In order to explain the story behind Messi doing the ‘Riquelme’ gesture towards Louis Van Gaal, we have to go back 20 years. Back then, Messi only joined La Masia, while Van Gaal coached former Argentina’s #10 in Barça.
Van Gaal is a legendary coach, no question about it. However, his man management abilities was always questionable, especially with South American players.
During his first term, Van Gaal won 2 La Liga trophies is 3 years in charge. Moreover, he even won a domestic double in his first season. However, failing to qualify from the group stage of the Champions league for 2 years in a row was a problem. But it wasn’t his biggest problem.
During his time in charge, Van Gaal had a public dispute with one of the club’s best players – Rivaldo.
After failing to regain the title in 99/00 season, Van Gaal left the club. It was the same summer where Gaspartbwas elected as president, and the club had to deal with Figo’s betrayal.
2nd term in 2002
The two years after Van Gaal left were awful. The new president never knew how to properly manage the club. Gaspart says himself that he was the worst president the club had. Barça finished in the 4th place in La Liga for 2 years in a row.
In the summer of 2002, Gaspart wanted to have a familiar face in charge. So he brought back Van Gaal.
The first move of the Dutch coach was to throw Rivaldo out of the team. The Brazilian just won the World Cup, but Van Gaal didn’t want him around.
Riquelme’s time at Barça
With Rivaldo out, there was a pressure on Gaspart to bring a ‘Crack’. Juan Roman Riquelme, a young Argentinian made a name of himself at Boca Juniors. He became the ‘stellar’ signing of this summer.
Whenever Riquelme scored, he used to celebrate with a gesture called ‘Topo Gigio’, named after an Italian character.
However, Van Gaal said publicly that Riquelme is a club’s signing and he never asked to bring him. Not the best ‘welcome ‘ for a player in his first experience in Europe.
When the season started, Van Gaal tried to play Riquelme at the wing. But he wasn’t fast enough to succeed there. Shortly after, Riquelme lost his place in the starting 11, and played very few minutes.
The second term of Van Gaal was a total mess. Fighting with players was one thing. Losing to a 3rd division team in the cup was another thing. But the worst thing was when the team found itself in the 15th position, only 3 points above the relegation zone.
At that point, enough was enough. Van Gaal left, Gaspart resigned, and in the next summer a young lawyer named Joan Laporta was elected. He signed Ronaldinho who replaced Riquelme as Barça’s number 10.
the rest was history
Riquelme left Barcelona 1 year after signing. Hebwent to Villarreal on loan. Eventually, the ‘yellow submarine’ signed him permanently. He went on to have a great career in Villarreal and Boca.
Meanwhile, a young Leo Messi went through La Masia, watching Riquelme, Saviola and Van Gaal in Barça. Years after, Messi would replace Ronaldinho as Barça’s number 10. Furthermore, he would replace Riquelme as Argentina’s number 10.
Last night, Leo had the chance to be the voice of his idol, Riquelme. He faced the man who, for him, destroyed Riquelme’s time at Barça. And he had the chance to celebrate in front of him.
Riquelme and Van Gaal nowadays
Our friend, @henkslab adds: in a recent interview to Vl.nl, Riquelme said that he and Van Gaal are ok. They had their differences but Riquelme realized that Van Gaal’s motivation was to make him a better player. ‘We had our discussions, but I am fine with it. I hope Louis is doing fine.”