The football world mourned when Juan Román Riquelme announced his retirement in January 2015. Helping Argentinos Juniors, the club where the iconic playmaker had taken his first steps as a player, to promotion back to the top flight at the end of 2014 was a fitting end to the career of the football romantic’s virtuoso of choice.
For all Riquelme’s obvious affection toward Argentinos Juniors, his heart however remained with one club. Three Copa Libertadores titles, the starring role in the famous Club World Cup victory over Real Madrid and four league titles have created the legend and as the great number ten said himself, “I am Riquelme thanks to this club.”
That club of course being Boca Juniors and virtually ever since Riquelme played his last game in the blue and gold on May 11th 2014, supporters have waited for one last opportunity to pay homage.
Finally that chance has come as Riquelme confirmed his testimonial at La Bombonera will take place on December 12th – 12/12 or Dia del hincha de Boca (Boca supporters day).
“It will be with all the players from teams of 2001 and 2007, those who won the Copa Libertadores,” Riquelme explained.
One team made up of those Boca players from 2000 and 2001 managed by the great Carlos Bianchi and the other from 2007 led by Libertadores winning coach Miguel Russo.
“Oscar Córdoba calls me every day, tells me he’s training. I spoke to Martín (Palermo) and Guillermo (Barros Schelotto)… if they’re not busy with their clubs, they’re going to play. It would be nice if everyone could be there.”
Everyone will want to play such is the status of Riquelme within Argentine football and the atmosphere that will be created at La Bombonera.
“I’m lucky that I’ve played with great footballers, also from my time with the national team, and in Spain.”
And while this would potentially open the door to any number of legendary names from the world of football, it will be former Boca stars joining Riquelme. With the possible exception of one superstar.
“It would be wonderful. It would be a dream to see Messi in a Boca shirt,” Riquelme admitted.
The pair played together for the national team and won Olympic gold in 2008, “I talk to him [Messi] often.
“I saw him play against Dortmund again. After his injury it was very nice to see him back on the pitch. How I feel about Boca, he loves his club very much. I hope he wins the Champions League again, which is what he wants.”
Given December 12th falls in between La Liga fixtures, Messi’s involvement looks impossible but this would be one game in which for those supporters at the stadium it would be nothing more than a distraction.
In a rare interview to announce the match, the media took advantage to ask Riquelme a number of further questions where the Boca icon also revealed his admiration for River Plate midfielder Nacho Fernández.
“I have no doubt that Nacho is the best player in Argentine football for a long time. It was him who complicated our lives and turned things around the final in Madrid, he was the culprit.”
And Fernández wasn’t the only River player that Riquelme praised – “He’s [Juan Fernando Quintero] is very good.
“He’s got an amazing left-foot, he thinks faster than the others and hits the ball differently. It’s a joy that he’s close to playing again. We suffered in Madrid, but hopefully he recovers in the best way.”