With relegation finally decided it is time to look back on the Torneo Final. River Plate were crowned champions for the 35th time in their history while we said goodbye to Argentinos Juniors, All Boys and Colón. High profile retirements and now some high profile transfers and resignations have followed and so this is a quick wrap of that (or at least what I can remember) and I also select my side of the tournament, Player of the Torneo and Goal of the Torneo. Enjoy and feel free to comment if you disagree, on the condition that it is kept clean….
No doubt River Plate profited from not being involved in the Copa Libertadores like some of their rivals, but they were deserved champions. A thumping 5-0 victory over Quilmes on the final day in the Estadio Monumental was a superb way to round off what was momentous return to the top following their relegation in 2011. A Copa Campeonato followed after a win over San Lorenzo but to take a little gloss off this, Ramón Díaz resigned.
While River may have made the final day rather dull by thrashing Quilmes and ensuring the title, the relegation sides made up for it. Argentinos Juniors and All Boys had already lost the fight but injury time goals for Atlético Rafaela and Colón meant that they finished level and needed a playoff to separate themselves. Atlético edged it by a single goal meaning Colón ended their stint in the top flight.
Although this might just be temporary as once again the AFA have done their best to ruin Argentine football. A 30-team-league starting in 2015 will see 10 teams from the Nacional B promoted, making this season’s relegation perhaps just a temporary stay.
In the meantime, we already know that Banfield will be back in the Primera, as Matías Almeyda repeated the feat that he managed with River two years ago. Joining them will be Defensa y Justicia, for the first time in their history and with two round remaining either could win the league. The third spot is a little trickier, Independiente currently hold the position and their match against Instituto on Sunday could decide this, depending on how Huracán get on earlier.
This season also saw the retirement of three Argentine heavyweights. Estudiantes were not a million miles away from the title and so didn’t provide Juan Sebastián Verón with the fairytale end to his career but La Brujita’s contribution to the club can not be understated. Gabriel Heinze called it a day following a disappointing campaign with Newell’s Old Boys and in Italy, Javier Zanetti, despite not appearing to change, decided that at 40 years of age it was a good time to hang up his boots.
It proved to be a good year for Argentina in the Copa Libertadores, with San Lorenzo still in with a shout of being crowned champions for the first time in their history. Newell’s Old Boys were the only side not to make it from the group but their were good runs for Arsenal and Lanús before they were halted in the Quarter Finals.
And yes, it is also a World Cup year which is why the Torneo Final was wrapped up so quickly. Frankly, so much has been written and will be written on this I am going to ignore it here.
So here it is, Golazo Argentino‘s Team of the Torneo Final….
Estudiantes’ 22-year-old keeper is already heralded as the future Argentina number 1 and his performances since coming into the side have certainly not dampened those expectations. The best defence in the Primera with just 11 goals conceded and 11 clean sheets from the 19 games in the Torneo Final make impressive statistics for a goalkeeper of his age. A move to Europe beckons.
Right back is perhaps not the position with the most fierce competition but there have been few better than River Plate’s, Gabriel Mercado as proven by his call-up to Alejandro Sabella’s initial 30-man World Cup Squad. The crucial opening goal away to Argentinos in the penultimate fixture was significant in the title race also.
Desábato may not be the same player he was when he played a key role in Estudiantes’ 2009 Copa Libertadores triumph but the 35-year-old showed he is still a formidable defender in the Primera.
Éder Álvarez Balanta
It will be a surprise if River’s 21-year-old Colombian defender is still playing at the Estadio Monumental at the start of the Torneo Inicial. Already part of Colombia’s World Cup squad, Balanta is one of the top talents in world football and will be sorely missed from River’s defence should he move on.
There may be better left backs in Argentine football but Gimnasia’s experienced left-back has been the pick of the bunch during the Torneo Final. An unexpected title challenge in the first season back in the top flight was built on a solid defence but Licht also added 3 goals to the tally, including an absolutely stunning bicycle kick against All Boys.
What a transformation! Carbonero arrived at River with high expectations given his excellent performances for Arsenal de Sarandí but after a poor Inicial it looked as though the pressure of the Monumental was too much. However, Carbonero was the standout performer in River’s championship winning side, scoring 6 goals. River will probably be unable to keep hold of the 23-year-old Colombian given the amount they owe for the player, and with interest from Porto and Sevilla, he may be another heading for Europe.
Mussis was the heart of the Gimnasia midfield and their good season was in no small part down to his form. A move to FC Copenhagen is already agreed and replacing him will be tough for Gimnasia.
River’s number 10 shirt is a heavy burden to bear and although Lanzini has sometimes been criticized for his inconsistent performances, he was a consistent performer in the Torneo Final. A couple of goals and second in the list of leading assist makers, Lanzini may have played his last for River but he was central to Ramón Díaz’s title winning side.
An obvious choice given that he was top scorer in the Primera by four goals. Zárate’s return to Vélez was a coup at the time and he has proved that he is perhaps too good for this level. After a successful season, Zárate has already completed a move to Europe with West Ham United snapping up the talented striker.
Second to Zárate in the goal scoring charts, with a very respectable 9 goals, was Estudiantes’ number 9, Guido Carrillo. A side that managed only 20 goals in total all season speaks volumes about Estudiantes’ attacking prowess and at times Carrillo is left a little isolated but he has proved himself to be a very good centre-forward.
San Lorenzo have already announced a deal that will see 19-year-old Correa head to Atlético Madrid. The Rosario born attacker leads the charts for assists and has been crucial to San Lorenzo’s run to the Copa Libertadores Semi Final and a big money move to Europe was inevitable. Only two goals in the Torneo Final adds credence to the view that comparisons to Sergio Agüero are wide of the mark, and perhaps @robbro7‘s, Peter Beardsley likeness is more fitting.
Manager of the Torneo
Given that River Plate President, Rodolfo D’Onofrio made it clear that Díaz was not his choice, there was a certain amount of pressure on the 54-year-old coach in his third spell at the club. However, River swept to their 35th title in impressive fashion.
An incredible home record of 9 wins from their 10 matches and improved away form meant they ended up 5 points clear of second placed, Boca Juniors.
Just to add a little bit of controversy, Díaz thanked the River Barra Bravas for their support after the victory against Atlético Rafaela and as I mentioned earlier he has since resigned.
Player of the Torneo
Already part of the Team of the Torneo, Carlos Carbonero gets my vote as Player of the Torneo. Carbonero was vital to River’s improved Torneo Final and his ability to play on the right side of midfield but drift inside and support Fernando Cavanaghi in attack made him invaluable. 6 goals and a championship winning medal will be a good way to sign off if the 23-year-old Colombian leaves River as expected. With his loan deal expiring, River need to fork out US$3.6 million to make the deal permanent and so reportedly Porto and Sevilla are ready to make their moves.
Goal of the Torneo
The Argentine Primera División may not be one of the most free scoring leagues in world football but there have been some superb goals this season. I have plumped for two strikes that spring to mind but no doubt have missed others so please let me know if you disagree.
Lucas Licht (Gimnasia) v All Boys
Yes, by his own admission he didn’t have a clue where the ball was going to end up but it is a fabulous bicycle kick nonetheless. Made all the more difficult given that the cross comes in at a fair pace and he doesn’t tee himself up for a more conventional overhead kick.
Gabriel Graciani (Colón) v Quilmes
Colón couldn’t buy a goal following their atrocious Torneo Inicial and start to the Final where they were thumped by Racing! Graciani followed up his winner days earlier against Argentinos with this unbelievable strike against Quilmes. No one, especially Quilmes keeper Sebastián Peratta, saw this coming from such a position.
Assist of the Torneo
Daniel Villalva (River) v Lanus
Not the most obvious category but Villalva’s assist for Fernando Cavanaghi against Lanús deserves individual praise. The 21-year-old Villalba brings down a long ball with an incredible first touch which flicks over the defender before he squares the ball for Cavanaghi to score the easiest of goals.
Game of the Torneo
Superclásico Boca Juniors v River Plate
After so many forgettable Superclásicos in recent times it was wonderful to have a genuinely exciting match between Argentina’s biggest rivals. In the context of the championship it was also a significant result as River Plate’s first win in La Bombonera for 10 years was the catalyst in their title win.
Plus, Juan Román Riquelme treated us to an absolute belter of a free kick to draw Boca level in what may end up being his last Superclásico.
After all that football it seems that the two incidents that attracted the most interest around the world were a couple of pitch invaders. The first was of the canine variety in Rosario as Central entertained River Plate and the second was a pretty impressive display of security dodging by a young fan in River’s home match against Lanús. Thankfully in only of these videos the aforementioned invader decided to defecate on the pitch.
That was the Torneo Final, thanks if you managed to get all the way through that. Feel free to share or comment.