A week before, Martín Palermo had had the true farewell to football. As he deserved, in La Bombonera, where the Boca Juniors audience paid tribute to him with pure emotion. They even gave him the arch below 12, an arch where he wrote a good part of his fantastic story.
But a date was missing for the end of the Clausura 2011, and the Titan did not want to miss it. Even more so because the rival in front, things of fate, was Gimnasia y Esgrima de La Plata. Palermo, a fan of Estudiantes, knew that rivalry like few others. And gave the present.
To put more spice and drama to that farewell, the Wolf arrived very complicated with the relegation average: he had to beat Boca to guarantee himself playing the Promotion.
Boca, meanwhile, did not have much at stake, since he had been left out of the fight for the tournament, but he was a kind of referee in the definition of the lower zone of the table.
Another colorful feature of that match was the presence of Guillermo Barros Schelotto in Gymnastics: the other great Boca idol of those years had come to Lobo, the club of which he was a fan, to give him a hand in a difficult moment. Thus, face to face, there was the duo that had given so many joys to the xeneizes fans, especially in the Carlos Bianchi cycle.
Two minutes into the game, the formula that made the Boca fans scream so many goals almost opened the game: Riquelme enabled Palermo in an excellent way, but Monetti covered Loco’s hand in hand.
A while later, Roman again put the ball in Palermo’s head on the edge of the small area, but in a striking way the Titan headed wide. It seemed that Martín did not want to make his lifelong rival from La Plata suffer.
That afternoon, many people from Boca filled the visiting tribune of the Forest to watch the game and say goodbye to the idol. Gymnastics, also with a lot of support from its public, went out to seek victory. And he found it: at 12 minutes he was already winning 2-0 with goals from Graf and Barros Schelotto, from a penalty. But Boca was going to discount at 32 minutes with a goal from Cellay (another former Students), with a header. There was still a long way to go.
At the end of the game, Palermo showed that he was going to leave everything, until the last second, to try to score a goal and embitter the opponent. On the last play of the match, a Riquelme cross fell again on Loco’s head, who lowered it so that Cellay scored the final 2-2. Thus, Gimnasia had to play a match against Huracán to determine if he was going to relegation or playing the Promotion.
La Plata fans could not believe their bad luck, while Boca’s fans cheered their idol for the last time in an official match. Palermo shouted Cellay’s goal as his own, before the stunned gaze of Lobo fans.
Thus closed an unforgettable chapter in the history of Boca, where Palermo played 404 games and scored 236 goals, a historic record for the club.
Undoubtedly, the Titan’s career was marked by many joys. But also for many difficult moments.
A TRIUMPHAL RETURN
On May 24, 2000, for the semifinals of the Copa Libertadores, Palermo made history. He came from a long inactivity due to the rupture of the ligaments in his right knee. Carlos Bianchi had him on the bench, like the ace up his sleeve, and decided to put him in for Alfredo Moreno at 32 minutes of the second half.
At 49 minutes, when Boca won 2-0 against River and made sure of qualifying for the semifinals, Palermo appeared in the area, dominated the ball with a mixture of clumsiness and slowness, a product of long inactivity, and defined the team as a barbarian. Bonano’s right. It was a goal that became one of the most remembered in the history of the Superclásicos.
STRONG IN ADVERSITY
The curious thing about the Palermo race is that the celebration and the pain, in some cases, came hand in hand. On November 13, 1999, when Boca faced Colón in the ’99 Apertura Tournament in Santa Fe, Palermo broke the ligaments in his right knee.
He was replaced in the 28th minute of the first half, but at 23, after a pass from Riquelme, he had scored his 100th goal in Argentine football. A fact that speaks of his dedication and will: when he scored the goal he was already injured.
The news came at the worst moment: two months earlier, Boca had rejected an offer from Lazio of Italy for 15 million dollars. Until that moment, El Loco had scored, under the direction of Carlos Bianchi, 46 goals in 48 games.
BAD STEP IN EUROPE
Another dramatic and unprecedented moment was the one he lived on November 29, 2001, playing for Villarreal and after scoring a goal against Levante, in injury time, for the third round of the Copa del Rey.
Once again the pain was associated with the celebration. That time he suffered a fracture of his right ankle (tibia and fibula) when he celebrated the goal on the edge of the Villarreal fans’ rostrum. At that moment, due to the weight of the people who came to celebrate, the concrete wall that separated the playing field from the stands collapsed just above his ankle.
With the Selection he also experienced a bitter drink, although in this case it was not due to injury. On July 4, 1999, he missed three penalties against Colombia, for the first round of the Copa América that was played in Luque, Paraguay. Argentina lost 3-0.
THE LAST LIBERTADORES CUP
In 2007, with the return of Juan Román Riquelme, another moment of glory would come for Martín. Boca was going to become champion of the Copa Libertadores de América, the second that the Titan would conquer, this time with Miguel Angel Russo on the bench. In that Cup he scored four goals, but in the local tournament, although Xeneize did not win the title, he was the scorer with 11 goals in 16 games.
Bianchi once defined him as the “goal optimist” because of the eagerness he put into fighting each ball like the last one and for looking for the goal from any position, without fear of being ridiculed with some strange pirouette. Of all his goals, beyond those scored against River, those who scored against Real Madrid in the final of the Intercontinental Cup in 2000 are undoubtedly remembered. On that unforgettable day, the Titan gave Casillas a double so that Boca will touch the sky with his hands.