Where Would Boca Juniors Finish in the English Premier League?

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Where Would Boca Juniors Finish in the English Premier League?
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The question of how Boca Juniors, arguably Argentina's highest-profile club, would fare in the EPL is an interesting one to consider, even if it is an entirely fanciful discussion.

Argentines are fiercely proud of their domestic competition, and though most would concede it is not at the same level as Europe's wealthiest leagues, there is a belief that the best teams in the country could compete with almost anybody through a combination of grit, cunning and South American technique.

A man who is probably in a better position than anybody to compare Argentina's Primera to European club competition, Diego Simeone, caused quite a bit of consternation in his homeland with some withering comments (reported in Spanish by infobae.com) about the standard of the local competition.

Simeone insisted that his Catania side, which at the time he was attempting to guide out of relegation trouble, would be fighting for the title in Argentina if they were competing in the Primera rather than Serie A.

This viewpoint was greeted with some annoyance in some sections of the Argentine media, while other commentators admitted that "El Cholo" had a point; with South American talent constantly being siphoned away by foreign clubs, it stands to reason that local teams would struggle if they had to face off against their European counterparts.

So how would Boca, one of the continent's most successful and prestigious club sides, handle a season in the English Premier League?

 

Current Crop

The first point to note is that the current side is by no means a vintage Boca outfit. Despite the return of club legend Carlos Bianchi to manage the side, the Xeneizes endured a horrific 2013 Torneo Final, finishing second last on the table.

Their form has picked up considerably in the Torneo Inicial, where they occupy fourth place after 12 games, five points behind leaders Newell's Old Boys.

Boca boast one of the strongest player rosters in the country, however, so it would be no surprise to see them pushing for the title in the near future. In the wildly fluctuating world of Argentine football, it is common to go from zeros to heroes in a matter of a few months.

 

Quality Players

Gary Medel of Cardiff City once careened about in midfield for Boca, and Premier League favorite Carlos Tevez was also a Bombonera man, but which of those currently plying their trade in the navy blue and yellow could be considered up to EPL standards?

Fernando Gago: The former Real Madrid, Roma and Valencia midfield metronome arguably never fulfilled his immense potential in European football, but he remains a world-class passer of the football and is likely to feature heavily in Alejandro Sabella's World Cup plans.

Agustin Orion: Boca's goalkeeper is a solid custodian who would probably hold his own in the English League.

Guillermo Burdisso: Younger brother of Roma's Nicolas, Guillermo is one of the better Argentine center-backs around. His tough-tackling style and aerial prowess could see him earn a starting spot at one of the smaller Premier League clubs.

Juan Sanchez-Mino: A dynamic and skillful midfielder, this 23-year-old will most likely play European football at a high level at some stage of his career.

Juan Manuel Martinez: This gifted forward has speed, guile and finishing ability and is on the fringes of the Argentina squad.

Emmanuel Gigliotti: A muscular target man who is currently enjoying a rich vein of goal-scoring form, Gigliotti is not a dazzling player, but he could conceivably lead the line for an English team.

Juan Roman Riquelme: Whether Roman would cut it in the fast-paced EPL is open for debate, but then again, the sour-faced playmaker's worth has caused debate throughout his entire career. He may be 35, slow and struggling with regular injuries, but Riquelme is still capable of lifting any side through pure genius.

The rest of the Boca starting 11 is generally made up of functional players who would not be considered good enough by most English clubs, or grizzled veterans such as Daniel "Cata" Diaz and Pablo Ledesma who may once have made the grade but are now somewhat past their peaks.

 

The Gaffer

Bianchi is revered by the Boca faithful due to the remarkable success he achieved during his first two stints with the club. He led them to three Copa Libertadores titles and two Intercontinental Cups, among other achievements.

The Larry David lookalike's attempts at coaching in Europe remain a blot on his record, though, as he was never able to translate his South American chutzpah to the Old Continent. 

Spells with Reims, PSG, Nice, Roma and Atletico Madrid did not yield any form of silverware and in most cases were deemed failures.

Whether Bianchi's managerial style would suit the Premier League is doubtful to say the least.

 

Physicality

Though Boca are not known for their fluid attacking football, their passing game is arguably on a par with that of many English top-flight clubs due to the heavy focus on that area of the game in Argentina, and they can lay claim to a talented and fearsome forward line.

An area where the South Americans would no doubt encounter problems in the EPL, however, would be in matching the fitness, speed, size and brute power of the English clubs in both defense and midfield.

The gap in performance in these areas is highlighted whenever a footballer makes the jump from the Argentine league to Europe and England especially.

A period of adaptation is usually required as the player learns to cope with the increased physicality of the game. Some, like Marcos Angeleri or Denis Stracqualursi, are never able to make the step up and end up returning to their comfort zone in Argentina.

If Boca were magically transplanted into the Premier League for a year, the physical intensity of the competition would most probably wear the whole squad down over the course of a season, while matches against large, powerful sides such as Manchester City and Tottenham could result in some serious drubbings for the Argentines.

Where would Boca Juniors finish in the EPL?

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Conclusion

Playing in a league more suited to their slower, less physical style, like Serie A or La Liga, might see Boca battling for a mid-table spot if they were in form and firing on all cylinders.

The Premier League would present a much grimmer challenge, however, and it is hard to see the Argentines making their way out of the relegation zone over the course of a season.

It might have been a different story for the great Boca team of the 2000s, but today's lineup would find life very tough.

Predicted finish: 18th

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