One of Argentina’s most talented midfielders Juan Roman Riquelme, who also played for FC Barcelona for a season (2002-03), sat down with fifa.com for an extensive interview. FC Barcelona and its players popped up on many occasions in Riquelme’s insightful and engaging answers. The 33-year-old Boca Juniors player spoke about how his nine-year-old son idolises Messi in the manner similar to how he in his childhood did Maradona. The player who is on a break after leading his club to 2011 Apertura said that he most enjoys seeing the Catalan club play. Special praise was reserved for Andres Iniesta, who was praised for knowing to pick “the right moment to do everything”. Read the complete interview here. Barcelona-related excerpts after the jump.
One of your biggest strengths has been the way you strike the ball so accurately. Was there anyone in particular who you modelled your game on?
I was lucky enough to grow up during the era of (Diego) Maradona’s, who all Argentinians consider the greatest player ever. After watching him play I used to run out onto the street with my mates, get the ball and pretend that I was him. I’d be commentating on myself and saying “Maradona has the ball”, stuff like that. Now that’s what my son’s like with (Lionel) Messi: he starts kicking the ball and saying “Messi’s on the ball”. For people my age, Maradona is the main man. But for younger generations, like my boy, Messi’s their hero.
Is there a team you particularly enjoying watching?
We all like watching Barcelona. They’ve been fortunate enough to bring together a group of players the likes of which will never be seen again in Messi, (Andres) Iniesta, Xavi, (Gerard) Pique… all in the same team at the same time. It’s a stroke of fortune, but they’re a real joy to watch.
How do you beat a team like that, is there any secret formula?
It’s difficult. If you come up against them in a knockout cup tie or over two legs and luck goes your way then you can edge past them. But they’re very unlikely to be beaten in a longer competition, like a league championship. I think the only coach who’s managed to beat this Barcelona team is the guy who’s at Getafe [Luis Garcia], who beat them 1-0 recently and managed a draw with them last season when he was at Levante. That says it all. Barcelona and Real Madrid, though they have different styles, are both way ahead of the rest.
When you watch this Barcelona team, do you wonder what might have been had you signed for them at a different time?
When a team’s playing well and winning they exude a sense of calm and confidence. It’s a pleasure to watch them play. I joined them in a year when there were elections at the club and a lot of internal problems, a lot of anxiety. But now I’m here, where I want to be: Boca are my club and my home. I’m really enjoying where I am right now.
Which are the current players that you most admire?
Messi is the greatest, the best in the world. Cristiano Ronaldo is like the ideal Playstation player, the kind that can score with his right foot and his left. Plus he’s fast, tall, good in the air, scores penalties and free-kicks and is skilful. But the one who plays the game best is Iniesta: he knows exactly when to go forward and when to drop back. If he’s got the ball out on the left he knows who’s out on the right. He picks the right moment to do everything: when to dribble, when to speed things up and when to slow things down. And I think that’s the only thing that can’t be taught or bought. You can learn how to shoot and how to control the ball, but being aware of everything that’s happening out on the pitch – that’s something you’re born with or not.
Iniesta is always fulsome in his praise for you too…
What happened was that I was fortunate enough to join Barcelona when he was in the youth team. He started training with us and I became very fond of him; we used to spend a lot of time together. He made his first-team debut around that time and we’ve got on really well ever since. We’ve always kept in touch.