Football

Published on July 23rd, 2017 | by Peter Coates

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Ricardo Centurion – Boca gamble on gangsta Gladiator

Ricardo Centurion, a player who himself admits is difficult to trust, has got his dream move to Boca Juniors after flirting with Serie A

When Ricardo Centurion said, “If I don’t get a transfer to Boca, I’ll retire,” unlike with the empty rhetoric most footballers utter, there was a genuine sense that the ludicrously talented but equally unhinged star could be telling the truth.

Nothing is confirmed yet but after 48 hours in Italy and a successful medical, Centurion is traveling back to Buenos Aires to close a last-minute transfer to Boca from under the nose of Serie A club Genoa.

The soap opera style transfer that has gone back and forth since the end of the Argentinian football season is a fitting episode in the life of a player whose self-destructive streak has undoubtedly held him back from achieving far more.

As part of Racing Club’s exciting group of academy products, Centurion should probably be something of a recognizable name in Europe by now but while former teammates Luciano Vietto and Rodrigo de Paul have been playing on that big stage for a couple of years now, Ricky remains in Argentina (albeit barring a brief loan spell at Genoa in 2013).

The Rossoblu were the last club to take a gamble on the young tearaway with that loan and were it not for Boca’s late intervention on Friday, everything was agreed for a second bite at the apple.

Brazilian club Sao Paulo had accepted the bid, Racing Club, who still had a 30% stake were taken care of and Centurion was in Italy but after a superb season at La Bombonera, Guillermo Barros Schelotto had made his gifted loanee a priority. Boca swooped and with Sao Paulo satisfied with $3.5 million and Racing potentially getting $1.5 million plus the loan of striker Walter Bou, Centurion didn’t need to be asked twice regarding his preference.

The 24-year-old was immediately back on a plane bound for Argentina and his dream move to Boca on a permanent deal should be completed without any further hitch.

Boca and anyone who has watched Argentinian football since Centurion made his Racing debut in 2012 knows exactly what they are getting in the deal but as Barros Schelotto’s side lifted the title last term, the skilled wide-man gave a clear message to his critics, who had questioned after that failed loan spell in Italy and an underwhelming time in Brazil, whether Ricky was still living off his reputation as a teenager.

During the first half of the season when clearly the side was built around Carlos Tevez, Centurion was more of a peripheral figure but after one iconic number ten left for China, Boca supporters were given another as Ricky ably stepped up to fill the famous shirt.

Electrifying pace and a bag of tricks that Paul Daniels would have been proud of, Centurion was often the go-to man for Guillermo Barros Schelotto’s side and while Dario Benedetto provided the much needed ruthlessness in front of goal, it was Centu’s speed and creativity that created the danger on the counter.

For a player in his early twenties to have had that impact on the Primera Division and be rumoured to be under the watchful eye of Jorge Sampaoli, you would expect no shortage of European suitors but for all the positives, Centurion comes with baggage. A point not lost on the player himself when he told Argentine newspaper Clarin, “I am surprised that the fans, my teammates and the coach trust me.”

From the scandal of posing with a gun while at Racing Club (something which he did again on holiday this summer) to fleeing the scene after a drunken car crash shortly after signing for Boca and all the little misdemeanors in between, Centurion has never quite shaken his kid from the villa tag.

Growing up in one of Buenos Aires’ most under-privileged areas, much like Tevez, and staying close to those roots is perhaps one of the reasons supporters are endeared to him even more but when he is arrested in his old neighbourhood with a member of Racing’s barra brava, there are rightly questions asked as to whether the 24-year-old really wants to make it as a professional footballer.

Many clubs are hesitant but Guillermo Barros Schelotto seems more than willing to take the risk, in the knowledge that if Centurion can keep on the straight and narrow, Boca have one hell of an asset. With the likes of Edwin Cardona further strengthening the squad and as it stands Benedetto and Pavon staying put, Los Xeneizes are building a formidable side with Ricky the latest piece.

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About the Author

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Peter is a British football writer living in Buenos Aires, who specialises on Argentine football. His passion for the game in South America took him to Argentina in 2011 and aside from starting his own site 'Golazo Argentino', he has covered the national side for The Independent and acts as WhoScored's expert on the Primera División.



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