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Batista must have thought he was safe as houses

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Tim Vickery | 14:07 UK time, Monday, 1 August 2011

Just before the Copa America he signed a contract to be Argentina boss in the coming set of World Cup qualifiers. Argentina had not sacked a coach in decades - either they had resigned or had reached the end of their contract. Why would it be any different now?

On his record over the past year, Sergio Batista is unfortunate to have been ousted - with former Leeds and Sheffield United midfielder Alejandro Sabella lined up to replace him.

True, the Copa did not go as planned, with the hosts knocked out on penalties in the quarter-finals by eventual winners Uruguay. Batista's plans to form a Buenos Aires imitation Barcelona clearly did not work, and he had to rethink his team after two disappointing draws.

But it is easy to be wise after the event. He was perfectly entitled to try out the system, with Lionel Messi in his club 'false number nine' position.

The evidence from friendlies was promising - Batista's team thrashed Spain, beat Brazil and Portugal and at the end of March produced a dazzling first half against the USA.

Then in the Copa, forced to rebuild his team in a hurry, Batista clearly improved things. Certain selections could be queried, but there were no glaring omissions in his squad, and his side undoubtedly deserved to win their quarter-final.


River Plate have been given a reprieve with the merger of the top two divisions. Photo: Getty

Essentially, Batista has been sacked because Carlos Tevez had his penalty saved in the shoot-out - but more fundamentally, he has gone because it is electoral year in the Argentine FA. This is the factor that forced the change.

Julio Grondona, president for 32 years, is hungry for more, which means that he has to play to the gallery. His constituency is the club presidents.

This is a moment where Grondona is careful to give them what they want. They wanted Batista out, and so out he goes.

But a switch of national team coach is far from being the most significant change taking place in Argentine football as a result of the fact that Grondona is seeking another term.

Electoral year also provides the backdrop for the plan to merge Argentina's first and second divisions into a giant 38-team structure in a new-look league to kick off in a year's time.

The immediate suspicion raised was that this is a manoeuvre to reinstate River Plate in the first division.

The Buenos Aires giants were relegated a month ago, and now have an automatic pass back - providing the unthinkable does not happen and they do not drop to the third this season.

Indeed, the River Plate situation has given an extra urgency to the project. But it does not explain why last Monday 15 first division clubs voted in favour. The political attractiveness of the plan lies in the fact that it offers something for nearly everyone.

The big traditional clubs of Buenos Aires had a shock with River's relegation. Other giants, such as Boca Juniors and Independiente, were looking over their shoulders. They can now feel protected.

But the project is being sold as a profound shift in the direction of decentralising Argentine football, of limiting the historic domination of Buenos Aires by letting the provinces come to the party.

The easy response is that this is happening anyway. As this column has mentioned before, Godoy Cruz of Mendoza, near the Chilean border, have in the last three years taken big strides towards establishing themselves in the first division.

And all four promoted clubs this season are from the provinces - exemplified by River Plate's play-off defeat at the hands of Belgrano of Cordoba.

This huge expansion of the first division, then, protects the Buenos Aires clubs from the rise of the provinces, while also offering more provincial teams a shot at glory - as I say, there is something for everyone.

Except, perhaps, for those who believe in quality. Even with 20 clubs, the standard of the Argentine first division has not been high in recent years, as seen by the generally disappointing performance of the country's representatives in the Copa Libertadores, South America's Champions League.

An increase to 38 clubs would seem to be a charter for generalised mediocrity.

It is interesting that one of the four clubs who did not back the proposal were the current champions Velez Sarsfield. Widely seen as the best run club in the country, Velez have grown and grown in recent years, with a model based on good youth development and sound financial administration.

They are a club striving for excellence, and they seem unconvinced by the new formula for football in the country.

For the moment they are swimming against the tide. In addition to the other clubs, Argentina's government appear in favour of the scheme - a vital detail since the TV rights are state owned.

It is election year in the formal political structure as well, so presumably a calculation has been made that there are votes to be gained from the expansion of the first division.

But for how long? Is this new model viable in the long term?

There are clear problems. One is the fact that at the moment there are no visiting supporters in the second division - the stadiums are not seen as good enough to deal with the country's problem of fan violence.

It is hoped that a new system of personalised ID cards for supporters will save the situation - a technological solution in which the present writer has little confidence.

There is also the problem of the sheer number of meaningless games. The suggestion is as follows - in the first half of the season the teams are divided into two groups of 19.

After the league phase, the top 19 go into another league to spend the second half battling for the title, while the rest are playing to avoid relegation. In practice this could well be unwieldy and dull.

Even in theory it is not going down very well. If enough club presidents feel that their supporters are not in favour then there could even be a rethink before October's assembly - but nothing that will getm Sergio Batista his old job back.

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

Q) When watching the impressive Diego Lugano captain Uruguay to victory in the Copa America I began to reflect on his career so far. I remember following him during his days at Sao Paulo and a move to Italy or Spain seemed almost inevitable - then he inexplicably chose Fenerbahçe in Turkey where he has remained to this day. At this point in his career do you still think there's still a chance we'll see him playing in a more prestigious league?
Scott Spires

A) I think time has passed him by with that one - he's 30 now and he wasn't the quickest to start with. The funniest moment of Uruguay's celebrations was when ther big striker Sebastian Abreu was cracking jokes about the irony of Lugano, in his capacity as team captain, receiving the Fair Play award that Uruguay also won in the Copa America. Put him in a quicker league and he could well be a red card waiting to happen.

Q) I've been living in Chile for several years now and follow the national team closely. I would be very interested to hear your thoughts on Jorge Valdivia.
For me, Valdivia added a touch of class to the Chile team when he came on as a sub for Chile. He actually seems more effective (as a game changer) than the much-touted Sanchez (although, of course, a very different style of player). He certainly seems better than Matiás Fernandez at delivering the killer pass. I'm surprised no European / British teams have been sniffing around after him. Do you think this is because of passed discipline issues, fitness, or because he's considered too much of a luxury?
Andrew Wood

A) He's a lovely player to watch, a little twinkle-toed playmaker, but I think you've gone way too far placing him above Sanchez or even Mati Fernandez, whose injury was such a blow to Chile's Copa campaign.
He's back in Brazil with Palmeiras, where there are fans that love him, and others who consider him a luxury, thinking that, for some of the reasons you cite, his cost/benefit is not good.
He had a brief foray into Europe - Rayo Vallecano and Sevette. He's now coming up 28 and it's difficult to imagine him going across the Atlantic again.


  • Comment number 1.

    Can you imagine the Premier league & the Championship merging because Man Utd got relegated. River Plate should just get on with it, after having 3 bad years, rather than showing how far corruption can go in Argentina!!!

  • Comment number 2.

    Diego Lugano has told Fenerbahce he wants to leave and go to Serie A. According to reports in Turkey he has a 3.5 million euro release clause in the contract extension he signed last summer, and his agent is currently in talks with Juventus. Seems you may be mistaken when you say his chance to play in a more prestigious league has passed him by...

  • Comment number 3.

    @#2 Lugano would be welcomed in Serie A, the Argentine game is in turmoil after the events of River Plate and if I'm honest, I don't think the media have given it as much coverage as the consequences need, it's truely huge what's happened. It's the European equivelent of Celtic being relegated. Not only bad for the club, but it's rival, and the league as a whole.

    The pressing issue in Europe is of-course leg-breaks, with Chung Yong Lee being injured, are friendlies too punishing? - But I do wonder if the South American game suffers as hard, as, IMO, it's a more more technical based game. Thoughts?

  • Comment number 4.

    - Liverpool have touched rock bottom and were relegated to the Championship.
    - Oh no wait, let's merge the Premier League and the Championship into a 44-team league.
    - Excellent, and how is it going to be played?
    - No idea but we'll sort it out along the way!

    Pathetic move from AFA.

  • Comment number 5.

    And to think that some thought there would be a fix put in for River Plate.
    As a Scottish football fan with experience of a twelve strong league that splits - it doesn't work. The team in 6th (pre split) in Scotland can barely challenge for the title let alone the team that will be in 19th. You will have teams that have avoided relegation by the half-way point but are in no position to really challenge for the title. What about teams that start slowly and run into form but can't quite get into the top 19 - stuck in a relegation group that they are too good for?

  • Comment number 6.

    The Argentina job seems incredibly difficult, as it appears the coach must strike a balance between getting the best out of Messi, and playing the players on form. For example, Higuain has been on great form in recent seasons, but may not have the natural craft to link up well with Messi.

    But I think that playing Messi in the false number nine role is the best option, because players like Aguero, Tevez and Pastore should be able to adapt to playing off him, although they probably won't play enough internationals together to play to a level like that of Barcelona.

  • Comment number 7.

    And I thought Scotland were in a bad state with the top six/bottom six split - this 38 team league idea is even worse!

  • Comment number 8.

    Unfortunately for Batista is that if you look at the class Argentina had available to them then its hard for anyone to understand why they couldn't win the Copa and struggled to get going. Probably the main factor being that unquestionably the best player in the owrld doesn't work in their systems which is not really not his fault since noone can figure it out apart from Barca. The way I always thought of him was of a wandering forward, if i had a go of trying to make it work (confined to Fifa) would be to set up my team as if I had ten men and then just let Messi fill the gaps he wants, just ignore him in your team planning.

    Boca goes down but they don't? That must be nice, lol! I'm sure many fans around the world would be wishing for the same!

  • Comment number 9.

    Interesting insights Tim. Sadly, they make me very fearful for the future of Argentina as a nation.

  • Comment number 10.

    Why are south americans sooooo good at fooball and sooooo bad at administering it!?!?! Its one of lifes great questions

  • Comment number 11.

    So in a year we'll see River Plate mess up spectacularly again and then suddenly Argentina will decide it's about time they tried a 56-team league?

    Sure, it's not great news for the rivalries or the game or whatever, but I bet it would have been enough to kick some people into gear at River Plate, but those people will now sit back and figure they're protected. All this will do is prolong the decline of certain clubs. Let's hope it doesn't mess things up too badly along the way.

  • Comment number 12.

    UEFA have done a similar thing in the past - remember Liverpool being granted special entry into the Champions League because they finished 5th in the 2004-05 season?

  • Comment number 13.


    yes but they wont the champions league the previous year. In that case I back them to be able to defend their title

  • Comment number 14.

    At 16:45 1st aug 2011, weezer316 wrote:

    Why are south americans sooooo good at fooball and sooooo bad at administering it!?!?! Its one of lifes great questions

    The other great question is: Why is the reverse true about the English?

  • Comment number 15.

    @8 - Maybe the 'best player in the world' is not as fantastic as we think.

    Pele, Maradona and Zidane all led the respective countries to World Cup Titles as well as Champions League titles (or the highest equivalent club competition at that time in Pele's case). They aldo did it for more than one club hence demonstrating adaptability as well.

    I'm yet to be convinced Messi is in the same class.

  • Comment number 16.

    I remember the minute River were relegated people were on this blog commenting about how there would be something underhand done to give them a reprieve. I was sceptical, but this seems farcical to me. It makes a mockery of any notion of fair play or competition.

    As for #12 & 13 I agree that the rules should have allowed the champions the right to defend their title - but they didn't, and cannot be changed after the event.

  • Comment number 17.

    "15.At 17:49 1st Aug 2011, Dazz wrote:

    Pele, Maradona and Zidane all led the respective countries to World Cup Titles as well as Champions League titles (or the highest equivalent club competition at that time in Pele's case)"

    No they didn't. Maradona won the UEFA Cup, but that was the second tier European competition at that time, behind the European Cup, which he never won.

  • Comment number 18.

    Just a slight quibble, Tim. Why do you keep referring to the Copa Libertadores as "South America's Champions League"? Anyone who doesn't know what the Copa Lib is shouldn't be reading your article.

  • Comment number 19.

    @ Ferry_Arab

    Pele didn't dominate a WC tournament until he was 29, Maradona until he was going on 26 and Zidane was around the same age too when he became one of the elite in the game.

    Messi's only 24. Now I'm not saying that Messi is as good as these players but he's undoubtedly the best player in the world at the moment and he'll be one of the all time greats by the time his career ends.

  • Comment number 20.

    Just a couple of comments.
    i) Re the manager's dismissal (apart from the politics).Perhaps it's time that Argentina stop trying to decide if Messi is better than Maradona and look at the quality of the other 10 players forming the team around each of them. No contest! - the Maradona squads were light years better.
    ii)My Argentinian friends (except for the Millonarios) all feel that combining the divisions is a move to save face for River, as well as possibly ensuring the survival of the club, given its more than precarious financial situation, after five years of disastrous management, by one of the players mentioned earlier as part of the Maradona squad - Daniel Passarella.

  • Comment number 21.

    Merging the 1st and 2nd division? Oh dear... The Brazilian Championship in the last few years has seen big traditional sides such as Palmeiras, Corinthians, Vasco and Gremio, being relegated, and they all came back, at the first time of asking, stronger for it - and in the process gave the 2nd division a welcome boost. This is a ludicrous idea that not only will not help River Plate, will ruin it for almost everyone else. I pray no one in Brazil is watching and getting ideas.

  • Comment number 22.

    Not only that but the old system, which the new one is supposed to replace, was already "doctored2 in favour of the 'big' clubs, being based on a percentage system over a five-year period, calculated on the league positions over that period. The idea was that if a 'big' club had one bad season, then they could escape the drop using the percentages. River finished 13th out of 20 in the Serie A Clausura 2010 and, because of the above system, had to go into a play-off with the Serie B leaders, because the clubs below them all had better percentages than them. That shows just how bad their 'recent' performances have been. Not only that, but this is obviously a case of something to do with the stable door............

  • Comment number 23.

    "The pressing issue in Europe is of-course leg-breaks, with Chung Yong Lee being injured, are friendlies too punishing?"

    Since when has that been a pressing issue? It was a misfortunate, clumsy tackle, it could've happened in any game. It was just an unfortunate accident, which happens in contact sports.

    On topic: It's crazy that the manager even thought about building a team just to suit one players' strengths. Barca don't do it and Man Utd certainly don't do it, so I can't see why Batista ever thought it was a good idea. Saying that though, Argentina have an average defence, and pretty poor wingers, so it's no surprise that they didn't achieve much in the Copa America. Uruguay have a much more balanced team, Tabarez has found the right formation that gets the most out of the players at his disposal, Batista didn't do that, instead he tried to chase the glory of being the first manager to get Messi to perform to his Barca level in the Argentina shirt.

  • Comment number 24.

    the league merger sounds like a totally ridiculous idea, like people have said, its daft enough in scotland, theres no way it will work with so many more teams. could argentina just not deal with river plate being relegated?!

  • Comment number 25.

    This rearrangement of the league is a big embarrassment for Argentina, because it is so obviously done to help River Plate. If they sink out of sight, then so be it, then they don't have the fan base they thought they did or the real desire to sort out their internal organisational and financial issues. As others have said, even Brazil let its big teams take the plunge when they deserved it, and they bounced back. To make a parallel with the UK, it would be interested to see what would happen if Celtic or Rangers ever got relegated, which I sincerely hope for at the beginning of every season.
    The likes of Belgrano de Cordoba must be thinking that their promotion was devalued, that what they fought for will be given automatically next year to the teams who didn't make it.
    Shocking Argentina, shocking!

  • Comment number 26.

    I've long thought that Argentina needed complete reconstruction of their league system and I believed that anything would be better than the present crazy system, I was wrong.
    What they need is a complete rethink of how the sport is run by the AFA, but the subject is just too political and complicated to ever be sorted.
    It effects the national team as any manager has to be constantly watching his back. The last two coaches have both been appointed and sacked for political reasons due to agendas of AFA officials.

  • Comment number 27.

    Corruption in Argentinian football. Now theres a surprise.

  • Comment number 28.

    Scottish football just about works with a six team split, giving some entertainment in the final few weeks. A 19 team split is going to lead to some extremely boring games with many clubs not playing for anything at all.

  • Comment number 29.

    I don't think Argentina were going anywhere under Batista. Their poor results against fellow South American teams at the Copa suggested the World Cup qualifiers would have been a real struggle. Only time will tell if Sabella does any better, but I feel far more confident with him in charge than I did with Batista.

  • Comment number 30.

    Although this idea won't work for Argentina - and the potential motives behind it give it a bad name - i actually thought of something scarily similar for the Brasileiro after talking with a Brazilian about problems there just a few weeks ago.

    Before everyone thinks it's nuts, i developed the idea in response to three major issues re. Brazilian club football, namely the state championship, out-of-sync calender and inability of a 20-team division to hold enough big clubs in country of 200 million.

    However much state championship may seem dumb the majority of Brazilians like them, and as it was pointed out to me whilst Rio and SP are fine in a national division in having their derbies, in many other states that doesn't happen and State Champ are vital in allowing local rivals to happen therefore (which is an important part of football. I've heard this is a reason why football has struggled in France relative to the other big Euro nations). Very rarely are the major clubs in the 3 big North East cities all together in the top division for example, so how can we allow those matches to occur?

    Re the calender, most Brazilians would rather cut off their nose to spite their face than follow Europe's season, or the 'stupidity of one championship in 2 years' as it's been put to me by friends I consider smart and knowledgeable.

    Given the need to respect this I thought the easiest way was the following: a top division of 40 clubs split into 2 halves. The first 5 months (July/August-end of November) sees 4 regional divisions of 10 teams: South, Sao Paulo (it's big enough for its own) SE and Centre, North and NE. That's 18 games over just under 5 months. The top 4 go into a national league of 16 where the title, continental cups and 2 relegation spots are decided (the latter in a playoff). The rest (24 sides) are joined by the 14 best teams from the 2nd division - also reformatted - and put into 4 local divisions of 10 again. Top 3 promoted 4th-7th in a playoff (championship style) for remaining spots, bottom 3 relegated.

    That seems like lot of games, but currently a team from Sao Paulo can play over 60 matches just in the State and national divisions. This would give fewer than 50 games. There is also only one domestic Cup competition. This respects regional games, the country's huge size and number of big clubs and puts Brazil on an in-sync calender. It also frees up fixtures space by a reduction in games.

    It's flawed I know, and needs thinking but the alternative being cooked up by some is worse - a 32 NBA style format.

    Thoughts Tim?

  • Comment number 31.

    To add some information to Tim's article: the rumors say the Argentinian government (this year is also national election year, not only AFA election year) wanted to be sure River is in Primera as soon as possible. Why? The state channel owns the rights to show on free tv all Primera games ("Futbol para todos" or "Football for everyone"), but not Second division games, which are broadcast by cable channel TyC Sports (owned by Grupo Clarin, who are critical of the government). Now the government wants to make sure more people watch their "product", and River is the second most popular club. River in Primera means more people watching Futbol para Todos, more advertising, and, aditionally, less people watching TyC Sports.
    On the day this was announced, people from AFA said this had been asked by the government, and had River stayed up, would not have happened. However, the following day Grondona denied all this, saying the government had never imposed him anything since he was President...

  • Comment number 32.

    all becuase a "big" club has been rubbish for over 3yrs. the system of relegation is wierd and teams do not learn their mistakes by the current system. river plate should be relegated.

  • Comment number 33.

    To be honest, Argentine football is mired in nepotism, corruption and hooliganism. Shame about Batista's demise, though he is not an experienced international manager. True he won the gold at the Beijing olympics managing Argentina.
    Now it's Mano Menezes' turn. He is another manager in the wrong place at the wrong time. He has taken Brazil backwards, lower in the standings and prestige. Bring back Carlos Dunga, or hire Muricy Ramalho or even Scolari.

  • Comment number 34.


    What are you on about? Pele might have lead/played for Brazil to 3 world cups but he also played alongside some of the greatest players of all time (Garrincha, Jarzinho, Tostao), same goes with Zidane who had some of the best players in the world at the time playing alongside him (Thuram, Lizarazu, Desailly, Viera, Djourkaeff, Deshamps). While Maradona never even won a European Cup, and none of these players won the European Cup/Copa Libatadores for more than 1 club, Pele like Messi so far is known for being a 1 club player (Cosmos don't really count).

    Messi is only 24 years old and in 10 years time will definitely be remembered as one of the greats, he's incredible.

  • Comment number 35.

    I am living in Buenos Aires for the time being, and i wrote this guide to the upcoming season. give it a read.

    what are your thoughts on the velez sarsfield players, tim?

  • Comment number 36.

    11 & 21 point out between them precisely why it is so important for the future of the game that BIG clubs be allowed to get relegated. The fact that several Brazilian ones, after decades of protection, were allowed to not only allowed those clubs to reorganize and strengthen in a less pressurized atmosphere (despite the fans' pressure to book an immediate return), it also elevated the 2nd Division to a far more respected status. The difficulty is if relegation involves such a drain on finances and quality players that it becomes very hard for the relegated club to get back into the elite. And that goes for the top continental competitors too. The fact that star players want to consistently peddle their wares in the champions league has helped to maintain the hegemony of the regular CL qualifiers, to the point that it is now very rare to see any other clubs making the transition. The result is an elite second tier that has neither the cash resources nor the drawing power to attract the top players and has to depend on finding youngsters before they become famous and praying they can hold onto them afterwards. And this could start to happen in S.Am too, now that there is more flowing in the game here.

  • Comment number 37.

    If Sabella does end up becoming national team coach, and all signs point towards that, then his first priority is to find some new midfielders and defenders. Both areas need revamping as Argentina builds toward 2014. In my opinion a big reason why Batista's Argentina never reached the heights at Copa America that they showed in earlier friendlies is because Esteban Cambiasso was not fully fit and has begun to show his age (that applies to both club and country actually). Combined with Ever Banega also not playing well, Argentina's midfield was unable to properly link with the attack which caused Lio Messi to drop too deep to retrieve the ball and kept him farther away from goal. The new coach needs to find somebody in midfield who can link play with the forwards. As for the defense, other than young Marcos Rojo, it needs revamping.

    Regarding the plan to revamp the league, #31 is I think absolutely right about the political motives behind this proposal. But the people are firmly against this proposed merged league so now AFA, pressured by the government, have backed down on trying to rush this proposal through. The vote on whether to approve it has been delayed from early October until sometime in November after both the national elections and those for the AFA presidency. Public outrage over this move is why this vote has been changed as the government has responded to the public's mood.

    First Ricky Alvarez to Inter now Maxi Moralez to Atalanta, defending champions Velez go into the new season weaker than they were last season.

    Soccer Futbol Forum:

  • Comment number 38.

    Never mind, Julio Grondona has now said the plan to merge the first and second divisions is over.

    Article in Spanish:
    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

    With an election coming up and the fans and a significant portion of clubs against the proposal, for self preservation Grondona is dropping this idea.

  • Comment number 39.

    RE: 19

    Pele didn't dominate a world cup till he was 29? Try 17.

    1958 World Cup
    Pelé cries on the shoulder of a peaceful Gilmar, after Brazil win the 1958 Cup.

    His first match in the World Cup was against the USSR in the first round of the 1958 FIFA World Cup, on the third game of the Cup, alongside Garrincha, Zito and Vavá.[55] He was the youngest player of that tournament, and at the time the youngest ever to play in the World Cup.[56] He scored his first World Cup goal against Wales in quarterfinals, the only goal of the match, to help Brazil advance to semifinals, while becoming the youngest ever World Cup goalscorer at 17 years and 239 days.[53] Against France in the semifinal, Brazil was leading 2–1 at halftime, and then Pelé scored a hat-trick, becoming the youngest in World Cup history to do so.[57][58]

    On 19 June 1958 Pelé became the youngest player to play in a World Cup final match at 17 years and 249 days. He scored two goals in the final as Brazil beat Sweden 5–2. His first goal, a lob over a defender followed by a precise volley shot, was selected as one of the best goals in the history of the World Cup.[59] Following Pelé's second goal, Swedish player Sigvard Parling would later comment; "When Pelé scored the fifth goal in that Final, I have to be honest and say I felt like applauding".[60] When the match ended, Pelé passed out on the field, and had to be attended by the medical staff.[5] He then recovered, and was visibly compelled by the victory; in tears as he was being congratulated by his teammates. He finished the tournament with six goals in four matches played, tied for second place, behind record-breaker Just Fontaine, and was named young player of the tournament.[61]

    It was in the 1958 World Cup that Pelé began using a number 10 t-shirt that immortalized him. Recently it is known that the event was the result of disorganization: the leaders didn't send the shirt numbers of players and it was up to FIFA to choose the number 10 shirt to Pele, who was a substitute on the occasion.[62] The press of the time cataloged Pelé as the greatest revelation of the 1958 Cup.[63]

  • Comment number 40.

    Re: 39

    Yes, that's correct, he didn't dominate a WC till he was 29. He was very good in 58 but not the best player, even in his own team. I feel the likes of Didi and Garrincha were just as influential, if not more so, particularly in the final.

    He popped up and scored some crucial goals but then so did Gerd Müller in '74 and nobody says he dominated that WC.

  • Comment number 41.

    shouldn't changing the relegation rules be a bigger property ?

  • Comment number 42.


  • Comment number 43.

    The plan is scrapped. Hurraaaayyyy!!! Grondona got scared of the fans protest and called it off! Is it the first time Don Grondona has tasted a defeat in his own politics? Has to be! On a brighter note, River supporters can hold their head high now. No one can blame them for the whole episode. They can now concentrate on their way back!

  • Comment number 44.

    It seems Grondona proved Vickery's assumptions were not that correct. The 38 clubs championship idea has been scrapped.

  • Comment number 45.

    My comment above [#38] seems to have been removed because I linked an article in Spanish. So I will paraphrase it here: with the federation election coming up Julio Grondona realizes the public and a significant portion of clubs (partially responding to the public outrage) are against the proposed 38 team league so now Grondona says the plan to merge the first and second divisions is over.

  • Comment number 46.

    This is a question to everyone, ive been thinking about this for a while now, but how do you guys think Maradonna would have fared if he was still the coach of Argentina during the Copa. Would he have done better then Batista or the exact same?

  • Comment number 47.

    Lets face it, Grondona runs Blatter close for "Most Odious Man in football" I do not think there are any depths he would not sink to in order to preserve his place on the gravy train. In light of that, nothing surprises me about Argentinian football. I envy their player talent but not their corruption, mismanagement and blatant manipulation of the competition.

  • Comment number 48.

    All this talk about trying to get Messi to perform for his country sounds very similar to Rooney, to much pressure on one person!

    Why teams such as the Copa winners uruguay who have a perfect balance are doing so well! wonder how well Argentina would play without Messi? IMO alot better!
    Gonzalo Higuaín, Carlos Tévez, Sergio Agüero, Ezequiel Lavezzi & Diego Milito play any 3 of them up top together and leave Messi out and they would do alot better!

  • Comment number 49.

    Diego Lugano is world class. Hes better then John Terry and Rio Ferdinand. Its just a shame that in this self obsessed league, nobody knows that.

  • Comment number 50.

    HAHA!!! River plate get relegated and all of a sudden they decide to merge the 2 leagues. no... there is no corruption in Argentine football!! what a farce

  • Comment number 51.

    Argentina's national team's problems are nothing new - Basile and Maradona struggled to get the team into the 2010 World Cup.

    Uruguay can choose from Lugano, Coates, Caceres, Victorino, Scotti and Polenta at centre-back, whereas no Argentine comes close to that level. The problem is that Uruguay is now identifying talent young and cultivating it, whereas Argentine soccer is really only producing playmakers and strikers.

    Poster 46 asked how Argentina would have fared under Maradona. My guess is that they would have been much more relaxed and less fearful and would have won the Copa America.

    In the quarter-final against Uruguay the Celeste hit the woodwork twice and, like Argentina, had a goal disallowed. But Uruguay's only penetration came from set-pieces. And this is where Maradona's use of Heinze instead of Zanetti was so crucial. Neither player is the quickest, but Heinze is commanding in the air. Batista somehow sent out a team which Lugano and Scotti could monster in the air every time Uruguay won a free-kick beyond the half-way line. It was pitiful.

    And quite frankly, Sabella is unlikely to do much better. He has only had a couple of seasons as a Head Coach, and really has shown very little aptitude so far.

  • Comment number 52.

    Due to public outcry, this merging idea of an "old fart" as so many football administrators seem to be worldwide, has now been scrapped.
    Argentinians are no more corrupt than the British or anyone else.
    The difference is that in Argentina it is full-frontal. Argentinians speek openly of corruption whereas in Britain it is only now as the country declines that it is becoming more widely appreciated.
    Yes using your hand to score a goal and not admitting it is wrong. But how different is this to using your hand to prevent a goal, by pulling an opponent´s shirt which occurs every weekend in the UK, and is photographed too.

  • Comment number 53.

    @46 "but how do you guys think Maradonna would have fared if he was still the coach of Argentina..."

    Argentina wouldn't have got anywhere either but at least they would've been entertaining, especially as all the cameras would've been on El Diego.

    And since this crazy merger was debunked, the AFA should consider another one...reappoint Maradona as coach.

    At least the argentinians don't have to worry about credibility anymore. ;)

  • Comment number 54.

    Tim says:
    "but I think you've gone way too far placing him above Sanchez or even Mati Fernandez, whose injury was such a blow to Chile's Copa campaign."

    Fernandez' injury wasn't a blow but rather a blessing in disguise. Bielsa loved him and Borghi seems to do too, but Mati still fails to perform and he hasn't actually been any good since moving to European football. It seems the change from the slow pace of the Chilean league to Europe was too overwhelming for him and has never recovered the form that saw him become South American player of the year.

    Valdivia is a fantastic playmaker, he generates Chile's football and as we saw in the game against Venezuela, as soon as he came on in the second half, he provided Suazo and Sanchez with countless opportunities and all of a sudden Chile was that exciting attacking force again which was totally missing during the 1st half.

    Why Borghi only played him in the 2nd half and wasted 45 minutes? Why Bielsa always played him out of position?...who knows, bit of a waste of talent to have such a talented player and not use him to the full.

  • Comment number 55.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 56.

    This similar to Russian league which was expanded in 1967 to allow Zenit St Petersberg to be in top division as it was 50th anniversary of October Revolution.

  • Comment number 57.

    54 - Fernandez scored real crackers in the first three games he played in the Borgi reign - dropping the defensive line deeper seemed to be working for him - more space for him to surge

  • Comment number 58.

    The apparent climbdown in Argentina over the plan to merge the top divisions is very significant - an example of public power. It is almost as if an Arab Spring is happening in South American football, with this and also the 'Ricardo Teixeira out' movement in Brazil.

  • Comment number 59.

    Messi was never the best in the world. He is the most popular, and most marketable. He is portrayed by the media as being a likable, natural talent who is exploited by the networks to promote the product.

    There are at least 10 players who are more special. Chritiano in particular, but the media don't like him.

  • Comment number 60.

    @56 - And that says a lot for the Argentinian league - that it has more in common with 1960's Soviet Russia.

  • Comment number 61.

    AFC? I heard it is going to be called the Argentine Football Circus!
    As for Messi ( mancitywest-comment),he is not the first in football history to break every record with his club and not being able to re-produce the same form for country.

  • Comment number 62.

    18. At 18:02 1st Aug 2011, Adam_K wrote:

    Just a slight quibble, Tim. Why do you keep referring to the Copa Libertadores as "South America's Champions League"? Anyone who doesn't know what the Copa Lib is shouldn't be reading your article.



  • Comment number 63.

    To complete the league it would mean teams playing 76 games per season. At 2 (league) games a week it would take 10 months to complete. Add the national cup and the copa liberto' they would be playing for 12 months solid.

  • Comment number 64.


    Messi is a better dribbler, better passer, has better vision, better linkup play with teammates and is directly involved in more goals and that with much greater efficiency than Cristiano.

    The only things CR has over him is size, speed and better areal ability.

  • Comment number 65.

    Tim, in your comment above [#58] I did not know there is now an outcry to get rid of Texeira in Brazil. Great, let us all hope the end of the line is near for both Grondona and Texeira who have been autocratically ruling their federations for years (Grondona has been in power since 1979!)

    Is Texeira facing an election anytime soon? As the head of Brazil's federation and the organizing committee for 2014 I just do not see him losing control unless Brazil's preparations for 2014 become even more bungled.

    Grondona on the other hand has to face an election in October and hopefully the backlash from this proposed merged league comes back and washes him away. We have had enough of Grondona in Argentina!


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