Back-to-back league titles in the bag and eyes focused on a seventh Copa Libertadores title, Boca Juniors continue their pursuit of glory with another ambitious window of transfer activity, flexing the kind of financial muscle that almost every other Argentine club can only dream of.
A long running search for a more experienced pair of hands than goalkeeper Agustín Rossi eventually came to an end when a deal was struck with Lanús for former Argentina Under-20 international Esteban Andrada and a week earlier, Boca closed the transfer of Lucas Olaza from Talleres to cover for the injured Frank Fabra.
With eyes set firmly on the Copa Libertadores, an already formidable squad has been strengthened further with no noticeable departures to speak of.
Rossi has been a player that Guillermo Barros Schelotto has obviously been keen to upgrade for a while and that has seen Boca linked with the likes of Nahuel Guzmán, Agustín Marchesín and Gerónimo Rulli to name just a few. The 22-year-old isn’t a bad goalkeeper but was perhaps an area of weakness ahead of a critical few months in the Copa Libertadores.
Ultimately Boca didn’t need to look far for his replacement with Esteban Andrada on the verge of a move to Villarreal before Boca turned their attention to the 27-year-old and swooped with a $5 million move.
Andrada has established himself as one of the Superliga’s top goalkeepers over the past year or so and after injury to Fernando Monetti seized the opportunity to be Lanús number one. The Mendoza-born stopper was a vital part of the Granate side that went all the way to the Copa Libertadores final last year and Boca will be hoping that they can go one better.
The knee ligament injury to left-back Frank Fabra left another slight question mark in the Boca squad, despite the club already having recent Argentina international Emmanuel Mas available, and so the club moved swiftly to bring in Uruguayan Lucas Olaza.
The 24-year-old has been outstanding at Talleres and was reportedly Marcelo Gallardo’s first choice as a replacement for Marcelo Saracchi when sold to Leipzig earlier in the window. However, where River Plate were unable to agree on a deal, Boca have managed to close a one-year loan deal with an option to buy for around $5 million.
Youngsters Tomás Pochettino and Gonzalo Maroni have also headed to Talleres on loan and Boca have purchased the remaining 10% of Cristian Pavón’s ownership for $2.5 million in an effort to complete the deal for Olaza.
Olaza undeniably adds even greater depth to Boca’s squad but the transfer wasn’t without controversy and led to renewed conspiracy theories between Boca and the Argentine Football Association.
Each club is permitted to register six foreign players and with Boca already having the maximum number on their books it was supposed that the transfer of Uruguayan Olaza was impossible. However, after much confusion Sergio Marchi, head of the Players’ Union, said that Frank Fabra’s contract would be ‘suspended’ due to his long-term injury and therefore a space was available for Olaza.
Marchi had difficulty citing any relevant precedents on the issue and the AFA regulations are somewhat hazy. While injuries over four months do allow players contracts to be ‘suspended’ the clause is not in relation to the foreign player quota and so there was no specific wording to say that a club could in this case add another.
Boca are now looking to off-load Colombian Sebastián Pérez so the point would be moot but it didn’t prevent River and supporters from almost every other club sensing the AFA had helped out Boca.
Regardless, Boca have recruited well in the window and managed to retain the likes of Pavón and Wilmar Barrios, and so the reigning Superliga champions remain the team to beat in Argentina and possibly in South America.