In recent years the Argentine Primera has witnessed a few triumphant returns as the likes of Juan Sebastián Verón, Diego Milito and Carlos Tevez have all come back to where their careers began to play major roles in title winning sides. In 2015 after a glittering career had taken him to Barcelona, Real Madrid and Benfica to name a few, Javier Saviola returned to River Plate. The 34-year-old was actually able to add a Copa Libertadores winners medal to his collection but it would be difficult to argue that his impact on the pitch for Marcelo Gallardo’s side was anything other than underwhelming. 15 appearances and no goals signifies a poor return for any striker and so on Thursday afternoon, El Conejo announced that he will not be continuing with River this season.
The 34-year-old released the following statement as River began their preseason preparations this week to explain his decision:
“I am writing this release to inform you that after analysing my situation with the coaching staff, I have taken the difficult decision not to continue playing for Club Atlético River Plate.
“I would have wanted to have a different ending to my return to River, but sometimes dreams don’t materialise as one wants. Despite this took it provided me with the great joy of having returned to the club where I was born, knowing excellent colleagues, obtaining important titles, and as always accompanied by the best supporters.
“Thanks to my colleagues for their support and for giving me the opportunity to return, I wish you the greatest success.
River will always be in my heart. Huge affection for all.”
Bursting into the River side as a teenager and helping Los Millonarios to the 1999 Apertura and 2000 Clausura, Saviola was heralded as one of the biggest talents in world football and when a huge €35 million transfer to Barcelona followed in 2001, the striker looked destined for greatness.
Fast, skillful with an eye for goal Saviola has won his fair share of trophies but perhaps the boy from Buenos Aires never quite fulfilled his massive potential. Certainly after a career in Europe which took him from Barcelona to Verona via Monaco, Sevilla, Real Madrid, Benfica, Malaga and Olympiacos, Saviola was never able to establish himself as an elite level striker.
The move back to the Monumental was supposed to be the 34-year-old’s swansong but the striker failed to find any form and in the chances that Marcelo Gallardo did afford him, he failed to make an impression. Certainly his statistics from the 15 appearances he did manage make for poor reading.
With River looking to defend their Copa Libertadores title in 2016, the likes of Rodrigo Mora, Lucas Alario and even youngster Sebastián Driussi ahead of him in the pecking order and Gallardo looking to add another striker it is difficult to see where Saviola would fit in.
It is not yet the end of the road for Conejo and although a switch to another Argentine club is off the table, the veteran is open to a new challenge elsewhere. Looking back on Saviola’s time at River it is best to remember the teenage striker who filled supporters with excitement.