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SPORTS | 10-08-2019 12:52

Baptism of fire awaits for Superliga’s new star signings

Every team in Argentina’s team have been active ahead of the new season. And while one transfer caught the eye, all the new recruits must hit the ground running.

While all 24 Superliga teams have been active buying, selling and trading ahead of the new season, one would be forgiven for believing that only one single transfer took place this winter. In fairness, though, that particular arrival could not fail but catch the eye.

Like the professional angler holding aloft his prize-winning fish, Boca Juniors have revelled in showing off their new acquisition to the rest of the footballing world. Daniele De Rossi shocked the world, leaving Serie A and Roma for the graft and grit of the Superliga, enticed to the Bombonera on a free transfer, thanks in no small part to the presence of former club team-mate Nicolás Burdisso in the Boca boardroom – and also the undoubted challenge of adding a Copa Libertadores gong to the World Cup winner’s medal captured with Italy in 2006.

“The most important thing in life is to fulfil your own dreams,” the veteran midfielder, 36, said upon arriving in Buenos Aires.

De Rossi could have spent therest of his career engorging his admittedly already healthy bank balance in the Middle East, or China; that he has chosen the cut-throat world of South American football speaks volumes. Boca fans will likely get their first glimpse of the player on Tuesday, in a Copa Argentina clash against Almagro after weeks of strenuous training in order to make the grade at the Xeneize.

De Rossi, of course, is far from the only new face in a Boca team keen to banish the nightmare of the 2018 Copa final and gun for continental glory once more. Alexis MacCallister and Eduardo Salvio have arrived and made an instant impact, with each scoring in the club’s last-16 win over Athletico Paranaense in their first introduction to firstteam duty. Venezuela international Jan Hurtado is also on board from Gimnasia, while going the other way is the offcolour Cristian Pavón, shipped on loan to Los Angeles Galaxy where he will be reunited with former coach Guillermo Barros Schelotto.

In comparison to the flurry of activity around La Boca, the mood in Núñez these last few months has been rather more sedate. As has been the custom under Marcelo Gallardo’s stewardship, River acted with caution and precision in the transfer market, with ex-Godoy Cruz defender Fabrizio Angeleri and the long-coveted Paulo Díaz the club’s only major signings and Camilo Mayada leaving for Mexico as the sole firstt-eamer to part ways with the Millonario. For reigning champions Racing Club, too, the winter was a time of consolidation rather than revolution. Matías Rojas, Walter Montoya, David Barbona and José Luis Rodríguez are the new faces around Avellaneda, signed to replace the likes of Guillermo Fernández, Renzo Saravia, Neri Cardozo and Ricardo Centurión who departed following title glory.

It is in the two remaining members of Buenos Aires’ cinco grandes that the most action has been seen. Both San Lorenzo and Independiente went into this season with new coaches and ongoing commitments in the Copas Libertadores and Sudamericana respectively, pushing those in charge to invest heavily in reinforcements.

The Cuervo moved to sign two internationals not just from the same country, but the same divided ovum. Paraguayan twin terrors Óscar and Ángel Romero will both line up for the club in a potentially thrilling coup, albeit one that came too late to help San Lorenzo past Cerro Porteño – ironically, the pair’s first team – in the Libertadores last-16. The Romero twins, along with another set of brothers – ex-Unión stars Bruno and Mauro Pittón – make up alist of more than 10 new faces for the club this winter and, if the two wins garnered to start the Superliga are any indication, they should be among the front-runners for the title by the end of the season.

For Sebastián Beccacece, meanwhile, familiarity most certainly does not breed contempt. Freshly installed as Ariel Holan’s successor at Independiente, the man who took Defensa y Justicia to within a whisker of the 2018-19 title has been busy making sure the coming season will be an uphill struggle for the Florencio Varela side. Alexander Barboza, Domingo Blanco and Gastón Togni have all arrived from Beccacece’s old club – the latter two returning from loan spells – while the Rojo have also moved to bolster their attack with the signings of Sebastián Palacios and Cristian Chávez from Talleres and Aldosivi respectively.

All of those new arrivals have endured something of a baptism of fire so far, with the Superliga kicking off unseasonably early at the end of July while the two continental competitions are also in full swing. Time to adapt and settle has been at a premium. For that reason this weekend’s halt in the action due to primary presidential elections will come as more than welcome for most involved in the Argentine top flight. It will prove merely a momentary opportunity to catch one’s breath, though, as signings across the league will have to repay the faith shown in them and star for their new employers.

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Dan Edwards

Dan Edwards

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