|Big hug! To China...|
Juan Roman Riquelme
Big-spending Chinese Super League club Shanghai Shenhua are looking to pull off another major coup by adding Argentina star Juan Roman Riquelme to their roster.
Shanghai recently completed the audacious signing of Ivory Coast captain Didier Drogba from English giants Chelsea, and an attack spearheaded by Drogba and Nicolas Anelka, supplied by Riquelme, would surely be one of the most frightening in world football – at least on paper.
It is reported that Shanghai have tabled an undisclosed offer for Riquelme who is also wanted by four other clubs.
A Saudi Arabia side, two Argentine teams and two Brazilian teams - including Flamengo who have publicly expressed their interest in Riquelme - are also said to be in the hunt for the player’s signature.
Indeed, so intent are Flamengo on signing Riquelme that their two main sponsors, Olympikus and Batavo, are prepared to stump up half of any required transfer sum. The 34 year-old Riquelme has also been linked with a number of English clubs, including West Ham and Bolton, but Shanghai have emerged as favourites to land the mercurial playmaker.
Riquelme’s signing would no doubt represent a major coup for the Chinese league which is fast becoming a hot spot for the world’s top football talent. Along with Drogba, established stars such as Mali’s Seydou Keita, who’s joined Dalian Aerbin from Barcelona, and Nigeria’s Yakubu Aiyegbeni – Blackburn to Guangzhou R&F –, have recently moved to China.
Another African hero, Frederic Kanoute, meanwhile has been a fully-fledged Beijing Guoan player for a couple of months.
The boom in China’s economy has seen the world’s football talent look east.
With China expected to soon be the world’s biggest economy, the ripple effects are being seen in Chinese football with clubs offering big-time salaries and contracts.
There could be a hitch to the Riquelme deal though. Chinese Super League rules state that clubs must not have more than five foreigners in their squad, including a place for a player from the Asian Football Confederation countries, of which Shanghai currently have a full quota.
It is understood, however, that Shanghai are willing to sell one of their foreign stars in order to seal a deal for Riquelme.
Shenhua are coached by a fellow Argentine, Sergio Batista. He is an admirer of the player. In fact Riquelme was his captain and leader when Argentina won Olympic football gold, ironically in Beijing, in 2008.
Batista, who left his role with the senior Argentina national team in 2011, is said to have been personally involved in his side’s attempts to lure his countryman to Asia.
After Boca Juniors’ Copa Libertadores final loss to Corinthians last week, Riquelme stated that he had nothing left to give the side, but indicated that he would decide whether to carry on in football based on his family’s wishes.
|Didier Drogba in blue...|
Shanghai Shenhua blue
And Shanghai, who have successfully attracted stars like Drogba, Nicolas Anelka and Giovanni Moreno to the club in 2012, are interested in adding Riquelme to their ranks.
Boca revealed yesterday that they had held a meeting with Riquelme’s representatives, where his desire to leave La Bombonera was reiterated.
“The paperwork is ready for Roman to continue playing at Boca, but his agent repeated the decision the player made last week after the game with Corinthians,” Boca vice-president Oscar Moscariello said yesterday.
Riquelme’s agent Daniel Bolotnicoff confirmed that his client will be departing the club, saying: “After playing the final, which was very important to him, he ran out of targets. His decision to leave is a personal matter.”
It is believed Riquelme himself is willing to consider any offer that meets the value of his contract, but will consult with his family before making his next move.
“Riquelme’s intention is to resolve the situation quickly because that way is best for Boca,” Bolotnicoff said before going on to add that Riquelme had been “very moved” by the thousands of fans who took to the Buenos Aires streets begging their idol to stay since he announced his departure.
Riquelme could soon be one of a growing galaxy of stars in China.