When Argentina is mentioned in a conversation, attention turns to the Argentine players that have lit up the world with incredible talent over the years. Alfredo Di Stefano played for Real Madrid in the 50’s and 60’s, Diego Maradona for Napoli in the 1980’s, and Lionel Messi is currently breaking record after record in the historic colours of Barcelona.
Argentina’s footballing history is rich in wonderfully gifted players, and of course, two World Cups. But very little time, if any, is given to the Argentine domestic league, the Primera Division. Founded in 1891, it was the first football league created outside the British Isles, and has undergone a number of format changes since its birth.
The current format of the division is contested between 20 teams, with two nineteen game titles over the season. The first title (Inicial) is played between August and December, with the second (Final) contested between February and May, totally 38 games in all. Once both titles have been completed, the winners of the Inicial and the Final go head to head in a Championship final to determine who the overall champion is.
The two most popular clubs in Argentina are Boca Juniors and River Plate. Matches between the two are fierce, and the heated rivalry has been named the ‘Superclasico’. Neither club, however, have continuously dominated the country’s league since it began. In Argentina, clubs tend to go through periods of strong league finishes, and maybe a title or two, before they slip off the pace.
For a period of time, the national league format allowed for two title winners every season, and this gave different clubs the chance of winning silverware. Since 2008 for example, the likes of Boca Juniors, Vélez Sársfield, Banfield, Argentinos Juniors, Estudiantes, and Arsenal di Sarandi have all won either the Apertura or the Clausura title (the names of the titles at the time before the current format was devised in 2012). The two most coveted clubs in Argentinian football are Boca and River Plate, but despite their successful pasts, many clubs in the modern day are threatening their crowns.
Current Barcelona boss Gerardo Martino was replaced at Newell’s Old Boys by Alfredo Berti in 2013 after Martino guided the club to the 2013 Championship Final, only to lose to Velez. Berti is aiming to emulate the success that Martino brought to the city of Rosario. Newell’s currently sit 3rd in the Inicial with one game of the nineteen to play.
Boca Juniors legend Martin Palermo is currently in charge at 11th placed outfit Godoy Cruz. The former striker has been in charge for just over a year, taking over in November 2012. After guiding the team to 14th in last season’s Inicial, Palermo exceeded expectations and achieved a strong 7th place in the Final league.
Former Liverpool, Barcelona, and Valencia defender Mauricio Pellegrino is the man at the Estudiantes helm. After winning the 2010 Apertura title, Estudiantes have spent most of their time in mid-table, but Pellegrino will be hoping to improve Estudiantes’ fortune in the near future after taking over in April 2013.
Argentina’s Current Crop
Arguably, the most exciting talent in Argentina at the moment is Racing Club’s Luciano Vietto. The 19 year old has been under the radar of Europe’s giants, such as Real Madrid, Liverpool, and Juventus. The pacey striker notched eight goals in the Final stage of the domestic league, adding to the five he scored in the first half of the season.
Boca Juniors have produced some of Argentina’s brightest young players, and they may have produced another in the shape of Leandro Paredes. The playmaker has made twenty eight league appearances for Boca, and had a decent run in the side during the 12/13 season, making twenty appearances and scoring four goals.
Finally, Agustin Allione is Velez’s brightest talent and is playing a vital part in their 2013 Inicial title push. The fast and technical 19 year old is hot property and is reportedly being tracked by Man City and Barcelona. Allione has made thirteen starts in Velez’s 18 Inicial games, but could attract more suitors if he continues to live up to his potential ability.
Premier League fans might remember…
Ex-Manchester United defender Gabriel Heinze is currently on the books of Newell’s Old Boys alongside Maxi Rodriguez, the former Liverpool midfielder. Heinze, now 35, left United in 2007 for Real Madrid, and then moved on to Marseille in 2009. He moved to Newell’s in 2012 after a season at Roma. Rodriguez spent two years at Liverpool between 2010 and 2012 before heading back to Argentina to play for the club he began his career with.
Juan Sebastian Veron is currently playing for the same club he began his career with back in 1994, Estudiantes. Veron had spells at Boca, Sampdoria, Parma, and Lazio, before moving to Manchester United for £28.1m in 2001, a Premier League record at the time. Two years later, he made his way to Stamford Bridge in a deal worth £15m, but only made seven appearances in four seasons at the club. Veron’s transfer to United is regarded as one of the worst in Premier League history.