Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Good riddance Maradona: Argentinos Juniors '85 season - Pipita

Argentinos Juniors, 1985 South American Champions - The benefits of Maradona’s departure

Selling Diego Maradona to Boca Juniors in 1981 almost cost Argentinos Juniors immediate relegation. In the very last game of the Metropolitan tournament of that year, Argentinos, second from bottom in the league, faced one of the big five of Argentine football, San Lorenzo, who were just one point above them. This game would therefore settle the second relegation place, and Argentinos were naturally forced to win. A goal scored by Carlos "el loco" Salinas, one of the players received from Boca as part of the Maradona transfer, sealed the relegation of San Lorenzo to division two for the first time in that club’s history.

The fact that Argentinos had received a significant amount of cash and four very useful players from Boca, amongst which Salinas and the classy midfielder Mario Zanabria were the most talented, did not seem to be enough to minimally compensate Diego’s departure. In 1980 Argentinos had enjoyed the best season in the club’s history finishing runners up for the first time ever in the Metropolitan championship, with Maradona scoring more than forty goals during that whole year.

After a pretty grim middle-of-the-table season in 1982, things gradually began to brighten up with the arrival as coach of former River Plate legend Angel Labruna at the beginning of 1983. Having recently enjoyed tremendous success at that club winning six titles during 1975-81, Labruna was brought in to liven up the spirit at Argentinos after Diego’s departure. At a time when the then Argentine national Coach Carlos Bilardo was persistently emphasizing the futility of using wingers, Labruna decided to base his new team’s tactics on a classic 4-3-3 scheme playing two very fast wingers up front.

Former Velez Sarsfield striker Pepe Castro played on the right wing and the relatively unknown Carlos Ereros was purchased from a Mendoza team to play on the left. Centre forward Carlos Pasculli, later to score Argentina’s winning goal against Uruguay in the 86 World Cup, benefited enormously from the speed and accurate crosses of those two wingers. In order to make this attacking minded scheme more effective, Labruna had very wisely decided to "rent" a pitch with much wider dimensions than the Argentinos one. The Nearby Ferro Carril Oeste stadium was considered more suitable for this purpose, and for the next twenty years it would stage Argentinos’s home matches.

Labruna reinforced the rest of the team with a couple of former River veterans, JJ López and Morete, and two other players he had coached at that same club defender Pavoni and the versatile utility midfielder "Nene" Commisso. Mario Olguin, who played full back in Argentina’s 1978 World Cup winning team, provided extra quality to the defense, and a talented but somewhat lazy midfielder also purchased from a Mendoza team, "Panza" Videla, added skill to the team. At the heart of the midfield a key player emerged from the junior ranks: "el checho" Batista, also to become world champion with Argentina in 1986.

By the time of Labruna’s sudden decease in late 1983, the team had already found its momentum. Cesar Menotti’s former assistant coach Marcos Saporiti was named new manager in early 1984, and immediately made it clear that he would not in any way alter the team’s attacking mentality nor would he modify the squad inherited from Labruna. Argentinos went on to win the metropolitan championship of 1984, the club’s first league title, and consequently won the following Nacional tournament. This second championship was achieved after Saporiti had already left and was replaced by new coach "Piojo" Yudica, who stuck to the same players and tactics.

When Argentinos embarked on their first ever Libertadores Cup campaign in 1985, a major change occurred in the forward line: Pasculli left for Italy and the promising and highly talented Carlos “Bichi” Borghi was promoted to replace him. Borghi was not such a “goalscoring machine” as Pasculli, in fact scoring was to be one of his main deficits, but his tremendous skill, sophisticated passing and great understanding with Videla, allowed Castro and Ereros to get into scoring positions more often than before. After eliminating Rio de Janeiro teams Vasco and Fluminense, Argentinos defeated the Libertadores Cup holders Indpendiente in two memorable semi-finals and went on to beat América de Cali in the final on penalties after a third match play-off. The "icing on the cake" for this team was, however, to be a cup final they eventually lost: the Intercontinental Cup game in Tokyo against Juventus.

Borghi’s performance during that encounter was so sublime that Silvio Berlusconi shortly afterwards decided to purchase him for Milan. Argentinos dominated most of the match and Ereros’ and Castro’s goals twice put Argentinos ahead, only for Platini and Laudrup to equalize. After a spectacular two-all draw, Juve won on penalties, but Argentinos captured everyone’s hearts. After all, this modest club had reached the zenith of international football, a feat that somewhat ironically they would probably never have achieved with Maradona.


bluedaddy said...

Hey Pipita. This is a really well written piece. Aside from being interesting and informative (chock full of facts, without being at all dull), it's got a great pace and balance.

I didnt know about any of this. It demonstrates the power of a great coach, and how attacking football can stem just as much from a vision and a purpose, as from having great players. I would say that he Intercontinental Cup is never really taken seriously by most football fans in England; it never really got broadcast until recently even when featuring an English side. Yet to take on the Juve of Platini and Laudrup sounds like a great buzz to me.

BTW what caused Labruna's early demise?

byebyebadman said...

Really enjoyed that Pipita. Always happy to have the considerable gaps in my knowledge of Argentinian football filled in. By the by, should it be Argentinian or Argentine?

It's interesting also that when Barcelona sold Maradona they immediately won the League and then reached the European Cup final.

bluedaddy said...

Are we about to overturn a bona fide legend? Did you know that after Diego left Napoli they won.... aah, maybe not then.

And who is that clinging to the Old Lady's coat tails on the way to Serie A? Maybe I'm interested in Italian football again.

byebyebadman said...

Not at all, just thought it was an interesting comparison. Maradona didn't have the initial burst of success that you would associate with such talent is all I'm saying. He more than made up for that in Naples.

bluedaddy said...

Only joking BBB.

I think one of Diego's special attributes is I cant think of another player who would do what Diego did, merely by going to Napoli. That they achieved what they did under him is for me his defining accolade, more so than 86WC.

Would today's football climate let the best player go outside of the top 10 clubs, even if he wanted to?

pipita said...

Thanks for the kind words bluedad, great to have you back, and byebye. Labruna was a great coach indeed, probably my favorite ever. He reminds me a lot of Matt Busby: all out attacking football, no blackboards or fancy tactics. He fell ill sometime around 83-84 and never recovered.
Both Argentinian and Argentine are okay. The fact that Argentinos won two league trophies in a row and, more amazingly, the Libertadores cup, so shortly after maradona's departure always struck me as well.
Here goes part one of their libertadores campaign. Beware of an own goal scored by former Valencia coach here

pipita said...

Former coach Cuper, that should have read

Ebren said...

Look - this is really starting to annoy me now - CARLOS TEVEZ


I've said it.

If he wins the Prem with West Ham he will have easily replicated Diego at Napoli.

Not saying it's going to happen. But can people please stop acting like a good player going to a middling/slightly shit club is unprecedented/never going to happen again.

And don't make me bring Baggio and Shearer into this. (or Cantona).

ericverschoor said...

Pipita, great and thanks for the heart massage.
A great piece which attains to find a relation between the two greatest actors of Argentine football.
Even thought Labruna is intrinsically related to River (played all his 21 years of First Division there), many people consider him to be the greatest symbol of Argentine Football.
He is the maximum Argentine goalscorer in our football with 292 goals, only surpassed by the Paraguayan Erico (Independiente) who scored 293. That River let him go only 1 goal behind, even if he already was 40 years old, I find a tad unconsiderate. They should have allowed him to stay until the next penalty for River was given.
Despite lacking formal education beyond primary (elementary) school, Labruna possesed a brilliant mind, his unparalelled success as a coach could be taken as a proof of it. There are some fantastically simple quotes of him that portray a unique kind of intellectuality.
"Football is the most difficult game in the world, because you play it with your feet obeying your mind...and look at the distance between them!", is one of my favourites.
There isnt much I can say about Maradona which is not known by fellow bloggers. But his success was mainly oversees, whilst Labruna stayed local.

Thanks again.

ericverschoor said...

As for Argentinos....I was 11 at that time but can clearly remember the semi against Independiente and the Final, which went to a 3rd match in Paraguay agains colombian side America de Cali. The 2nd leg of the final was played in River Plate stadium (75000 at that time) and I remember it was said that the whole La Paternal Neighbourhood (which is smallish and had not many inhabitants) was deserted.

offsideinantibes said...

Muy interesante, Pipita, muchas gracias. The writing and structure are excellent and the amount of information is amazing.

I knew nothing of Argentinos, apart from their name, so you've introduced me to a fascinating slice of football history and a whole bunch of characters. (Yeah, I had heard of that Diego dude, but not the others).

Keep them coming, and with the added information from Marcela, Paulita, and Eric, you will have schooled the Pseuds' crew in the finer details of Argentine football and turned us into specialists.

Màs, por favor.

bluedaddy said...

Ebren, the comparison between the two players in terms of age and stage/progress of their careers is fair (though I would say that Diego's international reputation outweighed Tevez's), and it is fair to compare Napoli and West Ham (you could even say that Napoli in 84 were more Tottenham now than West Ham now). But Diego went FROM Barcelona TO Napoli. In this way I dont see that your comparison stands up.

Shearer? Southampton, then hungry and loaded Blackburn, then Newcastle is a logical enough progression. Was he too chickenshit to go to Man United?

Baggio had similar upward progression then was mismanaged/too lairy, and surely went to Bologna to get some regular football as his late career faltered, rather than stepping down clubwise as he approached his peak as Maradona did.

Tevez is tops, but he gives me the impression that he would leave for the first big club that is allowed to employ him, and given the circumstances of his 'ownership' I cant say that I blame him. I would swap him for Robben in a flash.

But Corinthians (much as they are a big S American club) to West Ham in 2006 (under illegal circumstances and with no obvious player input), is not Barca to Napoli in 1984.

Ebren said...

BD - fair point. But I wasn't saying Tevez was as good (and you are far from the only Blue boy I know who wants him).

But in August all of the Prem, and half of Italy and Spain.

Player of the year in Brazil, after being top player in Argentina, and then starring in the 2006 WC.

Moving to West Ham was a shock on a par with Diego.

I'm not making the comparison too strongly - because everyone knows the new Diego is Messi ;o) - my point is that we shouldn't wander around saying "we'll never see it happen again" - as it could.

Riquelme and Saviola both bailed from Barca to middling teams. Mendieta (and others) to Boro.

The moves still happen (especially if a player is peeved with his or her current club) get a good enough player and the manager and money to use him (as Diego had) then the success could be replicated.

All I'm saying, the past is good - but don't write off the present or future.

guitougoal said...

Great retrospective Pipita, there are other similar precedents in Europe of players contibuting to the success of their chilhood club by leaving for another.
Do you think that football play a more important part of the life of argentines than europeans? The last week game at la bombonera with the fans cheering and singing without a pause added to the intensity of the match. I am looking forward to the second leg.
"El que no salta es frances"

pipita said...

Here's laudrup's equalizer against Argentinos, after a superb pass from the one and only Michel...Couldnt find the other goals

pipita said...

Thanks for the comments
Its fantastic you gave further details of Labruna here. The facts you threw out Re his career at River speak for themselves. May I add that I think he must surely be the only player in the world who has the distinction of getting himself sent off in his own testimonial. Thanks
Gracias compadre!!!!!!Keep sending me that praise and I wont stop with these "blasts from the past" as a certain fellow from Tahiti once said......
Probably, yes, people in these latitudes are even more fanatic about football than in Europe. Their was this pretty sloppy book, in my opinion, by a guy named Tony Mason called "Football in South America. Passion of the people?" That attemted to answer this question, and unfortunately only managed to reach a series of stereotyped and contrived conclusions about the subject.

guitougoal said...

gremio-boca should be shown on canal 13 in buenos aires tomorow-on fox for other countries.

pipita said...

Dearest Guitou...Honestly.....Can you spear me any mention of Bloody Boca-Gremio on this blog please!!!Its a good thing the bosteras marcelita and paulita havent appeared on this here as of yet.
All together now: El que no salta es un Franchute!!!!!!

marcela said...

pipita, my friend, i enjoyed your fantastic history of argentinos very much. so many names that have come to mean so much. AND tactics, positions, and politics... lovely.

full of admiration as i am, i simply Cannot Resist saying this on your thread to you now:

Dale Booooca, Dale Boooooooooooca

paulita said...

I second marcela's words. especially the final ones :)

donde estan los videos de borghi?

guitougoal said...

sorry to mention it again but the good news is: se va a perder bocaaaaa.
El que no salta es el franchute... si no se salta pero se bebe mucho...:)

guitougoal said...

btw, sometimes you have to be careful what you wish for.....marcel, paulita they did appear...and making noise.

pipita said...

La mierda!!!!!!You can say that again.For crying out loud these bosterita chics appeared out of nowhere.... Sincerly hope the gods are listening to your last sentence:)))
Che chicas, this was a coordinated, precision perfect, strategy. Marcelita, grazie mile.
Paulita:))), los goles del bichi los mandé en unas de mis primeras intervenciones en el thread. Fijate

file said...

fantastic Pipita, really brings the history alive with an acute description of a double-edged sword, very interesting thanks

BlueinBetis said...

Not visited for a while, but lo and behold, I return to a fantastic piece by Pipita!

If it begins "Good riddance Maradona" and it's written by an Argentine...


offsideinantibes said...

Welcome back, BettyBlue, I guess you can breathe again now? Did you light a candle to San Luis?

Pobre Pipita, beset on his own thread by hysterical bosteras... tough life.

BlueinBetis said...


Yes, I lit a candle for Luis, Although I think I should be lighting some rockets for all but six of the Betis squad, and ALL of the Directorship/Board/backroom staff. who are basically useless uninformed idiots.

Sad to say, that by the end of the season I almost wanted us to get relegated. A new start in a lower league, I can see the same story unfolding next year with a few different protaganists.

[sad face, pouts]

How is la belle France?

offside said...

France? Boring. Absolutely no fotball on offer.

pipita said...

File, Betisblue
Thanks to the both of you. This is my second Pseuds article with negative connotations on super diego. Ive already received some stick on this matter by a fellow blogging compatriot. Wont reveal who she is, he he
No football on offer?? Gee, that must be tough. Shouldnt you co-ordinate the dates of your visits to France better?? Re the bosteras, your absolutely right, what are things coming to?? BTW Did you get to see that lovely Platini pass against Argentinos?? Its a youtube clip I sent yesterday to this thread

offside said...

Yeah, great pass. And so casual, the body is completely relaxed. Pinpoint precision and perfect weight.

munni said...

"May I add that I think he must surely be the only player in the world who has the distinction of getting himself sent off in his own testimonial."
Story, please?

(really good piece, by the way).

offside said...

I'd like to second Munni's request. Sounds like the guy is proprely offside...

pipita said...

Munni, offy
I knew somebody would ask about this at some point. Actually, must confess I got that information from the Tony Mason book which I referred quite critically to here yesterday. Doesn't appear in the Labruna sites I checked out. Nevertheless, wanted to share with you a particuar photo of his which I simply adore. Check out the colour one here, towards the left jusrt below the main title, where he is wearing a blue jacket and pressing his nose with his thumbs. Thats on his way out of the bombonera, confronting the Boca fans, when he was River coach. Priceless. Long live Angelito

marcela said...

pipita - nice picture!!
good karma from you, man :)

i have to share this with you - my father's visiting - so i asked him for his thoughts on Labruna.

"para mi, los de river no existen". he further suggested i mention to you the idea that basile call labruna... ha, ha!

hysterical? moi??

i liked labruna. i'm more tolerant than my ancestry :)

pipita said...


Ha ha, want can you expect your father to say?? He actually had to suffer Labruna in his playing days scoring all those goals against Boca.....Tell him Basile would no doubt have selected him as both of them are/were famous horse racing freaks

clack said...


That was an excellent article.I knew that Argentinos had won the Libertadores and then played Juventus in the Intercontinental, but it was all just statistics for me until now. You´ve brought it all to life.

Would you agree with me that early 80´s Argentinos Jnrs is one of the most fascinating football stories ever? Has there ever been a greater example of a small club winning so much?

The club is about the size of an English 3rd or 4th division team in terms of ground and crowd. It´s the equivalent of Hartlepool or Darlington winning in the Champions league final and playing in the Intercontinental cup in Tokyo?

marcela said...

i don't know about pipita, clack, but i would definitely agree with you about argentinos being one of the best stories ever. not just what they won, but the amount of players who have come out of there also... an amazing club. partly because of your mate ruben but not just him, i'm sure. there's something more to it i'm sure.
a true 'club de barrio' in the city...

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