It's been all Argentina, all the time this week. Messi, Gabriel Milito, Maxi Lopez and Saviola.
First off goooooooooooooooooool Messi (about two minutes in, it's a highlight reel of all the gols, Heinze's is worth watching too for Riquelme's great free kick) against Mexico in the semi-final of the Copa America. Being as it was on at like two in the morning I didn't catch it live (in fact the only Copa game I've seen thus far was Argentina-Peru last Sunday night) but saw it on Sky News first thing and was suitably awestruck. The more I see of Messi; his touch, his dribbling, his speed and his determination (he made a wonderful sliding tackle on Pizarro on the halfway line that exemplified his style of play) the more I think he's the best player the blaugrana have produced since Carles Rexach or even Josep Fusté. The last time I was this excited about a futbol player was watching a young Roberto Baggio at Italia '90 when I was eleven.
Altas y bajas
After much ado about Christian Chivu, (who has decided to stay at AS Roma for the final year of his contract) Barça signed Gaby Milito from Saragossa for around €20 million. He's signed a four year deal with the blaugrana and will wear the number 3 shirt recently vacated by the still homeless Thiago Motta (who no-one seems interested in, Saragossa refusing to make him part of the Milito deal). Milito is a fantastic defender (though he did make one appalling slip against Peru that suggests he'll be right at home alongside Marquez and Thuram) and a real addition to the club, especially with Carles Puyol injured. Milito has played over 130 games for Saragossa since he failed a medical for Real Madrid in 2003 (indeed their failure to sign him coupled with Fernando Hierro being shoved out the door left a massive hole in their defense that went unfilled until the signing of Fabio Cannavaro last season).
In the out tray are Maxi (set to join Sporting Lisbon on loan) and Saviola, who today signed for Real Madrid.
Let's get Maxi out of the way first because I have a lot to say about Javier. Looking at the ins-and-outs at Sporting thus far this summer they seem to have lost half their team, principally Ricardo to Betis and Nani to Manchester United plus a host of others. João Moutinho is about the only top class player left at the club and while they are in the Champions League it's hard to see them making it out of the group stages. How Maxi will do is difficult to say, he hardly set La Liga alight at Mallorca last season and his blaugrana career went downhill after he scored that gol against Chelsea on his debut. I can't see him wearing the blaugrana shirt again though. Either he does well at Sporting and they buy him or he'll be loaned out ala Saviola until his contract expires and they can get shot of him. Which brings us nicely on to...
I have to say I felt more than a little sad today seeing Saviola as a madridista. Shortly after watching his presentation this was replaced with anger when I read Barça vice-president Ferran Soriano's comments (en espanyol) about The Rabbit. His remark that the two most successful years of the Rijkaard era came when Saviola was out on loan were quite unbelievable. Where the fuck does he get off bad mouthing Javier, a player who never once moaned or complained in his six years at the Camp Nou and who, in his first three years, gave his all for Mes Que un Club while most of the team had their feet up and couldn't be bothered. Barcelona are frequently given to a holier-than-thou attitude and shit like this galls me. How dare Soriano say that about Saviola, taking a dig at both his character and ability. Fuck him and fuck FCB. Força Saviola. I wish him all the best at Real (where he'll have a fight on his hands to line-up alongside Ruud, having to get past Robinho and Raul, though he's much better than anyone else they have; Higuain, Soldado (who had a good season on loan at Osasuna and only last week signed a new contract) and Baptista, plus he seems to have to full confidence of the new coach Bernd Schuster, something he never had at Barça.
And on that bitter note I'm out. Copa America final on Sunday. I can't wait.