Can Juan Sebastian Verón conjure up the perfect end to his career?
The controversial renaming of Argentina’s top division after the General Belgrano warship sunk during the Falklands War has brought the league into the British media spotlight recently.
However this season’s Clausura, the second half of the country’s unusual league format, is also significant for another reason. It marks the end of legendary midfielder Juan Sebastian Verón’s career.
The man known as ‘La Bruja’ (The Witch) should already be enjoying his retirement but his club, Estudiantes, persuaded him to stay on in the hope that he could conjure up one last title.
While lifting the trophy in June would provide a fitting end to the career of the man twice crowned South American Footballer of the Year, his side are outsiders for the title.
However events last week mean that pre-season favourites Boca Juniors are not quite the safe bet they were. Following their 0-0 draw with Venezuelan side Zamora in Tuesday’s Copa Libertadores clash, manager Julio Cesar Falcioni resigned following an alleged dressing room argument with fans’ favourite Juan Román Riquelme. He was eventually persuaded to carry on as manager by the club’s directors but there can be no doubting the relationship between Falcioni and his squad is severely damaged.
The fact that Estudiantes are not involved in the Copa Libertadores, South America’s equivalent to the Champions League, adds further weight to the argument that Verón might just sign off in style. While some teams face the prospect of punishing additional fixtures, at high altitude or almost 5,000 miles away in Mexico, the La Plata club are free to focus on the league and this will be a huge benefit to them.
It was in the 2009 Copa Libertadores that Verón firmly secured his place in the club’s folklore, achieving his lifelong ambition of leading them to the trophy they had last won when his father was captain, 39 years before.
Following the return of former players like Enzo Perez and Mauro Boselli, new coach Juan Manuel Azconzábal is now able to field ten of the 11 players from that victorious 2009 side and he will hoping they can rediscover their winning formula and give their captain the dream end to his career.
So far they have only managed to draw both of their opening games 1-1 and they will need to show a marked improvement if they want to challenge for the title. However they will be heartened by this week’s poor performance from Boca Juniors who stuttered to a 0-0 draw against newly-promoted Unión Santa Fe, only adding to the feeling that last week’s dressing room bust-up will have had grave consequences for the club’s fortunes.
Ultimately it remains to be seen whether Verón can bow out on a high, but he remains, when fit, one of the finest players in the league and reunited with old friends, in a team free from Copa Libertadores distractions, it would be foolish to write him off.Tagged in: football, Juan Sebastian Verón, manchester united
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