Boca Juniors legend Juan Román Riquelme has confirmed he will compete for the club’s presidential candidacy on the ‘Soy bostero’ list in the upcoming Xeneize elections, setting up a spicy showdown with former president Mauricio Macri.
Riquelme, 45 and Boca’s current vice-president, confirmed he will seek the club’s presidency just days after Macri confirmed he would join a rival opposition ticket headed by Andrés Ibarra, a close ally and former official in his 2015-2019 government.
The news sets up a mouthwatering showdown between Riquelme and Macri for control of the iconic club. While the retired playmaker is already exerting a large influence over the club, the former president has not been involved officially with Boca since 2007.
Ibarra, a former modernisation minister under Macri and ex-general manager of the club, will head the opposition list.
Macri led the Xeneize for 12 years between 1995 and 2007, leading the side through a glorious period that saw Boca win 16 titles, including four Copas Libertadores and two Inter-Continental Cups. At one point, the side was even ranked at the top club side in the world by FIFA.
The rivalry between Riquelme and Macri is well-known, as is the proximity of the former Boca star to ruling coalition presidential candidate Sergio Massa. Thus there are significant parallels between the club and national elections, in which the economy minister is taking on La Libertad Avanza candidate Javier Milei, who enjoys the ex-president’s support.
In Riquelme’s farewell match last June, Massa made clear their friendship in a message: "Today you say farewell to the pitch, I know you would have liked to have done so long ago. For many people you are the number 10, you are God, but you continue to be the Román of Don Torcuato. Happy for you, pal."
Riquelme on politics
Regarding next Sunday’s run-off, Riquelme has assured that his vote is defined: "I enjoy having to vote for our country. I always dream of things being better. I don’t understand much of politics but every time I have to vote, I do so happily," he said in an interview with Radio 10 last week.
With respect to the club elections and the possibility of Macri returning to the Xeneize helm, he expressed: "Everybody should turn out on December 2 and enjoy themselves, it should be a big party. They must vote to defend our club. The choice for the fans will be very simple: Do we want to continue being a football club or be politically used?"
Riquelme pointed out that in 2019, Macri’s ally and so-called ‘judicial operator’ Daniel Angelici "handed over the club with debt."
"They sold the club as a marvel but they handed it over in debt. They’re perfectionists in sweeping things under the carpet," he underlined.
Last April he had already warned about the possibility of "bad people" returning to the club.
"I’m asking the fans to use their memory rather than let their heads be filled by bad people who want the club as a political football. I don’t know who this Ibarra is," the Xeneize idol commented ironically.
Macri has repeatedly voiced his dissatisfaction with the current administration headed by Jorge Amor Ameal and the ex-player.
"That form of bullying, arbitrary and authoritarian leadership is no good. Boca has been transformed into a personality cult by somebody whom I twice brought into the club," said Macri, training his fire directly on Riquelme.
"I recognise him as an incredible player and I was honoured to bring him in from Argentinos Juniors and then back from Villarreal and when we won that [Copa] Libertadore – it was his finest hour," he said.
Macri warned though that "being a good football player does not make you a good manager" and said he deplored the "mistreatment" which, in his opinion, "is being suffered by Boca club members."
Last week, tens of local football clubs issued coordinated statements speaking out against any attempt to privatise them.
Macri, for one, is known to be in favour of allowing clubs to be taken over as limited companies. The proposal has also been discussed by libertarian presidential candidate Javier Milei and there are fears among local football leaders that he would move to do so if elected in this Sunday’s run-off.