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No Maradona, foolishly yet uncomfortably Riquelme

On March 25, 1997, a significant event unfolded in the history of Argentine football. It marked the farewell of Diego Maradona from his illustrious career. His final match was with Boca Juniors, a team rivaling River Plate, their perennial opponent. In that match, as Boca trailed 0-1, Maradona left the field, making way for Juan Roman Riquelme. The young player’s entry turned the game around, leading Boca to a 2-1 victory, marking a momentous departure in Argentine football history.

Riquelme was deeply intertwined with Maradona’s farewell. Their relationship extended beyond that fateful day. Maradona admired Riquelme’s lazy beauty in playing and often praised his style. However, an unexpected rift surfaced between them, causing a sudden cessation of communication and even avoiding each other’s presence.

The root cause of their fallout remains largely unknown. However, many believed that Maradona’s decision not to include Riquelme in the 2010 World Cup squad led to a strained relationship. Maradona had remarked that Riquelme’s chapter had closed. Shortly after, Riquelme announced retirement from international football, stating, “I’ll watch the World Cup on TV.”

In 2014, Riquelme departed Boca Juniors, moving to Argentine club Argentinos Juniors, bidding farewell to football after a season. In 2019, he returned to Boca as a board member. However, his intention to bring changes clashed with Maradona’s stance on voting for Riquelme’s panel. Maradona didn’t manage to sideline Riquelme or his panel.

The pinnacle of their rivalry surfaced in 2020 when Maradona coached Gimnasia, competing against Riquelme’s Boca. Despite initial mutual respect, Maradona returned to Riquelme’s side. Yet, eventually, the plan to separate continued, forcing Boca’s authorities to retract. Maradona was no more, having left for the great beyond in November 2020, but what about Riquelme and his well-being at Boca?

Riquelme, now President of Boca, faces internal strife with his vice-president, Mario Pergolini. Their rivalry has disrupted the elections, prompting court intervention to postpone them. Despite the ongoing feud, it’s evident that while Maradona may no longer be among us, Riquelme’s tranquility at Boca seems far from assured.

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