The enigmatic and enormously gifted Juan Roman Riquelme retired from football earlier this year, and whilst his on-field craft and guile will be missed by fans around the world, they’ll endure long in the memory.
As well as leaving a vast array of unique skill and trickery to admire and attempt, the former Argentina, Boca Juniors and Villarreal star also left us with some wonderfully beautiful words ‘on the record’ to recall and recite.
Here’s 10 (naturally) of the best…
I love Boca. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be working here for free. I’m the only idiot who works for free, so I don’t think anyone can come and lecture me about my responsibilities.
In 2009, on his unique contract with the club, which saw him play unpaid for 12 months.
My father never thinks I play well! With him there’s always something wrong. Even if the press say I had a good game, he’ll come along and remind of all the passes I misplaced. He always has high expectations of me, but I think that’s good. It stops me resting on my laurels.
On his relationship with his father.
I’ve always said that Yepes comes out of that move better than I do. It’s a clásico, we’re 3-0 up and then I go and do that. Any other player would have booted me but he tracked me all the way to the corner and didn’t do anything. I think that’s more manly than pulling off a nutmeg in a game like that.
On Colombian defender Mario Yepes, the victim of an outrageous Riquelme nutmeg when Boca Juniors met River Plate in the Copa Libertadores quarter-final in 2000.
I always say football is my job from Monday to Saturday. On Sundays I can’t call it a job because playing the match is the most lovely thing for a player.
In answer to why he discounts Sunday – a match-day – as a working day.
Van Gaal told me I was the best in the world when we had the ball and when we didn’t it was like playing with a man less. He explained to me that he hadn’t been convinced about signing me, but I learnt a lot, his training sessions were marvellous.
Speaking on his difficult Barcelona days when Louis van Gaal was his coach.
I’m over 30 and I didn’t need a coach. There was nothing Falcioni could teach me. What was he going to show me? How to keep goal?
On former Boca Juniors coach Julio Falcioni, after leaving the club.
Everyone feels the game in their own different way. People say I never smile when I play but I’ve never seen [Zinedine] Zidane laugh, whether he’s winning or losing, and he’s the greatest there’s been for the last 10 years.
In 2006, on his character on the pitch and confirming who he feels was ‘the greatest’ during that time.
The one who plays this game the best is Iniesta: he knows exactly when to go forward and when to drop back. 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 either born with or you’re not.
Riquelme in an interview with FIFA.com on his admiration for the way Andres Iniesta plays the game.
The ball has given me everything. Just like little girls love dolls, the best toy I’ve ever had, or could ever have, is a football. The person who invented it is a true hero: nobody can top that.
On his special relationship the ball.
I’m quitting now. I love this club, I love the fans and I’ll always be grateful because I am, and will always be, a Boca fan. I feel empty now though.
Bidding a final farewell to Boca Juniors after their defeat to Corinthians in the Copa Libertadores 2012 final.