievement. I've recommended it to many people, and they usually write back to say how happy they are with it. Excellent on South America - excellent on everywhere.

I was wondering about your opinions on where Lucas Leiva is going? I had extremely high hopes for Lucas and still harbour a lot of hope for him. He seems like a good lad and has put in a good performance here and there but sometimes I wonder if he will really become the star that some people have tipped him to be. Do you see him ever making a lasting impression at Liverpool?
Joseph Izzard

I haven't seen much of him at Liverpool recently, though I did see him play (badly, unfortunately) for Brazil against Bolivia recently. I think the first time I wrote about him was in World Soccer magazine at the start of last year, when I picked him out as one of the most promising players in the South American Under-20 Championships.

I commented then that I loved his forward runs, but I thought he should take more responsibility from deep. I wanted to see him set the moves in motion, work the midfield triangles, impose himself from centrefield - as well as bursting through into the opposing penalty area.

His recent international performances (Olympics, etc) disappointed me in this sense as well as making me depressed about contemporary Brazilian central midfield play. I think he's capable of being a more rounded player, of being much better than the Lucas who's recently been appearing for Brazil. But Liverpool fans are seeing much more of him than I am - I'd love to get their opinions.


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  • Comment number 1.

    Congrats once again Mr Vickary on another fine masterpiece of an article?!
    Keep up the Good Work?!
    still most definately one of the best reads on the web?!

  • Comment number 2.

    as an arsenaol fan i would love to have riquelme in our team. he would fit our pass and move game fantastically and although he would not be able to play every game, i think he would make a fantastic addition to our squad.

  • Comment number 3.

    as an arsenal fan i would love to have riquelme in our team. he would fit our pass and move game fantastically and although he would not be able to play every game, i think he would make a fantastic addition to our squad.

  • Comment number 4.

    Well said Tim, the game would be a poorer spectacle without the likes of Riquelme to delight and sometimes make us tear our hair out!

    Re your last piece on Paraguay a fantastic book on the country (not really football related) is called 'At the Tomb of the Inflatable Pig' - by John Gimlette. Ignore the dodgy title this is a great read on country that doesn't get a lot of media coverage.

  • Comment number 5.

    In Reply to Joshf33:

    I cannot believe that as an At=rsenal fan, you want Riquelme. In fact this is the crux of why I don't believe that this article really makes an entirely valid point. The crux is called Cesc Fabregas.

    Josh, can't you see that Fabregas does eactly what Riquelme does, only better? He almost never gives the ball away, and is fantastic at holding on to it until he sees a good pass, and he has the vision that leads to so many final balls.

    Tim, your argument is that someone of the stature and lack of pace of Riquelme cannot make it in the game now, and I agree that there is more emphasis on pace and goal-scoring ability from midfielders. But surely with Fabregas, who is not especially quick and doesn't get all that many goals, other managers will see that there is a place for such a player, someone who dictates the play in the way that Fabregas and Riquelme do. In my opinion, Fabregas is the best player in the world because he has such an ability to see a pass that others don't. It's a trait that is hard to coach and as such, when good scouts see it, I don't think they would discount the player with it just because they were not strong and speedy.

  • Comment number 6.

    Manchester have two similar players, Scholes and Carrick and I would go further and say that Scholes is (still) a class better.

  • Comment number 7.

    Riquelme is simply too slow, both physically and mentally. It's one thing to have skill when you're moving slowly, it's another when you have to move at speed. That's what made players like Maradona and Pele so great.
    I've seen Riquelme a number of times and he seems to lack "bite". He can do wonders when noone's near him, but, football is a contact sport and if you can't handle being tackled and hustled, then it's time to give up.

    Sorry, but I don't rate him at all. He was OK in Argentina but he failed in Spain which is one of Europe's least physical leagues. God knows what would happen to him in the Premier.

    "I can only play when I'm happy" is his most famous quote.

    Pathetic, if you ask me.

  • Comment number 8.

    Cesc Fabregas is inferior to Ruquelme, typical Premier league fan with their blinkers on. I think Cesc is a fantastic player but is still developing

    And the pace Riquelme lacks he makes up for in positional awareness.

    For people who exist only inside the EPL bubble have a look at Paul Scholes for an excellent example of the art of positioning

    And if he lacks "bite" please explain what his free kicks are?

    I read somewhere that he takes them like penalties, i coulnd't agree with this more...unbelieveable player

  • Comment number 9.

    on the subject of Lucas Leiva,

    Still unconvinced but he gets in the brazil side/squad ahead of Denilson at Arsenal and is only a year older. So there must be something there. Whether this is only suited to SA football remains to be seen.

    I think he gets so much flak at Liverpool due to the stature of the 3 CM's ahead of him.

    Anyone would suggest that he isn't to a level when the fans are used to alonso, gerrard and masch playing week in week out.

    Personally i like him, keeps the ball well, likes a challenge (thou he may not win all of them), but does need to develop that cutting edge, be it a killer pass of long range strike to really threaten the starting 11.

  • Comment number 10.

    Not everything is about pace and a player being able to burst past a defender. Look at Zidane when he was at his best, most of the time he just walked around seemingly doing absolutely nothing for madrid. An english example, remember Le Tissier. He was undoubtedly one of the laziest footballers i have ever seen, and yet undoubtedly one of the most exciting when at his best.

    The key thing to remember when a player like Riquelme plays well it's not down to him at all, it's all about the players around him. If he surrounded by players who will make the runs for him, who will 'be his legs' so to speak then he is a luxury that can be afforded. The problems for argentina come when they play too many defensive minded midfielders, there's no-one moving in front of the ball. In my opinion i would always make room for Riquelme, if you play him in the right team he rip apart any team.

  • Comment number 11.

    A great book on Brazilian football is 'Futebol: The Brazilian Way of Life' by Alex Belios. It deals with all facets of football in the country, has some great personal stories and a good insight into the culture of the country and the game. Definitely worth a read.

  • Comment number 12.

    As usual an excellent article Tim, however I disagree that he is a dying breed. As an Arsenal fan I have always thought that Riquelme was a very similar sort of player to Fabregas, and while he plays a less advanced role for Arsenal than Riquelme does, when Fabregas plays for Spain he fulfils a very similar role.

    In the Euro 2008 final, when he was playing behind Torres, I thought his role was to essentially "be Riquelme"!

  • Comment number 13.

    Intresting with the mention of Fabregas above, Phil might not have seen this so much as he mostly watches South American football, but surely players like Fabregas, Iniesta and Xavi are keeping this breed of player alive (and doing quite well too)

  • Comment number 14.

    Yeah, Riquelme reminds me very much of Juan Carlos Valeron, one of my favourite ever players.

    The Deportivo side which he bossed along side Mauro Silva with Fran, Diego Tristan and Roy Makaay surrounding him was, at its best, one of the purest footballing sides i can remember seeing.

    With Valeron at the heart of it, their 4-0 demolition of a peak AC Milan in the Champions League (having lost the first leg 4-1) was one of the finest displays I've ever seen.

    Has the same lackadaisical body language - and extraordinairy ability - as Riquelme, and let's hope we haven't seen the last of either player.

  • Comment number 15.


    A very nice piece as always.
    I have read a lot of your articles about Riquelme and their ilks and its sad decline.
    While I do indeed understand your point put across in a passionate way and do think you have a very valid point as well. Let me say on the outset that I really admire the way Riquelme plays and the aesthetics that he brings about with his game.

    However, while Riquelme does make it pleasing for the eye there is a price to pay. In this case, i.e., with Argentina especially I feel the price is too high. You did rightfully mention about that magnificant 26-pass goal against Serbia,may I also add to it the superlative display by Roman in the Copa America as well. In both these tournaments he was at least in the top 3-5 players. However, the manner in which Argentina exited these tournaments suggests the obvious deficiences of playing with Riquelme. In the WC Q/F against Germany, they (the Germans) pressed Riquelme whenever he got in possession. Similarly, against Brazil the work-horse midfielders of Brazil did the same. The result was that either possession was given away with the possibility of the play on the break (or as you refer to as transitions in your earlier articles). This is particularly a major problem for Argentina who have probably a historical weakness with defending against pace. And from the looks of it, it seems it will continue. I think the game against Brazil in the copa america was the classic example. Dunga, for all the faults you may find, played it masterfully by restricting Argentina in the middle of the park and using the pace and athleticism of his wide players to get those 3 goals. That is the problem with Roman in the side, as the play has to pass through him while it does have obvious advantages but the disadvantages are very glaring. I honestly cant think of a solution to this other than you know what.

    Having said that, playing the game without Riquelme doesnt mean that success is guaranteed or anything like that. But, what I do feel is that currently with the wealth of talent in Argentina's roster they can probably use an alternative who can inject pace in the game and thereby pressure the opponents in their half. Afterall, at the senior level winning is the KEY.

    I guess the reference to WPOY and selfishness is an indirect reference to Lionel Messi. He is indeed selfish and if that selfishness can reward the team with a gold medal I am more than happy to take it.

  • Comment number 16.

    Whether or not Riquelme adds or subtracts from the current Argentinian squad and I agree that is a matter of some contention, the central tenet of Vickery's article is more valid today than ever.

    Football cannot be only about 100m athletes with ball skills. In the modern game a manager like Redknapp feels forced to jam the Pompey midfield with big, strong players. The result over the last season or so has been consistancy but less entertainment than the side he took to survival the season before.

    Pace and power should be a bonus to skill, not skill a bonus to pace and power.

    LeTissier, as noted at number 10, was hardly a prime physical specimen; he couldn't run, he couldn't be bothered but he was the most entertaining player of his generation. If LeTiss would be frozen out of the modern game the game has problems.

  • Comment number 17.

    Players like Riquelme need two things:

    - they require movement from their front-men - that's a given.

    - ...and they need a ball-winner to sit alongside them and give them the ball - preferably as early as possible.

    re the Gonner who feels that Cesc Fabregas is the worlds best player. Don't get me wrong, I am a big fan of Fabregas, both as a player and a person, but Fabregas is neither the world's best player, nor is he the best at his role.

    Just look at the Spanish set-up and you'll find Xavi is ahead of Fab in the pecking order, and rightfully so. Also, a peak Andrea Pirlo is a class above anyone in that role - yet you don't see him getting any awards.

    Players like Xavi, Pirlo, Scholes, Fabregas, Riquelme and Valeron are constantly overlooked by 'pundits', and instead, countless column inches are reserved for the likes of Kaka, Ronaldo, Messi, Rooney etc...

  • Comment number 18.

    And thank you, edmatic, for evoking memories of that horrible night in the Riazor!

  • Comment number 19.


    Surely you must reavaluate your comments. Riquelme was a major success at Villareal. Even Pelligrini agreed that he made the team play and without him they would not be able to play the same brand of football.

    Re: Fabregas, OK he can pass it similarly enough, but not quite the dictation of rythm. i.e. when Arsenal need to slow the game down to manage the result, he is not quite as responsible as Riquelme.

    Also, a Depor and Valeron fan, I agree with edmatic. This player was the most beautiful technician and his 'slow' game was so effective when he had players who could benefit from them.

    Lastly, Pirlo, Xavi are the examples that this type of player can be successful and entertain when the supporting cast is there.

    In my opinion, thanksfully Spain successfully played the game that Argentina are trying to perfect. With Torres and Villa, they had the goalscoring threat up top that Basile has yet to uncover. If Milito's form at Genoa is anything to go by, he could be the best option. Penalty box striking at its most skilful and deadliest.

  • Comment number 20.

    Another superb article. This is anaethema to many of the blogs, which are phoned in platitudes showing no insight or intelligence (ahem MB).

    The problem with the premier league and the dominant European scene is that it want to pull everyone into the yoke of its own hegemony. They all want athletic, powerful players and it does not add up to a satisfying spectacle. The English league is fantastic so we are regularly told; in actual fact it is a dreary league full of cynicism, conservative tactics and predictable results.

    I loved the description of how Riquelme changes the cadence of the game, how he can dominate it completely when on form. It is things like this that are the true memories of football. When I remember my own club remember the great characters, not the cups or the league position.

    Also, in response to the idea he failed in Spain - total nonsense, given that he orchestrated a Champions league semi-final campaign. The truth is that so many people think someone must be mad to move back to South America. Some people are not totally motivated by money, and I for one would love to step out at La Bombonera.

  • Comment number 21.


    How can anyone bemone the ability or appearance in their team of Riquelme. For me, he the greatest player in the world (only a fit Ronaldo Luis Nazário de Lima competes), surely a man that can play the game at such a level on the hightest stage without the much coveted pace that the modern game seems obsessed with. Not only his passing, but his vision, touch, balance, temperament, and decision making is peerless in todays game.

    Being a Celtic fan, watching Shunsuke Nakamura playing a similar style has made me appreciate Juan Roman even more. Surely if you can do it without pace, then you are intrinsically a greater football player. The type of player he is, Riquelme will alway suit and benefit from playing alongside pacey players with great movement. Sadly for Celtic, Tevez, Messi, and Aguero are a little out of our league to help poor Shunsuke.....

  • Comment number 22.

    Lucas - Another piece of the puzzle or blossoming talent?

    I've seen Lucas up to about 20 times now. On the whole he's performed adequately and stuck to his task, that of second holding midfielder, replacement for Steven Gerrard with 10 or 15 minutes to go, something he did remarkably well against Everton last season, when his shot was saved by Phil Neville, resulting in the winning penalty. Benitez displayed that day, not only his faith in himself, but his obvious belief that Lucas has something special to offer. A potential match winner. When he is being more assertive, his passing is excellent, crisp and precise. He is unfussy for a Brazilian midfielder. A team player. The darker side of Lucas reared it's head in the Olympics when he saw red for his incredibly stupid tackle on Mascherano. I have witnessed the odd poor performance at Liverpool, but it's hard to get a feel for a player that only appears for 15 minutes and doesn't play the same role as Ryan Babel. Lucas therefore remains a bit of a mystery. One which will either unfold into something thrilling or simple become another story of unfulfilled potential.

  • Comment number 23.

    As a Rangers fan I have been lucky enough to see some great opposition players over the years whilst watching Rangers at home in European competition. A few years back Rangers played Villareal in the last 16 of the Champs League and Riquelme was immense. He was returning from injury and there was doubt whether he would start the game. As it happened he turned in one of the most complete attacking midfield performances I have ever seen, he always had so much time and space on the ball, granted he does not look quick but with the ability he has for creating space and time he doesn't need to be. If a player with Riquelme's ability is no longer able to fit into the ethics of top level modern day football then football will be the long term loser.

  • Comment number 24.

    A very good article indeed- i always look forward to yours.

    As a Saints fan and a Matt Le Tissier devotee I'm obviously in agreement that there should always be a place in football for the ungainly maestro.

    Le Tiss couldn't have forced his way through the turnstiles at the dell, let alone a modern premiership defence but he never needed to because he was a ruddy genius and could pick a killer pass or just knock in a simple 40 yard strike if he felt like it.

    If South American football loses its effortless flair it'll be a very sad day indeed.

  • Comment number 25.

    Possebon is the future for the brazilian midfield a Riquelme like passer of the ball but gets around around the pitch to help in defence as well as attack, with the added bonus of having thunder in his boots when shooting. Having watched both him and Anderson in action I think he's a better prospect, especially since Anderson seems to have gone back words this season.

  • Comment number 26.

    A very fine article.

    I know we are all different and no-one necessarily sees things the same but to read a comment from above that says " Sorry, but I don' t rate him at all " is one of the most depressing things I have read for a long time. I wonder who he does rate ? Presumably, some "athlete " who will be forgotten about five minutes after he finishes his career.

    It is lovely to think that the likes of Riquelme, Fabregas - and Berbatov for that matter - are still out there.

  • Comment number 27.


    Dear lord - you clearly havent seen much of Riquelme so cant understand why you have chosen to comment on this. Riquelme (like all greatr players) creates a yard or so of space for himself when there appears to be no space at all, his touch, flicks and turns get him out of many crowded positions and gives him the space to play the passes that make him the effective player that he is...

  • Comment number 28.

    Anyone thinking Riquelme cannot play in a crowded midfield should tap in his name at YouTube and check out some of the clips of his skills.

    As a sample-

  • Comment number 29.

    #23 Spot on with your comments. I thoroughly enjoyed this article and the debate / commnets which follow. It is a refreshing read for those of us in Scotland who have to put up with a, ahem, so called blog.

  • Comment number 30.

    Panchopuskas, your name deserves a better comment for surely he was the ultimate slow master and legend for Hungary.

  • Comment number 31.

    For me Riquelme is the best player in the world. Those who say hes easily knocked off the ball or crowded out havent noticed that his team mates will still pass him the ball when hes got 2 or 3 players on him cos they know he'll still find the pass somehow. Its regretful that Argentina are moving more towards the pace and power approach when theyve got a player like Riquelme to call on. And its a shame that hes not shown any interest in coming to the Prem. I agree with one of the earlier comments he'd be splendid in the Arsenal side changing up the pace in their attacks or even United with the wealth of attack minded players they have.

  • Comment number 32.

    Congrats on a fine piece regarding the dying breed which not many individuals have taken account for.
    We lost Zidane and now sooner or later it will be Riquelme the art of football is following the same path of the global economy.
    Today's football is all about strength and speed which is an added bonus to the overall ability of the game. If you caste your memories back to Zidane's younger years one would remember his exclusion from the Algerian football team due to his lack of speed! You could have criticised him then but rest assured he would have made you eaten your words after he won World Player of the Year, Golden Boots, etc...
    If that doesn't ring anybells then maybe the fact that Lionel Messi the "successor" to Maradona was diagnosed with growth hormone deficiency but that didnt stop the sporting director of Barcelona to sign him on!
    I hope that the likes of Cesc, Nasri, Kaka, etc... are the successors of the Midfield Maestros because they have earned it.

  • Comment number 33.

    I thought that writing about Riquelme would set up a good debate, and so it's proving - some terrific comments.

    It's interesting that so many Spanish midfielders are getting a mention - Fabregas, Valeron, Xavi, and so on. I tend to think that Spain winning Euro 2008 is the best thing that's happened to football in ages - winners are usually copied, so it's great to see a team that moves the ball so well being successful.

    With regard to the post about the book on Paraguay - in the tomb of the inflatable pig - yes, I've got it, and it's a fascinating read, especially the historical stuff. But the modern day parts are fatally flawed by the fact that the author only seems to hobnob with the elite - there's no real feel for the people - no football, for example.

  • Comment number 34.

    Great article again Tim.

    As for Lucas, he certainly hasn't taken the world by storm after his impressive prem debut at newcastle. I don't think he'll be a first choice starter at Liverpool ever.

  • Comment number 35.

    You have to wonder why argentina have so many problems winning games because with messi, tevez and aguero u have 3 of the most exciting footballers in world football but ehy seem to be missing something and that seems like experience thiose 3 forwards are young as is gago, di maria, mascherano, lopez and in defence they havent been able to replace ayala since he retired. They seem to go with more players playing in the south american leagues and that measn they have left out players like lucho gonzalez and maxi rodriguez, nicols burdisso, julio cruz, rodrigo palacio and fernando cavenaghi. if i was the manager i would go with:
    ---lucho gonzalez--cambiasso--riquelme--

    That gives a good mix of youth and experience as well as attacking and defnesive midifleders and you would still have playrs like lopez,maschernao,crespo,veron, rodriguez on the bench

  • Comment number 36.

    Thanks Tim for another intelligent post! Can you take over from McNulty and direct the BBC football midfield with that spark of creative midfield genius it badly needs?

  • Comment number 37.

    Some great comments streaming in!!
    Addendum to my earlier comments.

    I see a mention of Zinedine Zidane, if I may use the loose word ,the predecessor of Roman, in the art of Enganche.

    Zidane is a terrific player and the obivous example of someone who has proved to be a success playing the Riquelme style. I suppose the success can be attributed to 2 reasons (over Roman that is):

    1. Zidane had probably one of the best defense to cover. The likes of Dersailly, Laurent Blanc, Thuram (that time i guess he played in the full back role), and one of Viera/Makalele/Deschamps. Now that roster is something different altogether.
    This actually meant that Zizou had the freedom to do what he does best.
    Can the same be said with Argentina and Riquelme ?. I for one would disagree. I can only think of Masche who can cover Roman adequately the rest to be honest are not that good or at-least as good as the compatriots of Zizou.

    2. Zizou was more athletic than Roman. He was, for example, exceptional in air. And could also once in a while burst into the box with his runs (the maradonesque run against Portugal in the s/f of Euro-2000 ). Again may I ask is it the case with Roman ?. I dont think so

    In defense of Roman, may I add that his vision and the way he controls the tempo and reads the game is probably better than Zidane.

    Disclaimer: Again, all these are subjective views and may really be due to some personal bias as well.

    I really like Riquelme and to be honest the reason I started to support ARgentina (I am NOT an Argentine) is in part due to Roman. But then I get the feeling that the time has come to look beyond Roman.

    My two cents.

  • Comment number 38.

    Anyone intrested in football tactics in general and Riquelme in particular can do a lot worse than read Jonathan Wilson's dazzling book. Here's a review -

  • Comment number 39.

    Surely you must reavaluate your comments. Riquelme was a major success at Villareal. Even Pelligrini agreed that he made the team play and without him they would not be able to play the same brand of football.


    Did you see him against Arsenal? Did you see him play for Argentina against Brazil in the Copa de America? Riquelme has a nasty habit of disappearing in the big games. He just doesn't have it. Barcelona caught on to this very quickly and offloaded.
    And as for being the mastermind of Vilareal's success, just look at them now he's gone.

    There's a lot of sentimental twaddle being talked on this thread especially those who compare him with Zidane. Absolutely nothing in common. The measure of a great player is when he can do the business in big games and when the going gets tough. Riquelme can't. Forget the nice touches and the "magisterial" passes.

    If Riquelme were that good there'd be a long list of top clubs waiting to sign him.

    If you want to see a good midfielder take a look at Xavi or Iniesta or even Sneijder at Madrid.

  • Comment number 40.


    An excellent article featuring an excellent player!

    I have always regarded Riquelme as the best footballer in the world, but that does not mean he always gets it right. Who does?

    Similarly, I regard Arsenal as playing the most attractive football in the premiership/world. That does not mean they always win.

    Fabregas may reach the quality of Riquelme with more experience. He certainly has the talent and the right manager.

    Having said all that, I do also regard Trevor Brooking as the best player of his time. England could well do with his class now!

  • Comment number 41.

    Wow, somebody out there who really, really appreciates the beautiful game.
    Cast your minds back to Nov 12 2005 Eng 3-Arg 2.
    Dick turpin was in evidence this night, as Roman for 84 mins gave a masterclass in how to play against the 100mph english game.
    I concede that It does not win tournaments but oh joy to watch a team and a player with such sublime skill, toy with the opposition, like a cat with a frog.
    The day Paul scholes retired from International football will go down in history as a nail in the coffin of the so called Golden generation of english football.
    I echo the eulogy of U13299637 blog 28 watch those u-tube clips.
    Players like Roman,Zidane,Scholes, Fabregas,Valeron, Stoichkov, Sheringham, and many more who are probably seen as expansive luxuries are few and far between and should be celebrated and revered.
    Remember even though someone famous said 1st is 1st second is nowhere , beauty should always be cherished and loved

  • Comment number 42.

    Great article!

    I saw Riquelme play a few times in the Copa Libertadores a year ago. He is the sole reason Boca went on to win the competition. He lit up the games with moments of magic and he never lost the ball.

    The pitches out there were terrible, he seemed to use this to his advantage as his ball control is superior. Defenders are rash and dive in early, this suits him and he seems to use this to create time.

    My thought is that he never made it in Europe because of his lazy attitude which is a shame for such a naturally gifted playmaker.

    Internationally teams are recognising him as the initiator in dangerous moves and seem to shut him down as a priority, he is not becoming any quicker.

    As far as books go, a players insight into the rivalry, atmosphere and nature of Argentinian football is put accross well in El Diego - it is Maradonnas football autobiography and I found it fascinating.

  • Comment number 43.

    On JRR he made Villareal the team they were at that time and for anyone to say he didn't cut it in Spain is beyond my comprehension.

    It's good to know you too have read the Paraguay book Tim. I must admit it's been a good few years since I did so have probably forgotten the flawed parts.

  • Comment number 44.

    I don't think it matters whether Argentina go for more pace and power, if they're a decent team, which they are, they will be able to mix having a player like Riqelme and playing at pace. Arsenal probably play some of the fastest, pass and moving football in the world with some of the quickest players in the fastest league. However, within that team there is still space for a player like Fabregas, who seems to find time where there is none. The pace and power should compliment the midfield maestro because the players will have the pace and power to get on the end of the passes. A true midfield maestro is so effective because unlike his peers he plays the game at his own pace, whether its a high tempo game or not. Good teams always have a variant. They'll have fast wingers who can either hit the line and cross for a target man, or who can cut inside and drift passed players with skill, or there will be the playmaker who will unlock defences with fantastic passes. To decide to play one certain way, with 'pace and power' will only make a team one dimensional and eventually easy to defend against.

  • Comment number 45.

    Riquelme - very gifted player, but I do agree now that he's starting to slow down Argentina too much, surrounded by younger and faster players. Part of the problem is that Riquelme's game is built around his passing, and there is another player whose vision and weight of pass are even better: Leo Messi.
    There are now many very talented players all after a place in the first XI - Messi, Aguero, Tevez, Lavezzi, Zarate, Mascherano, Gago, Di Maria etc - and Riquelme is going to have to put in some major performances to stick around until 2010.

  • Comment number 46.

    lassana diarra, van der vaart, fabregas and defour, afellay and carrick are similar players to riquelme but have other qualities like defending, dribbling and plain old graft.

    another players who has a similar issue is tom huddlestone he can pick out a killer pass, but he is worth having coz of the odd killer pass.

  • Comment number 47.

    Davidleigh re: your comments about Riquelme not always getting it right and Arsenal not always winning

    I agree. I think I'd rather see good football than winning football. When the two combine obviously you know you're seeing something really special.

    I dont think i would compare Zidane with Riquelme or anyone else really. I think both of these players are in a class of their own.

    I would say Carrick could fulfil a similar role with his vision and passing range. He has a similar languid style. If left to play his natural game England could have a world beater on their hands and could possibly reignite the international career of Rooney.

  • Comment number 48.

    Agree wholeheartedly about your assessment of Riquelme's abilities. But I don not necessarily agree that he is one of a dying breed. Many of the top midfielders in the world in recent years have played in similar positions with a similar style to Riquelme. Scholes, Pirlo, Deco and Xavi all are sensational passers who are not blessed with devastating pace or power and seek to pass through teams. It should be noted that these players have had considerably more success in their careers than Riquelme, not because the latter is a dying breed, but because, unfortunately, and as you alluded to in the article, Riquelme is extremely inconsistent.

    That said, I think the role of the playmaker is certainly not dead. As a Chelsea fan, I have been electrified by Decos start. I thought he would be eaten alive in the PL but his passing ability has brought a new dimension to the team

  • Comment number 49.

    I've not seen enough of Riquelme to comment sensibly. But Tim, you say that opinion is divided on Riquelme... is it not true that your position - as a passionate but also dispassionate commentator - differs from many others in a critical respect?

    I, like you, am pleased that Riquelme exists, and the world of football is a more interesting place thanks to him.

    But not in my team. In a World Cup, or other competitive environment where a range of approaches and skills is on display great. But for all the reasons you've highlighted, I'm much happier that he exists somewhere else.

    (This assertion would make more sense if I didn't support a struggling second division - or "Championship" side - with the midfield guile of a pile of bricks. But you get the general point...

  • Comment number 50.

    Riquelme reminds me a lot of Geovanni at Hull.

    Play them just behind the front 2 and they'll create moments of magic, but won't give much else to the team.

  • Comment number 51.

    I still maintain that if Requilme had not been taken off against Germany then Argentina would have won the Wold Cup in 2006 (and I say that as an Italian).

    The way the game is going there will soon be no players like Requilme, Zidane or Pirlo. But then I suppose it's much easier to spot a 12 year old who will turn out big and powerful than a kid who might turn out to be as talented as those three with the ball at their feet, so coaches are taking less and less chances on them. Football is the loser.

  • Comment number 52.

    Post 51: absolutely right. couldn't have put it better.

    it's turning into a game of athletes

  • Comment number 53.

    Great article about one of my favourite all round players. Don't understand any negativity about Riquelme at all, he is one of the best players in the world to watch when at the top of his game and has proven his class time and time again. A shame that his career hasn't been as successful as it could have, that penalty miss against Arsenal may have cost him a Champions League trophy, he found it tough at Barca to break into the side and for Argentina his big chance was in 2006 and he was magnificent and would have been the big star of that tournament had the team got further (the decision to substitute him cost Argentina the Germany game in my opinion.)

    The question of whether he would have made it in the Premiership is interesting, he was good against Arsenal in the Champions League and great again when England played Argentina and he is so good at finding time that I feel he would have managed to make his own style work, even in a league as quick as the Premiership. A shame he didn't want to sign for United when there might have been a chance for him.

    There is virtually no-one else like him at the top level of football today, people can mention Fabragas and Carrick but neither have his class or vision, even Scholes at his best, while probably a better player can't be seen as the same type as Riquelme. I love his lazy, old fashioned but still brilliant and productive approach to the game and I hope more players like him come through from South America. Looks doubtful though.

  • Comment number 54.

    I agree with #20, Its constantly rammed down our throats here in England how good the quality of the premiership is now but from my vantage point I think the English top flight has never been so turgid. Virtually every team plays the same way, one up and pack the midfield with players who all have the primary responsibility to defend. No team in the premiership shows any imagination away from home, in a lot of games the teams look like they are going through the motions because results have become so predictable.

    Its all well and good having this business orientated win at all costs attitude, but people who really love the game go to watch it because they want to see real skill, pieces of magic, things they couldn't see or do in the park on a sunday morning, the things that should elevate players to being professionals. Players like Riquelme provide that and they are definitely disappearing.

  • Comment number 55.

    Pelé's autobiography is inspiring to anyone who reads it! He talks about the History of Football as well as his career and his thoughts on the FUTURE of world football - i'd recommend it to anyone

  • Comment number 56.

    I don't think it's all about being big, fast and strong.
    Just look at Deco. A great addition to the Chelsea side and while he was fit he was allowing Chelsea to play better than ever.
    That said, they were without him yesterday and still tore Villa apart.

  • Comment number 57.

    I didnt think it would take the Arsenal contingency long to bring up Fabregas' name as a player that is taking on that mantle.
    If Mr Vickery wrote an article saying that the art of goalkeeping was dieing there would be Arsenal fans saying that the one player saving it on his own was Cesc Fabregas. Hes a good midfielder......not a cure for aids.

    Whilst he is a good midfielder and prospect for seasons to come to compare him to Riquelme and several other of the names on this page is laughable.
    He has neither the talent (yet) or authority on the pitch to dictate a game of football, like some fo the celestial level of footballers mentioned on here. Results this season and last prove this. A player that cannot dictate a game (and no disrespect here to the other teams) against the likes of Hull, Sunderland, Fulham and West Brom is no where near worthy of a mention alongside the likes of Riquelme, Zidane, et al

  • Comment number 58.

    I reckon Zidane the best footballer I have had pleasure of watching and I consider Riquelme and Fabregas(still learning, will only get better) the same species. Zidane was much prominant because of lack of quality around him in the french squad.

    The elegance to control the ball the dictate the speed of play cannot be taught, you are born with it. I agree with the writer that footballer will be the loser if this art were to die out.

  • Comment number 59.

    I love riquelme. He gave me one of my happiest football memories when Mad Jens (he saves pens) talked him into missing that penalty in the CL semi final to send us to Paris.

    thank you riquelme.

  • Comment number 60.

    Excellent article, glad to see so many readers using Le Tissier as the english example. Just shows that England have been dismissing these skilful players for 15 years.

    Bar the last game, I have watched 20 years of the England team (since hoddle left as midfielder) fail to prize open international defences. We never pick the most skilful, the enigma's, just the ones that run around like headless chickens using only one foot (sorry Gerrard). You need world class no.10 type players to get you thru quarter finals, when the rest of the team struggles to pass to team-mates 5 yards away (sorry again Gerrard)

    The Euro 2008 tournament was good to watch, thanks to the poor defending and fast counter-attacking, but I saw too little individual excellence.

    People talk about good tournaments, but when was the last time a Riquelme, Zidane or Maradona took the world by storm? will it ever happen again? not if these players are left at home

  • Comment number 61.

    Hey tim im from south africa.there is a player here his name is jose torrealba.he is very good.his runs off the ball and his finishing is class.we dont have that great a league but it is improving tremendously.he is from venezuela.i was just wandering if you do know about him and if youve seen him play do you rate him aswell

  • Comment number 62.

    I suppose with Prem teams concentrating on power and pace its going to be the canny managers who pick out those players who've got something extra that will eventually go ahead in whichever battle they are in be it title chasing, relegation or qualifying for Europe.

    Equally though with a lot of English supporters they arent going to be very forgiving with those players unless they provide magic moments every game. I remember going to see Sheff United v Everton a couple of seasons back and Colin Kazim-Richards played really well that day, taking defenders on and producing some excellent passes from the right side. But the thing that sticks in my head about that game was some Blade moaning that "who does he think he is? Ronaldo?" Just a complete lack of appreciation of his talent. That guy has shown his talent at Euro 2008 and in spells for Fenerbahce in the Champions League. Yet fans of a club who must be crying out for quality just wouldnt accept him.

  • Comment number 63.

    Beautiful article. Hope Riquelme passes on his skills to some younger people.

  • Comment number 64.

    The only english player that is similar to Riquelme is Scholes. Regarding Fab, he has said that he models his game on Scholes. Riquelme, Scholes and Fab can only play like they do if the guy next to them is a defensive midfielder who's prepared to do the running.

    Thats why Utd have Carrick, Hargo, Fletch and suprisingly Ando who play next to Scholes. The Argies have Battaglia and Gago whereas Arsenal dont really have a midfield enforcer and that has long been their problem since the likes of Gilberto and Viera left.

    Regarding Lucas, i've seen him play a few times and he hasnt really done anything spectacular. I think a South American going to Liverpool under Rafa is a bad move, seen as Rafa likes to rotate his squad for nearly every game. To adjust to the climate and game you need a sustained period in the 1st team, and i just dont see that happening for Lucas whilst Mascherano is there.

  • Comment number 65.

    Many years (10-15) there was a Brazilian Under 21 or 19 player called Adilton, does anyone know anything about how is career went. I remember him in Under 19 World Cup.

  • Comment number 66.

    great piece on riquelme.
    as for all the haters, u need to watch the guy to believe what he is capable of.
    no doubt he has had a few bad matches recently - but the saying form is temporary and class is permanent is no more true in this case.
    i remember sir alex was after him not so long ago, and as a united fan i always wondered how he would have fitted into the system.. in a way i am gutted that we may never know. fabregas is a differnet type of player, dont get me wrong cesc is a good player, he has a long way to go to becomes great, however i dont think that can be acheieved at arsenal. i hope i am wrong, but i just dont see where arsenal can go from where they are.

    anyways, back to juan roman riquelme - tim is right, there arent enough players like him around anymore. zidane gone, riquelme going, scholes going (in my opinion), iniesta going, deco going. its a shame

  • Comment number 67.

    Excellent blog on one of the best midfielders in the world. Every team needs brain and brawn. Riquelme is an intelligent player of the highest order. He showed that again in the Beijing Olympics.

    I am a West Ham fan and I remember watching Brooking in the 70s and 80s. He wasn't the fastest of players, but you couldn't get the ball off him and somehow he would make his way through defences.

    I am not blinkered enough to say that Sir Trev was as good a player as Riquelme is now, but their style of play was similar. To me, true football fans appreciate players like Riquelme. Hopefully we will see him in the next South American Championships and World Cup.

  • Comment number 68.


    Arsenal's enforcer was Flamini last season. If they hadnt lost Eduardo who knows where that team could have gone in the Prem and Europe.

    For the record I believe that Fabregas is the most complete player in the Prem. He would be first pick for most managers who are wanting to put together a top midfield.

  • Comment number 69.

    I think that Tim's Collums are the best on this site, But i also think that we couls have a blogger for Europe, as the BBC are all for the EPL, but loke to forget other leauges.

  • Comment number 70.

    This precise area of the problems of "modern football" and 'bigger, faster, stronger', with specific mention of Juan Roman Riquelme was written about two years ago by worldwide Football / Training guru John Davies in his book "The Beautiful Game" and then released in a comprehensive article online "Joga Bonito Renegade Style." I presume from parts of your post you must have read it.

  • Comment number 71.

    It is the same 'one minute of brilliance v eighty-nine of rubbish' debate. But I think it's actually about how the players fit into the style of the team. If Riquleme played in the Liverpool or Chelsea team as they have cover in the midfield and width i'm sure he'd be brilliant at dictating play but for the traditional 4-4-2 teams like Everton and Man Utd, he'd leave the team exposed (remember Veron at United). Likewise with Argentina where everything goes through the middle, it leaves him with a lack of passing options.

  • Comment number 72.

    Re post 5, Bwilliams - "Fabregas is the best player in the world because he has such an ability to see a pass that others don't".

    I suggest you take a look at Xavi at Barca. He hardly ever puts a foot wrong and sees passes that Fabregas can (at the moment) only dream of playing.

  • Comment number 73.


    Flamini was hugely overrated. I watched him alot and the amount of times he gave the ball away on the edge of the area was pretty bad. I think he was a work in progress but he thought he was too good and left. Arsenal had their future enforcer in Diarra, but Arsene let him go to. Arsenal have alot of good youngsters coming through, not least Havard Nordtveit and itd be interesting to see if Arsene will play him as the DM or in central defence when the time is right.

    As for complete player, that is Ferdinand, as complete midfielder, yes Fab is up there but theres alot of good midfielders in the Prem such as gerrard and essien.

  • Comment number 74.


    Everton have played 451 or 4141 for quite some time now. I'm not saying Everton could accomodate Riquelme successfully, just thought i should set the record straight. I think he might fit into Liverpool's side with the 2 defensive midfielders employed in front of the back 4 but Im not so sure he'd have the quality around him in terms of movement and good first touch to exploit his talent. Whereas United, Arsenal and maybe Chelsea would do.

  • Comment number 75.

    Re post 5, Bwilliams - "Fabregas is the best player in the world because he has such an ability to see a pass that others don't".
    Not only is Xavi better, but Messi is a better passer than Fabregas, plus he can dribble through a team, is a deadly penalty taker, scores plenty of goals and bosses big teams. With respect, I think some posters on here could do with following European football a bit more.

  • Comment number 76.

    "Sorry, but I don't rate him at all. He was OK in Argentina but he failed in Spain which is one of Europe's least physical leagues. God knows what would happen to him in the Premier"

    I dont have a problem with you not rating Riquelme, but you should not write total lies. To say he failed in Spain is just not true, he was outstanding for Villareal and among other things had the most assists in the league one year.
    True, he had a fall out with the president there and the relationship ended poorly, but what he delivered when he played no-one can take away from him, not matter how much some dont rate him.

  • Comment number 77.

    geobon wrote :

    Just shows that England have been dismissing these skilful players for 15 years ?

    15 years ? Make that about 40 years !

    I suspect the collective number of caps won by, say, Peter Storey, Calvin Palmer and Geoff Thomas is probably about five times the number won by Alan Hudson, Rodney Marsh, Matt Le Tissier, Peter Osgood and Stan Bowles combined.

    The England international team never trusts skill. And, as a result, never wins anything.

  • Comment number 78.


    I thought Flamini probably won a lot of midfield battles for Arsenal last season and the good thing about him was that he could also join in with attacks as his passing was pretty decent. I agree though a work in progress. After all last season was the first where he wasnt considered a utility player above all else so got the chance to play in one position more.

    Gerrard's name shouldnt be in this discussion though. theres more negatives than positives with him.

  • Comment number 79.

    The best quote regarding Riquelme was from Pekerman when he said, "It's the ball that should do the running, not the player." This embodies what the game should be about

  • Comment number 80.

    73 LOL

    i said midfielders in the prem...than couldnt think of any good midfielders! There are alot of midfielders in the "work in progress" category than there are world class players. I think a team that would have Mascherano and Fab in the middle would be pretty formidable, and im a Utd fan. I would still have Scholes over Fab though. Simply because he is nigh on untouchable on a football pitch, and his pass vs AC Milan in the CL at OT to set up Rooney is one of the best passes ive ever seen. Granted, hes getting on abit and it will only be a matter of time before Fab overtakes him (unless somehow Xavi or Messi come to the Prem), but Fab still has a long way to go.

  • Comment number 81.

    yeah this season looks like Scholes career has finally plateaued. up till now hes got better with each passing season.

  • Comment number 82.

    The one qualification I would make about Riquelme is look at what he's actually won. He's proved himself to be a very accomplished big fish in a small pond but as you look over his career in years to come you iwll always ask yourself the question - what did he actually achieve?

  • Comment number 83.

    I personally think Riquelme is still a class act and is obviously not a stereotypical footballer, as he ruled his heart over head by doing whatever he could to go back to Boca.
    Someone has written before how they'd love to see him ply his trade in the prem, something i completely agree on. I believe the prospect of a Riquelme behind Torres, in front of Gerrard and Argentine team mate Mascherano with Keane and Riera to his right and left respectively, is a absoloutely mouth watering propsect, yet, as many of you will also say, a total dream.
    I also believe Fabregas and Riquelme in the middle of midfield, depending on whether they had a ball winner in there, could be possibly one of the most deadly midfield partnerships English football will have seen, especiall with the pace of Adebayor in front of them, although he could do with sticking a few more of his chances in the back of the net. Thanks to anyone who bothered to read all of this eheh

  • Comment number 84.

    I agree Riquelme is one of a dying breed...a class player in an age of automotons.

  • Comment number 85.

    i think riquelme is the best midfielder you will find in the world and its just due to lack of luck that he is in boca juniors but he is happy there and talking about his pace as slow but also remember he is slow but decisive and come to think of it berbatove is one of the most feared attackers in the world but his pace is slow and sir alex paid 30 million for him.what not bring up a debate on samuel etoo in barcelona and his performances alongside splendid goals he score

  • Comment number 86.

    You make a key point about "receiving". It's all very well being a great passer, but you have to have a team mate to pass to. This is especially true whan the man with the ball isn't a "great" passer. The best midfielders are people who are both great passers and great receivers.

    Take this one step further, and add to it the ability to shield the ball, so you can pass to them when they're marked and it doesn't matter. Of course to do this you need to be able to control the ball instantly. I'm pretty much excluding all England midfielders, bar Paul Scholes. Gerrard and Lampard have got many fabulous attributes, but the above is not on their CVs.

    Deco does it for Chelsea and Fabregas does it for Arsenal. I certainly agree with #74 on this point

    If England ever "go long", it's generally because the midfielders haven't made themselves available for a simple pass. That's why Rio rarely goes long at Old Trafford but does most of the time for England.

    79# Hits the nail on the head. The ball has got to do all the running, especially in a hot summer competition. ie Euros and World Cup. England will never win these competitions playing harum scarum Premiership football. It's the most entertaining in the world but it won't win an 80 degree + summer competition.

    I'd have Requelme tomorrow.

  • Comment number 87.

    Carlos Valderama, anyone remember his sublime skills playing for Columbia. Again slow, not physically imposing but such deft touches and passing ability. Like basketball where there is an established go to star, the entire team knew who the attacks were built around, which meant Valderama would get the ball even with 3/4 players surrounding him. These players are very special and certainly add to the magic of the beautiful sport!! Also it means football is not only for very athletic players, which is why it is the most popular sport in the world.

  • Comment number 88.

    A lot of interesting comments about a good article.

    I'd like to take up the issue of how Riquleme might fare in the premiership, and why we neither trust nor create (except rarely) players with that vision.

    In the premier league it is completely possible to be a success on the basis of physical skills allied to small amounts of technique. The pace of the game, and the opposition's inability to keep the ball means that you get the ball back a lot, and you have to rush around applying pressure to achieve that.

    When you come up against a team with real control and passing ability, that works for a while - but eventually the runners tire whereas the technicians remain as skillful as ever - thats why England often go up and then concede.

    So the majority of teams prefer to encourage plaers with athleticism over control; strength and stamina over passing ability. In the top teams its different. First because they ensure a balance between the runners and the more skilful players, and secondly because even the runners have skill.

    Even so I don't really think there are many players with the Riquelme like skill to pick that unique match-winning pass. How often do England and English teams struggle against massed defences? Its because those players are rare these days.

    Scholes and Fabregas? maybe, but they are both at their best in more open games. A true comparison is the player who can do it against an 11 man defence!
    Berbatov perhaps; Joe Cole? Modric?

    But the key is that in the Premier league you don't really need these players to succeed - and more's the pity

  • Comment number 89.

    vianeey is a cow

  • Comment number 90.

    Very good article.

    Me and my friends had been discussing lately how the the modern game is all about how many tricks can be done on the ball, along with power and pace... not about the killer through ball with outside of the foot... also about the comparison of a natural dribbler such as a messi, robben or a SWP compared to a ronaldo, robinho type who relies on tricks rather than simple drops of the shoulder..

    always an intruiging article..cheers

  • Comment number 91.

    If he is such a team player why is he intensely disliked almost everywhere he goes?

  • Comment number 92.


    As a liverpool fan who sees all the games, let me fill you in on lucas's progress (my opinion of course!)

    In the main it's very positive. He's put in a number of very good performances, everton away when he replaced gerrard is an obvious one, but there's a been a couple of very mature performances away from home in europe as well.

    He has had disappointing games, but as you eluded to in your article sometimes a bad personal performance can be down to a bad team display. I don't think you can look to the younger players in a situation like that.

    overall, i'm very happy with his progress and think he will become an excellent player for us. I'm not worried when he's selected to play for us in a big game now, and i think he can only get better.

  • Comment number 93.

    Excellent piece Tim, very much enjoyed it.
    As for the arguement about Riquelme now being too slow, is that his Physical Speed or his Mental Speed?
    Admittedly, I have not seen as much of the guy play as I would like, however, in the flashes I have seen, he already knows where the ball is going before he recevies it, which surely negates the need to be "Bigger, Stronger, Faster"? He could be compared to the likes of Scholes, Xabi Alonso and Gareth Barry as they do not strike me as speedy, strong players, but have the intelligence to retain the ball in a number of different circumstances and also have to ability to pin-point a pass to carve open a defence.
    Players of this style are so important to the game, I really hope they do not die out, as it maintains a certain intelligence level of players rather than just Brawn (Like the Serbian Team in the World Cup game that was referred to).

  • Comment number 94.

    You can see a Riquelme type of player, albeit not a mid-fielder, in Man Utd's Berbatov. The touch is very easy and passes cut the defence. Yet, people call him LAZY - a Gross Mis Analyses of Berbatov's game.

    Now with the "Fantastic Four" - Tevez, Rooney, Ronaldo and Berbatov - Man Utd. could cut up any defence (although the Fantastic Four have to play together in one game - played 10 mins. at Blackburn and showed what an awesome movement and attack they have).

    So, hopefully, there will be more Requelmes and people will see the Berbatovs

  • Comment number 95.

    in response to bwiliams15:

    you will notice that i said he would make a great squad player. he would make fantastic cover for fabregas because, however good he is, he is unlikely to be able to play every game for arsenal.

    i would prefer riquelme/denielsen central midfield as opposed to denielson/eboue (look what happened against fulham!)

    riquelme has class but would struggle over a full season in the premier league. i wouldnt say no to getting him for the £4-6m mark

  • Comment number 96.

    talking about flamini all i can say is that he is over valued just because of some few perfomances.i heard one liverpool analyst on liverpool tv say robinho is over rated which i think is not correct because he is a good player and the bbc commentator who relayed the match man city against wigan i think does not like robinho cuz he spent of the time talking untrue things about the young lad.let the young play his game.every body in the game wants money so dont blame him.he will prove to you guys he is a great player just give him time

  • Comment number 97.

    To the man talking about Cesc Fabregas, please remember that Anderson is better!

  • Comment number 98.

    73, to call Flamini over rated in laughable. He did a lot of the dog work that always goes unoticed because he isn't producing defence splitting passes. It wasn't until he bossed the whole AC Milan midfield that people actually started to notice his talent and shear determination to win the ball. Its a shame he left arsenal and a massive loss, as Cesc no longer has the freedom to play as freely.

  • Comment number 99.


    Spot on. His passing last season was immense at times. I hung back from rating him properly as i think youve got to do it over the course of a few seasons before you can really judge a players worth. But you really noticed the difference when Gilberto came back into the side. The midfield lost its fluidity to a certain extent.

    I dont know the reason he left Arsenal but if I was Wenger I wouldnt let an emerging player dictate to me thats for sure.

  • Comment number 100.

    Excellent article as always Tim.

    Another angle we could look at players in Riquelme's ilk are players like him being banished onto the wings. Joe Cole, Sneijder and Van Der Vaart at Real Madrid, and as an Arsenal fan, regrettably Rosicky and Hleb who are master technicians but their natural abilities are not totally fulfilled on the wings. A classic example of this is Yoan Gourcuff who they tried to make a winger at AC Milan and it never quite worked, yet for Bordeaux as the chief architect he is amazing and turned in a Zidane-esque performance vs Serbia last month.

    Very few teams want to play with the 'enganche' anymore, probably only Bremen's Diego is the highest profile player to do it like Riquelme in Europe which is a sad thing to see.

    Argentina are still the side i want to watch precisely because of Riquelme, he always sees the pass others don't and is the maestro. For this reason seeing the likes of Pirlo and Xavi do the same is special.


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