Manuel Pellegrini’s bitter memory of Juan Roman Riquelme

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UEFA Champions League Semi Final - Villarreal v Arsenal

During an interview with The Independent, manager Manuel Pellegrini was very specific when he spoke about Juan Roman Riquelme’s past.

There are players in football history who can sometimes be considered almost deities due to the way they play football, one of these players certainly is Juan Roman Riquelme but manager Manuel Pellegrini doesn’t have the greatest memories of the Argentine playmaker.

While he was a professional baller, the Boca Juniors idol was considered one of Argentina’s greatest talents for export and he did lead a good life in European football when he played there.

The problem with Riquelme was that he was never really able to win important titles with any club he represented, he arrived at FC Barcelona just a year before Ronaldinho did and he did it to replace the also Brazilian Rivaldo.

It is well known that Riquelme wasn’t exactly star material according to Dutch manager Louis van Gaal, the boss demanded more commitment and defensive sacrifice from him and Roman simply wanted to help the team score the goals without making any efforts running back to help his teammates.

When Barcelona discarded him, it was Villarreal the club that decided to bet on him and Uruguay international Diego Forlan.

For the Argentine player, the years he played at Villarreal were arguably amongst the best of his career but the very top was reached when he got all the way to the semifinals against Arsenal.

During that Champions League edition, the Gunners were coming from eliminating historic squads such as Real Madrid and Juventus in great fashion but Villarreal also did their job by getting past Rangers from Scotland and Internazionale Milano.

The semifinals promised to be one of the great series of the competition that FC Barcelona won in the end, Riquelme was supposed to be the player who would take the ‘Yellow Submarine’ all the way to the final but he completely froze in the crucial moment of the match.

A penalty was awarded for Villarreal near the end of the match, this was the moment that Roman had been waiting for and he blew it by missing his shot.

That night will forever be remembered as the day in which Juan Roman Riquelme refused to become a superstar after missing that penalty, who knows what would’ve happened to the Spanish club managed by Manuel Pellegrini if he had scored that goal that would’ve taken them to the final.

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The Chilean manager doesn’t hold good memories of Riquelme, a player he recognizes as different from the rest but with a massive problem that prevented him from becoming the very best.

“When I arrived [at Villarreal] and I said what I expected of the club, nobody would believe it,” said Manuel to The Independent.

“But when we started working, and the players had the trust to do it, we had a lot of achievements: semi-final of the Champions League, second and third place in Spain. You must do it step by step to keep that mentality.”

“Technical players make the game easy. They have a view of the pitch different from other players. They put the last pass for the strikers. They are the players that lose two or three balls in a year. The most difficult thing is football is to give the ball to a player that has the same color shirt.”

“Riquelme, with his quality, can play 30 years ago, 20 years ago, 10 years ago or now, where he wants. Riquelme was not a top, top player, because he has other problems. Many years ago, at that moment he had a lack of maturity, he wanted to be number one, did stupid things. But as a player, he can do what he wants. He can play in every league where he wants.”

“Those players make a difference, especially for the strikers. When you don’t have them, you must try to find another way of playing. But we have playmakers here at West Ham, and I hope someday we are going to see all of them playing together.”

What do you think about Manuel Pellegrini’s thoughts on Juan Roman Riquelme? Please share your opinion in the comment section down below.


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