Carlos Bianchi and Boca Juniors well and truly put all their eggs in the Copa Libertadores basket this season and so after their Quarter Final exit last night at the hands of Newell’s Old Boys there are inevitable questions to answer. With city rivals, River Plate riding high in the league this has been their chance to mock the old enemy, especially after they were on the receiving end themselves after their relegation in 2011. This season’s Torneo Final has been nothing but a distraction for Boca, and with only 2 wins and a record for the longest winless streak, everything would have been acceptable had Bianchi led the side to Libertadores triumph. That ,perhaps, was always an outside chance but Boca now look back on, essentially, a wasted 6 months and with one of the largest squads in the Primera Division and many ageing and/or misfiring players this close season could have a big impact on Boca’s near future. Inevitably many will be moved on as the current squad needs a big shakeup if Boca want to challenge for honours any time soon.
The challenge facing Carlos Bianchi ahead of the Torneo Inicial will be revamping this squad: so what exactly is required? With several contracts due to expire in July it appears Boca will let several senior squad players leave and when you also take into account the apparent departure of goalkeeper, Agustin Orion (one of Boca’s few good performers this season) to Marseille, the size of the task becomes apparent.
It is thought that perhaps only 8 from the current regular pool will be guaranteed to still be there come the start of the Inicial: Roman Riquelme, Cristian Erbes, Walter Erviti, Nicolas Blandi, Juan Sanchez Miño, Guillermo Burdisso, Juan Manuel Martinez and Oscar Ustari, presumably to replace the departing Orion. Riquelme has proved his worth to Boca since returning after his “retirement” but at his age and with his current injury problems his place in the team offers only a short term fix and will also need replacing in time.
Several contracts are also due to expire in June and the majority will be allowed to leave but perhaps if replacement can’t be found some will remain at the club. Clemente Rodriguez claims to have offers from Brasil and Spain but is keen to remain to the club and, it is believed that Bianchi would like to retain his service and also Leandro Somosa. However, Cristian Cellay, Emiliano Albin, Lauturo Acosta, Franco Sosa and Matias Caruzzo are all seen as disposible.
Caruzzo’s apparent departure is the key area for reinforcements as Bianchi needs to find a solid partner for Guillermo Burdisso. One option would be the experienced, Walter Samuel after he leaves Inter Milan, not exactly one for the future but someone would bring further leadership to the fragile backline that Boca have had this season. Gabriel Heinze has also been mentioned as a possible target but with Newell’s successfully competing in both the Libertadores and the Torneo Final he may be reluctant to move. The other two mooted options are Nicolas Burdisso, Guillermo’s older brother, currently of Roma and Sebastian Dominguez of Velez Sarsfield.
Other players likely to be culled are Ribair Rodriguez, despite being a Bianchi signing in the summer, Rodriguez has failed to earn a place in the side and it is thought that he will be moved on sooner rather than later. Another recent signing, Santiago Silva may also be shown the door as he falls down the pecking order in the search for a striker. Newly promoted Gimnasia, one of his former sides may be his eventual destination. Lucas Viatri and Chiqui Perez have also failed to live up to expectations and could be made available.
Defence has been made the priority, the cornerstone of Bianchi’s sides and the strengthening elsewhere will depend on the outgoings. If Silva or Viatri leaves then another striker will be needed but there are also concerns over the right side of midfield. On the left they have Erviti, or more naturally Sanchez Miño but on the right they have only Erbes or Paul Fernandez.
So a busy close season expected in La Bombonera as a strong finish in the Torneo Inicial or winning the Copa Argentina will be required if they want another crack at the Copa Libertadores in 2014.