They Said It

They said it: Juan Roman Riquelme

Argentinian Boca Juniors' Juan Roman Riquelme gestures
© Getty Images

Juan Roman Riquelme always attracts his fair share of attention, no matter whether he is playing the game or talking about it. Even at the age of 34, the Argentinian sorcerer has continued to shine on the pitch, serving up assists and scoring goals aplenty in Boca Juniors’ run to the Copa Libertadores final earlier this year.

Now unattached after deciding to leave Los Xeneizes, the straight-talking Riquelme is also known for his gift for a quotable quip whenever a microphone is near, as reveals with this collection of his most memorable observations on life and football.

“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 ten years.”
In 2006, on his character on the pitch

“The day I stop enjoying playing football is the day I go and have tea with my mum.”
On the pleasure he gets from the game

“Bianchi is the greatest, but he should settle for what he’s already won and never coach Boca again. He’s the best there is and the club should put up a statue of him, but he should stay at home and play with his grandchildren.
A piece of advice for Carlos Bianchi, the most successful coach in the history of Boca Juniors and forever tipped to return to the job one day*

“I didn’t kill anyone. All I did was miss a penalty.”
On missing from the spot in Villarreal’s UEFA Champions League semi-final defeat by Arsenal in 2006

“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

“I’ve decided that I’m not going to play for the national team any more. I didn’t have to give it much thought. The fact that I had to take my mum’s health into consideration made it a pretty easy decision to take. There have been a couple of times when the criticism I’ve had between the World Cup and now has gone too far. There’s a lot of bad blood and it’s my duty to look after her. I love my old dear like mad. Who am I to make her suffer?”
On quitting international football at his mother’s request, after Argentina’s exit from Germany 2006

“I found out I wasn’t selected for the friendly in France by listening to Carlos Bilardo on the radio. I only heard today that they tried to contact me. I’ve got my way of doing things and it’s not the same as the coach’s. There’s no doubt in my mind that we can’t work together and I’d rather give my place to someone else.”
*On ending his international career yet again in 2009, citing differences with the then Argentina coach Diego Maradona *

“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, in an interview with

“There wasn’t anything on it. It was all about delaying the kicks that bit longer and making our penalty-takers think he knew where they were going to shoot. I remember that [Esteban] Cambiasso struck his kick at medium height, which he’d never done in training. But Lehmann still guessed right, which doesn’t add up. If you ask me, the piece of paper had nothing on it, but in any case he did a good job. He was very sharp in the way he tried to put our players off.”
Riquelme gives his version of the quarter-final penalty shootout with the host nation at Germany 2006, in which Germany keeper Jens Lehmann repeatedly consulted a piece of paper supposedly detailing how Argentina’s players liked to take their spot-kicks.

“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 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.”
On Andres Iniesta, in an interview with

“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.”
Riquelme bids a final farewell to Boca Juniors after their defeat to Corinthians in the Copa Libertadores 2012 final

“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 Boca coach Julio Falcioni, after leaving the club *

“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 Mario Yepes, the victim of an outrageous Riquelme nutmeg when Boca met River Plate in a Copa Libertadores quarter-final tie in 2000

“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, in an interview with

Explore this topic

Recommended Stories