By Carlo Garganese
A mystery, cash-rich Saudi Arabian club have tabled a €2.43 million ($3m) bid for Boca Juniors idol Juan Roman Riquelme, Goal.com can reveal.
Sources close to the player expect negotiations to begin in the next couple of days if Boca agree to sell their captain and icon. The unnamed club are competing in continental competition, narrowing down the possibilities to Al-Ittihad, Al-Ahli, Al Hilal and Al Ettifaq.
The Argentine legend, 34, tearfully revealed following the Copa Libertadores final defeat to Corinthians that he had played his last game for the club, shocking fans of the Buenos Aires institution, and he could be set to resume his career in the Middle East.
"One of the biggest and most supported teams in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, who are participating in continental competition, have made an offer in the region of $3m to Boca Juniors for Juan Roman Riquelme," the source told Goal.com.
"The Saudi club have made Riquelme their number one transfer priority.
"The player's future will be clear in the coming days when Boca's management meet to consider the bid and decide whether they are happy for him to leave."
Riquelme is contracted to Boca until June 2014, meaning that the Saudis would have to negotiate with the 2011 Apertura champions before discussing personal terms with the ex-Barcelona and Villarreal man. It also remains to be seen whether the star would leave his family and young son in order to pursue his career outside South America.
"The fans are passionate, and Riquelme enjoys legendary status in the region," the source noted.
"But it all depends on Boca and if they agree to sell, and whether Riquelme agrees to leave his home continent."
Roman left the door open to continuing in professional football when he made a moving farewell to Boca fans in the aftermath of Thursday's defeat. But reports that an irreconcilable rift with coach Julio Cesar Falcioni and president Daniel Angelici are behind his decision make it appear unlikely that he will return to the Bombonera while the pair are still there.
The veteran has also been linked with moves to Flamengo, Villarreal, West Ham, and Bolton. Should confirmation arrive from Boca that Riquelme is leaving, then more official bids are expected for the player - particularly from Flamengo, who are eager to sign a marquee name to rival Clarence Seedorf's move to Botafogo and compensate for the loss of Ronaldinho.
Clubs in Qatar and the United Arab Emirates are also closely monitoring developments.