From Russia with love (and a lot of money!)


I was playing mysterious here. I was telling you I had some big news coming regarding Argentina and it’s time for me to deliver and finally give you this information.

You all remember that friendly match we played against Angola (May 31st in Salerno, Italy). You all know we won with Maxi RODRIGUEZ and Juan Pablo SORIN scoring our goals in a 2-0 result.

But what none of us knew back then was that it was going to become the most important Argentina friendly match of all times!
Why? Because amongst the crowd there were a few men that were ready to sing a contract that is going to determine the future of our national team during the next four years.

Viktor Feliksovich VEKSELBERG is the third wealthiest man in Russia (behind Mikhail KHODORKOVSKY and Chelsea’s owner Roman ABRAMOVICH). He owns a number of companies related to the steel production and oil refinery in Russia and recently he bought a Gustav KLIMT’s painting for a record fee of 107 million euros (beating the record fee ever paid for a painting –a Picasso one-).

Guillermo TOFONI (picture here to the left of FIFA President, Sepp Blatter) is a former Argentinos Juniors’ youth team goalkeeper and the only FIFA agent born in Argentina legally allowed to organise international friendly matches. ( They have an English version on their website)

Julio GRONDONA is the president of the AFA (Argentine Football Association) and one of FIFA’s vice-presidents. He is in charge of the AFA since 1978 and he plans to continue at the helm.

The three of them were watching PEKERMAN’s team defeating Angola but at the same time were finalising the details of this incredible contract that was signed soon after that night.

What is this all about?

VEKSELBERG’s company –Gulgong- (teamed-up with TOFONI’s company –World Eleven-) has bought the rights to organise and distribute the broadcasting of 24 friendly matches that Argentina must play between the recent World Cup and the 1st of August, 2011.

For that privilege, the Russian millionaire will pay a total of 18 million dollars. Nine of them were already paid and the rest will be effective in amounts of 350.000 per game (half before each match and the other half hours after each friendly).

Not only that. There is a clause in this contract that forces the AFA (or the manager that will be in charge of the National Team) to field at least 7 players out of the list that was handed out by VEKSELBERG and TOFONI to GRONDONA.

They created the list before the World Cup and it includes the 23 players that made it to Germany 2006, plus 7 other raising stars.

It was a way that the Russians found to avoid organising a friendly match and realising just before the game that there were no prime-time players taking part of it. By including this clause, they guarantee at least 7 big names.

The 30 players are the following:

German LUX (River Plate – Goalkeeper)
Roberto AYALA
Juan Pablo SORIN
Gabriel HEINZE
Gabriel MILITO
Leandro CUFRE
Hernan PELLERANO (Velez Sarsfield – Defender)
Fernando GAGO (Boca Juniors – Midfielder)
Fernando BELLUSCHI (River Plate – Midfielder)
Federico INSUA (Recently bought by Borussia Dortmund, Germany)
Leandro SOMOZA (Velez Sarsfield – Midfielder)
Martin DEMICHELIS (Bayern Munich – Midfielder)
Carlos TEVEZ
Lionel MESSI
Julio CRUZ

You may be wondering…WHAT ABOUT KUN AGÜERO? Well…they thought about it and they decided to leave him out of the list because they presume that KUN will be called up by whoever becomes Argentina’s manager. So they left KUN out of the list to pick another of the players they want to see and give him the chance to be included in the squad.

It sounds incredible and I’ve got two ways of reading this whole thing about this contract.

On one hand, we all know about the struggling economy of Argentina and its football is not something different. This rich contract and all the money coming in will help the clubs and the AFA to survive and invest a little bit more in the infrastructure and the youth systems.

Argentina will play more often and its ‘brand’ will become more popular. The team will become more competitive as all of our players will be used to face International opposition (not only South American). The Russians will manage the broadcasting rights and Argentina could benefit from that because the Albiceleste will reach millions and millions of new homes and more supporters will join us.

But on the other hand, this contract seems to force the new manager to pick the names that are included in a list. That won’t give the manager a total freedom and will probably create a bad atmosphere around the team. I can already see that if one of the players included in the list has a bad game, he’ll be criticised and people will start saying that he shouldn’t have been in the list in the first place. I know it’s silly, but it’ll happen. Take my word on that.

We’re going to have to wait and see if this contract proves to be beneficial or disruptive.

There are a lot of rumours around the AFA stating that PEKERMAN is actually leaving because he does not want to be conditioned by an investor designing who should play or not.

I don’t know how much those rumours are true, but it make sense if they are.

True rumours or not, the official word is that the first friendly will be against South Africa and will take place somewhere in Africa (still to be determined) the 16th of August (yes, in a month!). Then on November 15th, we’ll play against Turkey at Dortmund, Germany. They want to make the most out of the great number of Turkish leaving in that area to guarantee a sold out. Plus with Federico INSUA now playing for Borussia Dortmund, some of their fans will be attracted by him and will also attend to that match.

Here are some other aspects covered by the contract:

The Russians will take care of the travel and accommodation of the players and
the staff before each match. They will pay for 35 plane tickets and 4
daily meals.

They will give the AFA 100 VIP tickets to distribute
at will (protocol, fans’ contest to win the ticket as a prize, sponsors,

After each game, there’ll be 2 players attending the
press conference. One will be chosen by the AFA and the other by the

Out of the 24 friendly matches contemplated in the
contract, 10 should be category ‘A’ (as FIFA determines each friendly depending
on FIFA Ranking or simply the status of both teams), 7 should be ‘B’ rivals and
7 ‘C’.

Are you happy with this ‘Magical Mystery Argentour’?