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 Posted by ESPN Staff
Feb 9, 2007

Villarreal agree to loan Riquelme to Boca

MADRID, Feb 9 (Reuters) - Villarreal have agreed to loan Argentine playmaker Juan Roman Riquelme to his former club Boca Juniors until the end of the season, the Primera Liga side said on Friday.

Spanish media reported that the midfielder would receive $2 million to play for Boca in the Clausura championship, which starts this weekend, and the Libertadores Cup.

Boca president Mauricio Macri told reporters on Thursday: 'To find anyone better than him you have to go way back in the history of the club. Boca is his home.'

Riquelme has been sidelined by Villarreal coach Manuel Pellegrini since the start of the year because the club has been unhappy with his level of commitment despite being given privileges not enjoyed by other squad members.

He made his last appearance for Villarreal in a 4-1 defeat by Osasuna on Dec. 17, while the club's new Chilean midfielder Matias Fernandez has taken his place in the starting line-up.

The 28-year-old is one of the Primera Liga's most talented players and helped lead Villarreal to the semi-finals of the Champions League last season but he struggled to recover after missing a last gasp penalty in their defeat against Arsenal.

He played an instrumental role in steering Boca to a host of trophies between 1996 and 2002, winning three league titles and two Libertadores Cups.

A masterful display in Boca's victory over Real Madrid in the World Club Cup in 2000 helped persuade Barcelona to buy the Argentine for 11 million euros ($14.28 million) in 2002, but he never won a regular place in the first team.

He was loaned out to Villarreal the following season when Barca signed Ronaldinho and there the team was effectively built around his elegant, unhurried playmaking skills.

An introverted and softly-spoken character, he retired from international football last September after winning 37 caps, saying that criticisms of his performances in the 2006 World Cup in Germany had affected his mother's health.