As the dust settles on a chaotic, controversial Copa América, attention now turns away from Lionel Messi and cor r uption cha rges a nd towards the local arena. In just a few short weeks the Superliga will kick off for its latest edition, with all of the 24 teams involved scrambling frantically to strengthen their squads before the action starts on July 26.
Unsurprisingly, most eyes are on Boca Juniors and River Plate during this transfer period. Once again fighting the funding restrictions inevitable in a national context of recession and devaluation, the two Buenos Aires giants are nevertheless hoping to spend big on new faces not just for the league, but with one eye on the Copa Libertadores. How successful those efforts will prove will become apparent in the coming weeks as the deadline before the start of the season creeps ever closer.
One of the most interesting moves this winter, however, is already confirmed and took place in Liniers. Fernando Gago has signed terms with Vélez Sarsfield after being released by Boca in his latest effort to rebuild a career which has been almost shattered by injury.
We last saw Gago in agony in Madrid’s Estadio Santiago Bernabeu. Just minutes after taking the field in the Libertadores final, Boca’s midfielder pulled up with a torn Achilles tendon in his right ankle, another horrific blow for a player whose talent is only matched by his misfortune.
Still only 33, the former Real Madrid, Valencia and Roma star has played just 39 club games in the last three years, having previously snapped his left Achilles twice as well as suffering a torn cruciate ligament playing for Argentina.
One can only imagine what would have been possible if Gago had managed to stay fit and healthy for an extended period of time, as even with those chronic physical problems he went on to excel at some of Europe’s top clubs and racked up more than 50 appearances for the national team, including a key role at the 2014 World Cup.
Now, though, he has the chance to put it all behind him and start again. Gago may not have played a competitive game since that fateful day in Madrid on December 9 but he has the talent to claw his way back; and Vélez, with a young, talented squad and the highly regarded Gabriel Heinze – his former Real Madrid and Argentina team-mate – on the bench, could be the perfect place for him to do so.
“When the chance came I took it in two minutes,” Gago said at his presentation as a Vélez player. “I will try to be there to play, to fight for a place. I will try and help the kids. I need this pre-season and then I’ll talk with the coach to see what I can give the team. I am enjoying myself again, training and part of the team.”
The next year will tell
whether the player will finally be able to shake off his
woes and prove an asset for
his new club. Having taken a
laudable sixth place in the
last Superliga season, there is
certainly optimism around
Liniers and if Vélez can meld
their exciting squad with the
undoubted experience and
class of Gago there is no reason to think they cannot go
even further in 2019-20.