Sebastián Driussi’s sensational season made his River Plate exit inevitable and while Zenit Saint Petersburg may not have been the most obvious choice, the price tag was one that as Marcelo Gallardo explained, ‘couldn’t be turned down.’
The Russian club are expected to complete a deal for the high-scoring 21-year-old after offering River €20 million and while that amount doesn’t quite make Driussi, Los Millonarios’ most expensive export, the striker will be second.
So, who makes up the top ten most expensive River players?
1 – Javier Saviola: Barcelona €36 million
When Javier Saviola switched River Plate for Barcelona in 2001, the 19-year-old was considered the best young player in the world after helping the club to the 1999 Apertura and 2000 Clausura championships. El Conejito arrived the Camp Nou for a reported $28 million but according to the Spanish media, Barcelona’s records later showed that the full cost of the deal was €36 million.
2 – Pablo Aimar: Valencia $20 million
Pablo Aimar had already won three Primera titles and made his full Argentina debut following a glittering youth career when Valencia paid a then club record, $20 million for the 21-year-old in 2001.
3 – Marcelo Salas: Lazio $17.25 million
El Matador may not be a River academy product like the others on the list but Marcelo Salas’ prolific two-year spell at the Monumental produced four titles. Scoring a goal every two games for River and impressing for Chile at the World Cup prompted Lazio to spend big on the centre-forward in 1998.
4 – Gonzalo Higuaín: Real Madrid $18 million*
It was clear that River had something special as soon as Gonzalo Higuaín broke into Daniel Passarella’s first team so it was little surprise when Real Madrid announced the signing of Pipita in December 2006. The Spanish giants paid $18 million for the 19-year-old but former president José Maria Aguilar had sold a percentage to Swiss club, Locarno months before the deal, costing River millions.
5 – Erik Lamela: Roma €12 million
During some of the darkest days in River’s history that resulted in the club’s only relegation, Erik Lamela provided a glimmer of light, prompting Roma to spend €12 million on the 19-year-old. That was the amount that River received while the Italian club in fact paid substantially more when taking into account agents’ fees and taxes.
6 – Lucas Ocampos: Monaco €16 million *
River’s relegation in 2011 provided Lucas Ocampos with his opportunity to shine as Los Millonarios came straight back up from the Nacional B. After making only one appearance in the top flight, Monaco paid €16 million for the 18-year-old but River pocketed only half that amount after purchasing 50% from Quilmes when Ocampos was fifteen.
7 – Javier Mascherano: Corinthians $15 million*
El Jefecito famously made his Argentina debut before his first senior River appearance but after two years in the white and red, Brazilian club Corinthians swooped. The deal for Mascherano, overseen by the Media Sports Investment Group and Kia Joorabchian was worth $15 million but Club Renato Cesarini still owned 25% of the midfielder’s rights.
8 – Ariel Ortega: Valencia $12 million*
Ariel Ortega would ultimately have three spells with River Plate but when one of world football’s most talented young players originally left in February 1997, it cost Valencia $12 million. River saw $9 million of that fee but Burrito never quite managed to match the highs of those four Primera titles and a Copa Libertadores during the early years of his career.
9 – Marcelo Gallardo: Monaco $9.3 million*
The man currently overseeing a period of great success at River and reluctantly losing Sebastián Driussi, was himself the subject of a big money move in 1999. El Muñeco had been part of the same Libertadores winning side as Ortega, but departed for Monaco, lifting the Première Division in 2000. Monaco paid $9.3 million for Gallardo but part of the amount was written off due to a debt River owed to the player.
10 – Matías Almeyda: Sevilla $9.3 million*
The $9.3 million that Sevilla paid for Matías Almeyda in 1996 was at the time an Argentinian record fee after El Pelado had made an instant impression in the River side that won three league titles and a Copa Libertadores. Los Millonarios received a sizeable $8 million from the deal but Almeyda couldn’t prevent Sevilla being relegated in his first and only season with the club.