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Juan Roman Riquelme and 5 Returning Argentine Heroes

Daniel EdwardsFeatured ColumnistJuly 21, 2014

Juan Roman Riquelme and 5 Returning Argentine Heroes

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    Koji Watanabe/Getty Images

    The reception Juan Roman Riquelme received on Sunday afternoon as he finally returned to the club that moulded him into one of the greatest playmaking talents of the modern era was moving in the extreme.

    As reported in the Buenos Aires Herald, the 35-year-old signed an 18-month deal with Argentinos Juniors and will try to save the club from the ignominy of the Nacional B. 

    Riquelme began his career in Argentinos' famed academy, before leaving at just 18 to join the Boca ranks. But 17 years after first moving from La Paternal, his return marks a landmark in the Bicho history as they welcome back one of their most famous sons. 

    Argentine stars are famous for trying their luck overseas, often emigrating across the Atlantic Ocean barely out of their teenage years. But often, as with the former Barcelona and Villarreal man, the pull of their boyhood idols is too hard to resist. 

    In honour of the No. 10's homecoming, here are five stars who have made the trip back to their first clubs after distinguished careers on the road. 

Maxi Rodriguez to Newell's Old Boys

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    Luis Benavides/Associated Press

    During spells with Espanyol, Atletico Madrid and Liverpool, Maxi Rodriguez established himself as one of the most accomplished, if sometimes underrated, attacking midfielders in European football.

    A solitary League Cup title with Liverpool is a sparse haul for a man who represented club and country with honour for many years. 

    That refined talent and admirable work rate meant that when Maxi returned to boyhood club Newell's Old Boys in 2012, he was not coming back to take it easy. Newell's were fighting relegation when the star joined fellow old boy Gabriel Heinze and new coach Gerardo Martino in Rosario, but better times were just around the corner. 

    A strong Apertura season saw Copa Libertadores qualification achieved, and the 2013 final belonged to Newell's.

    Rodriguez was an integral part of the Lepra as they lifted the title, while an agonising defeat to Atletico Mineiro in the Libertadores semi-finals denied the team a glorious double. 

Humberto Maschio to Racing Club

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    The return of famous Argentine players to home shores is not a new one. One of the original "Angels with Dirty Faces," cultured forward Humberto Maschio was a star at home with Boca Juniors and Racing Club before trying his luck under Helenio Herrera at Inter in Serie A. 

    Maschio enjoyed a fruitful spell in Italy, even captaining the national team during the 1962 World Cup. But his greatest moment would come upon returning to Argentina well into his 30s, adding a glorious post-script to his career. 

    The forward joined Juan Jose Pizzuti's all-conquering Racing in 1966, immediately adding the Primera Division title to the team's trophy case. The following year, a Copa Libertadores win over Nacional and victory against Celtic in the Intercontinental Cup confirmed La Academia as Argentina's first world champions. 

Enzo Francescoli to River Plate

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    Daniel Muzio/Associated Press

    Club idols do not always spring up from the academy.

    At times, a foreign star can become just as admired and revered by a team's supporters as those who dragged their way through the youth divisions. For that reason, Uruguayan legend Enzo Francescoli commands just as much respect in River as the likes of Ariel Ortega, Pablo Aimar and other homegrown favourites. 

    El Principe was plucked out of Uruguayan minnows Wanderers at the age of 21 and went on to enjoy three glittering, trophy-laden seasons at the Monumental.

    Francescoli continued his career in France and Italy after winning the 1986 Copa Libertadores, but his story with River still had one more chapter to complete. 

    Francescoli returned to his spiritual home in the twilight of his career, but the magic was still there.

    Under the direction of coach Ramon Diaz, River lifted three consecutive championships in 1996 and 1997 and added the 1996 Libertadores to the club's trophy collection, and the Uruguayan continues to be involved with the club as part of the technical team. 

Juan Roman Riquelme to Boca Juniors

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    Natacha Pisarenko/Associated Press

    Juan Roman Riquelme is no stranger to the triumphant homecoming. Sunday's presentation in La Paternal is the second time that the enigmatic genius has been reintroduced to loving fans, after enjoying a brilliant second spell with the club's Buenos Aires rivals, Boca Juniors. 

    The playmaker lifted three national titles, two Libertadores and an Intercontinental Cup with the Xeneize, form that earned him a move to Spanish powerhouses Barcelona that failed to pan out. Better was to come following a move to Villarreal, but the spectre of a return to La Bombonera was never too far away for the Argentina international. 

    A loan switch back to Boca in 2007 coincided with Riquelme's super-human efforts to lift the Libertadores once again, and a definitive move was agreed one year later.

    He had his ups and downs with the Boca directors and supporters, but his place in the club's Hall of Fame is already assured. 

Juan Sebastian Veron to Estudiantes

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    Eduardo Di Baia/Associated Press

    Dynamic midfielder Juan Sebastian Veron is a man that throughout his illustrious career has divided opinions. In Europe, those who highlight his wonderful time representing Italian giants Parma and Sampdoria are contradicted by fans who watched the Argentine struggle through an unsuccessful spell in the Premier League with Chelsea and Manchester United

    In Argentina, meanwhile, many critics hold La Brujita up as the principal scapegoat for the national team's disastrous group-stage exit at the 2002 World Cup. But in the red-and-white half of the Buenos Aires city of La Plata, the player practically walks on water. 

    Having played just 17 games as a youngster in Estudiantes before moving to Boca Juniors in 1995, Veron returned to immense fanfare 11 years later.

    The 2006 Apertura title followed almost immediately, but the greatest prize was reached in 2009 when, after 39 years, the Pincha finally lifted their fourth Copa Libertadores. 

    Another Apertura title followed in 2010, but Veron just could not stay away from his boyhood idols. The midfielder retired in 2012, but he was persuaded to come back this year at 39. He led Estudiantes to second place in the Final tournament.

    La Brujita is now enjoying a second retirement but is destined to go down as one of the greatest players ever to pull on the Pincha shirt. 

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