When the subject of a European Super League arises, as it did earlier this year, one of the primary arguments against such a structure is that it threatens to ring-fence football for the richest and powerful, to the detriment of the sport's underdogs. While many would sustain that that particular horse in fact bolted a while ago, the idea proved compelling enough to bury the recent revolutionary breakaway, even if it hardly ushered in a new age of equality and justice in the game.
On this side of the Atlantic, meanwhile, the adjective 'super' is usually only appropriate when describing the most recent scandal or institutional free-for-all to befall Argentina's favourite pastime. But it is undeniable that the advent of the Superliga, by accident or design, markedly narrowed the field at the top of the table. While in the 10 years preceding the change in name and format 11 different teams were crowned champion, only Racing Club were able to stop Boca Juniors taking a clean sweep of the three titles on offer during the Superliga era – while the Xeneize also claimed the 2020 Copa Diego Armando Maradona for good measure.
This year, however, has proved far more difficult for the giants, to the evident delight of the rest of the league. Earlier in 2021 Colón swooped to claim the first national title of their history in the Copa Liga Profesional, also becoming the first side based outside Greater Buenos Aires to triumph since Newell's Old Boys in 2013. And the current league season has thrown up another challenger from that enormous and infuriatingly vaguely titled region labelled the 'interior' by porteño hacks in the shape of the rampant Talleres.
On Tuesday the Córdoba side dispatched Platense 2-1 to maintain their share of the summit alongside equally impressive Lanús, who have been fired up there by the goals and impossibly ageless energy of 42-year-old Primera top scorer José Sand. It was Talleres' sixth win in their last seven outings, with only a 0-0 draw away to Patronato at the start of September blotting their copybook. What is more, their coach, ex-Nacional boss Alexander Medina, has them playing some of the best football in the league, balancing attack and defence to perfection while making full use of the resources at hand.
That last point is key. Like many teams in these parched economic times, the T's starting line-up is composed mostly of players who fell short at Argentina's more established giants and moved to Córdoba in search of a fresh start. Top scorer Carlos Auzqui, for example, was an unmitigated flop with River while strike partner Héctor Fértoli proved only intermittently dangerous during spells at San Lorenzo and Racing Club. Then there is their inspirational last line of defence: goalkeeper Guido Herrera, who joined Talleres back when they were struggling to escape the Nacional B and whose brilliant performances between the posts have secured his standing as one of Argentina's premier shot-stoppers.
“We have been maturing as the games have gone by. In the last few competitions we fought to the end and you learn from those things. It is tough to have positive moments all the time,” Herrera remarked following Tuesday's victory over Platense. “We are taking things in our stride, there's a long way to go yet. The coaching team is telling us to enjoy it... we shouldn't be feeling the pressure or looking at the table constantly.”
Today Medina, Herrera and Co. face another stern test in the shape of a visit to Claudio Ubeda's Racing Club. While the interim coach has not exactly been setting the world on fire since taking over from Juan Antonio Pizzi, La Academia have conceded just once in his five games in charge and a miserly two overall in the Liga, and will not be an easy prospect even for Talleres' in-form strikeforce. Nevertheless, a win in Avellaneda would further cement their title prospects as this shortened 2021 season creeps towards the halfway point, and heighten fans' hopes of following in the footsteps of Colón and finally clinching that much-desired first national crown before the year is out.