Juan Quintero failed in European football but on Sunday earned his greatest success on European soil, scoring a stunning extra-time strike to lead River Plate to Copa Libertadores final victory against their most bitter rivals, Boca Juniors.
The rights and wrongs – mainly wrongs – of South America’s equivalent of the Champions League being controversially switched to the Spanish capital will be debated, but at the end of it all, River’s name is on the trophy for a fourth time.
Quintero, coming off the bench, inspired their comeback after Boca took the lead, the Colombian No 10 producing a career highlight goal to settle a tense and wrought affair.
Boca took the lead when Nahitan Nandez played a pass which sliced through the broken glass and broken dreams, the days, 15 of them, and the distance, 6,000 miles, as well as River’s defence, to find Dario Benedetto, who finished brilliantly.
Argentina and Barcelona talisman Lionel Messi, watching on from a box at Real Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu, would have been proud of the ball himself.
But River equalised with a slick team goal of their own, dispatched by Lucas Pratto, which sent the game to extra-time, fitting for a final which simply refused to end.
Wilmar Barrios’ red card at the start of extra-time twisted the clash in River’s favour and Quintero took full advantage.
The playmaker could not make it at Porto or Rennes but has slowly reconstructed his career back in South America, going on to impress at the Russia World Cup, before settling one of the most drawn-out finals in history, with Piti Martinez’s third the icing on the cake.
Away goals don’t count in Copa Libertadores finals, so the spiky 2-2 draw at Boca’s Bombonera stadium a month ago was just an aperitif. Everything was riding on this match.
River coach Marcelo Gallardo, not on the sidelines due to a suspension for ignoring a previous suspension in the semi-final, described the decision to move the game to Madrid as a robbery, a ‘total disgrace’.
That was at least one thing both sides could agree on. This match, of all matches, being played in Europe upset everybody.
If one of the most famous taunts in the rivalry was River fans flying a giant inflatable pig in a Boca kit over furious supporters, the cash cow this game became was an insult to both sets of fans.
‘They took away our dream of playing the final in our country,’ said Boca striker Carlos Tevez.
The venue was switched after being twice-postponed a fortnight ago, because River fans attacked Boca’s team bus outside the Monumental stadium with rocks and injured players who were cut by the shattered glass.