South American Football

Boca at the double…now a stab at the Libertadores?

Boca

WHEN Carlos Tevez returned to Argentina and signed for his old club, Boca Juniors, many people raised their eyebrows. Tevez was still in good form at Juventus and had been top scorer at the club. But after 50 goals in 96 games for Juve, was he going home to graze? No, said Tevez. “I am still in my prime,” he insisted, pointing to a slimmer frame than in previous years. The award for Serie A player of the year in 2014-15 and a place on the 10-man shortlist for the UEFA Best Player in Europe award underlined that this was a player still firing on all cylinders.

The signing represented something of a coup for Boca, but if anyone saw it as a gamble – Tevez is unpredictable at best – it certainly paid off. He helped Boca win the double in Argentina, scoring nine goals in 17 games.

Tevez was Serie A player of the year and top scorer – a striker still in his prime

Boca return to the Libertadores this year, anxious to make amends for the fiasco that took place when they came up against Buenos Aires rivals River Plate in the last 16 in 2015. Crowd trouble put paid to Boca’s hopes and they were eliminated. River went on to win the trophy. That hurt Boca’s fans, known as La Doce (the 12th man).

Boca’s Primera Division title was their 31st (Diego Maradona’s only Argentine title was with Boca in 1981) and was the first championship under the new 30-team format. In the past, Argentina have tried various formats, the most recent being the two-programmes within a season, known as the Apertura and Clausura.

Boca triumphed by three points, with San Lorenzo in second place. Boca lost just six games all season, three at home, three away, but four defeats came in the last 13. They beat Rosario Central in the cup final thanks to some controversial refereeing decisions.

Tevez’s debut was delayed due to Mayoral elections in Buenos Aires, but he was royally welcomed when he stepped out in Boca colours against Quilmes on July 18. Boca officials had long set their sights on bringing the former Manchester City and United striker back to Argentina and first tabled a move back in 2011.

Tevez is a legend at the club. His first spell at Boca ended in 2005 when he joined Brazil’s Corinthians. In 2003, he was in the team that won the Libertadores Cup, beating Santos 5-1 on aggregate in the final. Tevez scored in Sao Paulo in the second leg.

After River’s triumph in South America’s version of the UEFA Champions League, Boca will be keen to make an impact in 2016. The group stage draw has given them ties with Bolivar (Bolivia), Deportivo Cali (Colombia) and one of either Puebla (Mexico) or Racing (Argentina).

While Tevez will relish the Libertadores campaign, which will begin on February 24 for Boca, one player who will almost certainly be missing is current bright young thing Jonathan Calleri, the club’s top scorer in 2016 with 10 goals in 26 league games. The 22 year-old is being courted by a number of clubs, including English Premier outfits like Chelsea, West Ham and Stoke City. He looks set to move to Italy, however, with current Serie A leaders Internazionale. According to media reports, Inter will sign Calleri in the next week or so and send him out on loan to Bologna for the rest of the campaign.

Calleri has been earmarked as a player that could make the breakthrough in the Argentinian national squad soon, but he’s up against Tevez, Sergio Aguero and Lionel Messi.  Boca manager Rodolfo Arrubarrena has been busy since the triumphs of 2015,  bringing back Daniel Osvaldo from Porto to team-up with Tevez and signing left back Jonathan Silva, on loan from Sporting Lisbon, and midfielder Leonardo Jara from Estudiantes.

The 2016 league season starts on February 6 in Argentina. Boca Juniors travel to Temperley.

www.gameofthepeople.com

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