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Juan Riquelme

Real name:
Birthdate: N/A
Status: Single

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1 Senior club appearances and goalscounted for the domestic league only andcorrect as of 12 February 2007.2 National team caps and goals correctas of 11 July 2007.* Appearances (Goals)

In 2002, after seven successful seasons with Boca Juniors, the central midfielder was transferred to FC Barcelona for a reported £10 million. This new stage of his life proved to be a difficult and troubling time. Shortly after his departure from Boca, his brother, Cristian, was kidnapped. Riquelme negotiated for his brother's release and eventually paid the ransom. He has stated before this was one of the reasons why he chose to leave Boca although it has also been noted Riquelme was in dispute with Boca over his contract at the time. His arrival at Barcelona was seen as a failure. Due to the club's struggling fortunes, there was intense pressure on Riquelme to perform well. However, Barca's current coach at the time, Louis van Gaal described Riquelme as a "political signing" and treated him with indifference. When Van Gaal did play him on rare occasions, Riquelme was deployed on the flanks. He was unable to find his form during a period of largely subsitute appearances, losing his place in the first team as well as his confidence. Van Gaal instead chose to use him as a B-team player, standing in during Spanish Cup and Champions League Group stage matches. Here, Riquelme was able to play as a playmaker, and produced some excellent moments, including an almost solo 1-0 win over Anderlecht. However, his general playing form made him redundant, and he was loaned to Villarreal a year later.

During the second leg of the Champions League semi-final match between Villareal and Arsenal, at the 89th minute, Jose Mari won his club a penalty when the referee adjudged Gaël Clichy had obstructed him in the box, but Jens Lehmann saved the penalty, taken by Riquelme that would have taken the match to extra time.

In August 2007, it was reported that Boca had given up hope of re-signing Riquelme. However, a few days later the situation changed, as Boca Juniors director Juan Carlos Crespi expressed confidence in Riquelme's return "within 10 days". The negotiations stalled when Villarreal's offer to give up Riquelme in exchange for €4 millions, Rodrigo Palacio, and half the rights to either Mauro Boselli or Jonathan Maidana was rejected by Boca. It was announced on August 30 that Riquelme has been signed by Atletico Madrid for a fee of €8 million. This transfer however, fell out on the last minute, and Riquelme remains a Villareal player and was awarded the no.16 shirt.

On June 26, 2007, Riquelme was recalled to the national team by coach Alfio Basile as part of the 23-man squad to represent Argentina in the 2007 Copa América. Riquelme illustrated his array of skills by scoring two goals – a header and a free kick – against Colombia in the second match of the Copa's group stage. In the quarter-finals against Peru, Riquelme scored two of Argentina's four goals and assisted Lionel Messi for another goal to lead Argentina into the semifinals with a 4-0 win. He scored his 5th goal of the competition in a penalty during the semifinal clash against Mexico, completing Argentina's 3-0 win.


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