Boca Juniors is prepared to recapture the American continent. With the arrival of Daniel Osvaldo and Uruguayan Nicolas Lodeiro as new stars, the Argentine team looks back to rise again with the Copa Libertadores, the most important tournament in South America.
The “Xeneise” team, which has already won this competition in six occasions (1977, 1978, 2000, 2001, 2003 and 2007), is seeking thereby to end a period where the irregularity in the game level and the bad sports results have been constant.
The last year in particular was an ordeal for Boca. The dismissal of Carlos Bianchi, (the most winning manager in the history of the club) in August 2014, after a heavy defeat against Estudiantes de la Plata, is a clear example of the storms that Boca had to pass across in recent years.
Hired in January 2013, Bianchi was unable to print his personal stamp on a team that had left behind his days of glory. Unlike his previous two cycles, where the coach had achieved a rare and unbreakable communion with players, this time Bianchi, could not strengthen the human bond with the team.
This lack of identification between the players and the manager was deepened by the fact that Bianchi, unlike previous years, seemed to have lost patience: a defeat meant that anyone could lose his place in the starting line up.
Another point of conflict in the internal life of Boca Juniors was the troubled relationship of Juan Roman Riquelme with the rest of his teammates. The former Barcelona and Villarreal man is perhaps the most decisive player in the history of Boca, even more than Diego Armando Maradona.
Roman was the architect of the most glorious pages of the club’s history, receiving the unanimous recognition of Boca fans and the media. But, throughout his long career, Riquelme has been accused by many of being the architect of conflicts in the dressing room, creating discord among his teammates.
Those who defend it say that Riquelme, far from being confrontational, boasts an improper honesty in the world of football. But for his critics, Riquelme is considered some kind of Maquiavelo. With his statements in the press or his silence, Juan Roman dictated the future of managers or teammates, imposing his will even to the president of the club.
Whether as a hero or as a villain, the departure of Juan Roman Riquelme in mid-2014 had a negative impact on the team. Despite being is the last moments of his career (and almost always in bad physical shape) Roman was the only player of Boca that offered something different on the field.
Through an assist to a teammate or a precise free kick, Riquelme was able to give Boca the key to achieving major victories over the last few years. This clearly does not speak well of his teammates who, given the absence of Juan Roman (either an injury or a whim of the player himself), were not able to solve the tactical proposals of rival teams.
Rodolfo Arruabarrena’s arrival as manager to replace Carlos Bianchi meant a breath of fresh air for the Argentine team. Although the results were not entirely positive, the team showed an improvement that led him to finish the championship on top.
Arruabarrena was able to organise better the pieces and give Boca more defensive solidity. The entry of Nicolas Colazzo in the team, who despite playing as a midfielder reinvented itself as a solid left full back, also represented an improvement in the attack.
Thanks to Colazzo, Boca generated many counter attacks which ended in goals. Individually, players like Christian Chavez, Fernando Gago or Jonathan Calleri ended the year in good shape, generating high expectations from the fans for the future.
The season has just begun and it is difficult to make an accurate prediction; even so, many specialists point to Boca Juniors as one of the leading candidates to win the biggest tournament in South America. The only certainty is that Boca, either by its history (past and recent) or the quality of its players, is bound to a fight to the end.