Argentina fears Brazilian dominance in football will increase

Corinthians eliminated Boca Juniors in this season's Libertadores (Photo: JUAN MABROMATA/AFP via Getty Images)

Corinthians eliminated Boca Juniors in this season’s Libertadores (Photo: JUAN MABROMATA/AFP via Getty Images)

Much of the Argentine press and Boca Juniors fans were sure: if Arturo Vidal were to play for a South American club, it would be La Bombonera. He had already signaled this in the past and his faith in the mystique of the blue and gold shirt was unshakable.

But when it came time to decide, the Chilean midfielder chose Flamengo.

“It is impossible for any Argentine team to compete financially with the Brazilians”, conceded the president Jorge Ameal, in the face of Vidal’s decision and the approximately US$ 5 million per year in salaries offered by Rubro-Negro.

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The economic and technical differences between teams from the two countries have become a concern in Argentina. Mainly due to the perception that Brazilians are at the forefront in terms of management and results.

“If it continues like this, it is an abyss that will deepen. Something needs to be done,” complains defender Oscar Ruggeri, the 1986 world champion and now an ESPN commentator.

There is a real possibility that the Libertadores final will be exclusive to Brazilian teams for the third consecutive year. At least one Argentine presence is guaranteed in the semifinals because Talleres and Vélez Sarsfield will face each other in the quarterfinals. There is also Estudiantes, Fortaleza’s rival. The other four still alive are Palmeiras, Atlético-MG, Flamengo and Corinthians.

If the Brazilian decision happens, it will be the first time that two clubs from the same nation make the final for three years in a row: in 2020 Palmeiras beat Santos and, in the following season, they beat Flamengo.

“It’s a cyclical issue too. Look at the mess that River Plate got to buy Borja. The deal almost went wrong because there was no way to transfer the dollars”, recalls coach Ricardo Caruso Lombardi, who has worked at San Lorenzo, Racing and Argentinos Juniors, among others.

He refers to the saga of the Buenos Aires club to be able to use Argentine pesos to pay US$ 6.5 million to Junior de Barranquilla and Palmeiras. There was a restriction by the Central Bank of the country to buy and sell the American currency because of the financial crisis.

The green-yellow dominance could extend to the Copa Sudamericana as well. There are no Argentines in the quarterfinals, but there are four Brazilians (São Paulo, Ceará, Atlético-GO and Internacional). Last year, the decision was disputed between Athletico and Red Bull Bragantino.

The problem is with the economy, of course. The salary of any Serie A club is higher than those paid by Argentine teams, except for Boca and River, depending on the situation.

“Whether in the coach or player market, competition is impossible. Brazil has become a very strong attraction, something that draws the attention of other countries. In economic and technical matters, it is a very strong football”, says coach Omar De Felippe, currently at Platense, of the Argentine elite.

The highest salary in national football is that of striker Darío Benedetto, from Boca Juniors, repatriated from France to receive 3.1 million euros a year (R$ 17.7 million). The value is an exception. According to Futbolistas Agremiados, the category’s union, the average salary of first division players is around R$30,000 per month.

But to boil it down to a financial issue is to have a narrow view of what happens.

“It is also a structural issue. Brazil has become accustomed to a system of consecutive points, shift and return, with accesses and descents. It’s something established In Argentina, each year works in a different way. The national championship is bloated, takes a long time and is confusing. The second division formula takes a scientist to decipher. It’s all confusing”, complains Nicolás Cambiasso, former goalkeeper, TV commentator and now president of the All Boys, the team that revealed Jonathan Calleri, now at São Paulo.

The elite has 28 teams. Since the beginning of the pandemic, there have been no relegations, only accesses. This inflated the two main divisions. The Primera Nacional, called Segundona, is played with 37 clubs. The support base of Claudio Tapia, president of the AFA (Argentine Football Association) is in the associations of smaller tournaments.

If the corporation system succeeds in Brazil, the economic gap could grow. This is a taboo topic in Argentina and most managers consider it absurd for the club to have an owner.

“For me, that cannot happen. The team belongs to the members, the fans. As far as it depends on me, that will never change”, defends Rodolfo D’Onofrio, former president of River Plate.

Even with the fear that Brazilian dominance in continental competitions will deepen and the country will become increasingly attractive to Argentine players, his view is that club-company is not the way to go.

This does not prevent it from happening in a veiled way and empowering entrepreneurs like Christian Bragarnik. With his players, he divided teams like Defensa y Justicia and Godoy Cruz. Carlos Tevez only accepted to be coach of Rosario Central because the agent said he would bring reinforcements to the team.

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