Riquelme was worth the risk, crows Basile

November 18, 2007

RIO DE JANEIRO, Nov 18 (Reuters) - Argentina coach Alfio Basile admitted that he had risked his reputation when he decided to persist with Juan Roman Riquelme as his playmaker, despite the player's inactivity at club level.

Riquelme has not played at all for Villarreal this season after falling out with coach Manuel Pellegrini, yet has produced three inspired performances for Argentina in the World Cup qualifiers.

On Saturday, he scored two stylish goals in the 3-0 win over Bolivia, adding to the two free kicks he converted in their opening 2-0 win over Chile last month and the goal he set up in a 2-0 win in Venezuela.

'I'm full of pride and happiness to have a player such as him in the team,' Basile told reporters after the Bolivia game. 'The goals he scored were extraordinary.

'I've put a lot on the line by picking him. The knives were out for me because he wasn't playing with his club...but that's life.

'I think he's the only player who can play for his national team even when he's not playing for his club.'

Riquelme had a lethargic first half against Bolivia but came to life after the break.

The mercurial playmaker signalled his intentions with a 25-metre free kick which was tipped away by goalkeeper Carlos Arias in the 51st minute.

Six minutes later, Riquelme took another free kick from a similar position and this time left Arias helpless as he found the top left-hand corner from 30 metres.

He followed that up with a stylish sidefooted goal from Lionel Messi's run in the 74th minute.

His performance will increase pressure on Villarreal to find a solution which will allow him to play at club level.

On Sunday, Argentine media reported that Boca Juniors, the club where he was raised and where he spent the first half of this year on loan, were attempting to strike a new deal with the Spanish side.

Riquelme scored eight goals for Boca as they won this year's South American Libertadores Cup and the Buenos Aires club are reportedly hoping they can sign him back in time for next month's club world championship in Japan.