There are many factors that have contributed to Argentina’s poor form throughout World Cup qualification. Some may look to the exclusion of the old guard such as Javier Zanetti and Estaban Cambiasso or to the continued faith in Carlos Tevez; dismissed twice and only scoring one goal throughout qualification.
The single biggest incident though could have been the parting of Juan Román Riquelme. After a bust up, Riquelme vowed not to play for La Albicelestes again under Maradona.
“For me, the seleccion is now finished. I have my own principles and the coach does not share the same views. Hopefully, everything will turn out well for the team and they can qualify [for the 2010 World Cup] without me.”
The comment lacked in sincerity as Riquelme knew all too well this left Argentina with a huge void – one that they struggled to fill throughout qualification.
Juan Veron was tasked with filling the gap and taking on the role known in Argentina as the ‘trequartista’ or the ‘playmaker’. Argentina’s adoption of the 4-3-3 formation pushes the trequartista slightly further back the pitch to allow the (usual) three of Messi, Aguero and Tevez to combine in attack.
Veron showed some of his best football in recent years but is Juan Veron’s best football enough to win the World Cup? Opinions are split about Veron but there is a genuine question mark over his head to whether what he offers is good enough for Argentina at the World Cup.
I recently wrote how Messi has simply had too much to do in the Argentina team, the workload increased even more so when Veron was suspended due to him having to employ the playmaker role.
Messi is a lot of things, but a playermaker he is not. To give the playermaker role to someone gives them license to spread the ball around the pitch. Liberating for most players but limiting for Lionel Messi who’s individualistic ball skills and drive are simply second to none – it’s a role that he’s never be tasked with at club level with Barcelona due to the wealth of talent involved in their build up play.
Another option is that of Pablo Aimar. It’s not a name that has been all over the newspapers in the last couple of years, but Aimar is and always will be a talent. His playmaking and linking up skills in the centre of midfield is exactly what Argentina need – showing signs in Argentina’s recent games and was responsible for Higuian’s goal against Peru with a superb through-ball.
Aimar’s CV is impressive. He led Valencia to two league titles and a UEFA cup at the turn of the century and if you’re generous enough to admit it may be considered partly responsible for the football we see at Barcelona today. The ‘tika-taka’ passing employed by Barcelona is synonymous with the successful Valencia team under Rafa Benitez.
Now at Benfica, Aimar was involved in the destruction of Everton at the Estádio da Luz on last month. There was nothing dazzling about his display but he facilitates talented players such as Di Maria, Saviola (two Argentines) and Cordoza and brings out the best in them – the chief responsibility of the playmaker role for Argentina.
It’s a role that is appreciated from afar with hindsight and analysis. Whilst not grabbing the headlines it may be the most important role on the park for Argentina – dictating the pace and direction of the game. Rarely can footballers play the drum at their own pace, but Aimar looks a suitable candidate to be the orchestrator in the Argentine band next summer.
Owner and Editor of World Football Columns – Steven Jones writes about political and socio-economic footballing issues, encompassing current events.