by Daniel Fraiz-Martinez
They say that money can’t buy you happiness… if that is to be the case then it would be safe to say football clearly missed the memo on that one! So when Carlos Tevez signed on the dotted to undertake a rather lucrative Shanghai sojourn (numbers aside) in all truth it hardly came as a surprise that yet another South American superstar packed his bags to leave those sitting in the stands/at home to wonder: what next?
It was arguably Boca’s greatest Number 10, Diego Maradona who once famously said “La pelota no se mancha” – which roughly translates as: the ball doesn’t stain, in relation to some of his let’s say questionable career choices. Years on from that day the fans at La Bombonera will be forgiven for now holding on to this phrase as they look towards a new era at the club.
Frustratingly for them though, is that Tevez’s departure comes just as their side had begun a notable renaissance that propelled them to the top of the domestic table, doing so by defeating bitter rivals River Plate at the Monumental Stadium in the process.
Curiously enough it could well be a player missing on that day, who holds the key to Los Xeneize’s hopes of securing domestic silverware in 2017, a certain Darío ‘Pipa’ Benedetto.
Darío Ismael Benedetto – May the 17th 1990 – Berazategui, Argentina – as fate would serendipitously have it, made his top flight debut for Arsenal (de Sarandí of course!) against boyhood club* Boca Juniors back in November 2008.
*: No, really! As clichéd as it may sound Benedetto is such a die hard Boca fan, that the current incumbent of the Number 9 jersey has the club’s badge tattooed on his side.
Despite a precocious debut, and what now seems an already rather distinguished career to date, it was not all plain sailing for Pipa when beginning his journey.
Early promise aside, the youngster would initially fall victim to the ultra-impatient nature of the Argentine game, with formative loan spells at Defensa y Justicia and Gimnasia y Esgrima de Jujuy proving to be the catalyst to an eventual return to Sarandí, and a more prolonged spell in the Arsenal first team.
Only then and on the back of a rare participation from “El Arse” in the 2012 Copa Libertadores would Benedetto earn a somewhat unlikely move abroad to Club Tijuana in Mexico.
It would be the Liga MX experience that would prove to be the making of Benedetto with a hat-trick on his league debut followed by a prolonged barren spell actually acting as an effective surmise of the overall streaky nature of his game.
Nonetheless the forwards 21 goals in 43 games for Los Xolos would be more than enough to prompt Club América to splash out a considerable (rumoured $8 million) sum for the frontman. Who in turn would go on to pay this off in kind, in particular with yet another hat-trick in the 2014-15 CONCACAF Champions League final, a competition in which Benedetto also finished as both top scorer, and player of the tournament.
Such exploits would not course of go unnoticed, in particular back home. So despite some flirtations with a move to Europe, when Boca president Daniel Angelici sounded out a move for the Las Águilas star man, the transfer was never really in doubt.
Indeed Benedetto’s desire to live his dream was so great, that the forward would reportedly finance the move to the tune of $1 million of his own money to ensure he would finally get the chance to wear the blue and gold of La Boca.
After such a long courtship, and what was/is a significant transfer fee in a South and Central American football context, Benedetto could have been forgiven for feeling the burden of expectation. Finally lining up alongside one of his heroes in Carlitos Tevez, perhaps even further exacerbating the situation.
However, once off the mark Pipa has firmly silenced the doubters, proving himself to be full value on Angelici’s big money investment by weighing in with an encouraging 7 goals in his only 8 starts at the club so far.
The numbers are only a part of the furore. As it is the forwards impressive repertoire of finishes, capable of scoring beautiful goals of all varieties (and erring the more mundane much like his Juventus and Argentina moniker namesake) and penchant for the spectacular that already have fans purring in expectation ahead of the domestic re-start in 2017. His recent decision to apparently reject a lucrative offer from the MLS, being the icing on the cake.
An impressive leap, allied to a significant aerial ability for one not so tall. Benedetto’s blistering pace (the very same that once saw him compete in a publicity spot race with none other than Usain Bolt) affords him the ability to drop deep and link the play, yet also still retain a danger in behind.
Benedetto also possesses one of the most ferocious shots from distance on the continent, the forward capable of producing tremendous power with very little back lift.
In fact you only have to see his outstanding golazo against Quilmes in a recent Boca Juniors game sans-Tevez, for a perfect example of this. Not to mention that his all-round performance could perhaps provide a glimpse in to the future of Guillermo Barros Schelotto’s sides not too apocalyptic, post-Tevez future.
In all likelihood if recent tradition is much to go on, Boca will probably go out and spend big, so as not to leave their prestigious Number 10 jersey abandoned for too long (Ignacio Piatti, Ángel Correa, and Oscar “Junior” Benítez the most recent linked.)
Nonetheless Darío Benedetto, who shares a musical pedigree much like his sides previous Number 9 having played with his brother in the cumbia band “Los del Pato”, may well be looked upon to go from his role as percussionist to lead singer.
Follow Daniel on Twitter @DanielFMPro
Football fanatic/writer: #Bielsista & #Eterno21! Covering #Argieball, #SouthAmerica, #LaLiga #MLS & many more, both in #ENG & #ESP [Creator of@FootballARGnews]