While Barcelona pondered how to jam yet more silverware into their trophy cabinet, River Plate were counting their losses after Sunday’s Club World Cup final defeat, which emphasised the difference between club football in Europe and the rest of the world.
Success for a big European club tends to breed more success as they cash in on prize money and television rights. Success for a South American side, however, usually sparks a player exodus to bigger, richer clubs and the breakup of a team.
Coach Marcelo Gallardo, who has transformed River since taking over 18 months ago, was already contemplating the departure of Carlos Sanchez and Matias Kranevitter, two of his most influential players, after Sunday’s 3-0 defeat.
Kranevitter was playing his last game for the club before the 23-year-old moves to Atletico Madrid, while Uruguayan Sanchez, the only regular international in River’s team, is bound for Mexico’s Monterrey. “Apart from the sadness and the bitterness for having lost this match, I want to thank the players for their great efforts this year,” Gallardo said. “The match was almost the end of an era, because there are players who are leaving. It was the cherry on the cake and we deserved to get here, but we weren’t at our best in football terms and that makes me a little upset.”
According to a report by the Swiss-based CIES Football Observatory in October, 929 Argentines currently play professional football abroad, more than any other country apart from Brazil.
Barcelona fielded six South Americans, all of them accomplished internationals, on Sunday, including Javier Mascherano, who began his career at River.
The stellar cast helped Barcelona to yet another title on Sunday, by coach Luis Enrique’s count their fifth in the six competitions they were involved in this year, the only failure being the Spanish Supercup loss to Athletic Bilbao.
While most countries do not look beyond domestic league and cup competitions and European campaigns, Spain adds one-off matches to the tally. Spanish sports daily As concluded Barcelona had won 26 trophies in the last decade: four Champions Leagues, three world clubs, three European Supercups, seven La Liga titles, three Spanish Cups and six Spanish Supercups. Goalkeeper Claudio Bravo, who was in Chile’s Copa America-winning team, had won six titles in 2015, which it said was an unique achievement. Lionel Messi and Andres Iniesta featured in all 26 of the titles. “I hope we can win more of them,” Messi said. “We are very happy to be in such a big club. We have many dreams and we want to battle for everything, as in every other year.”
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