It has taken weeks but Nicolás de la Cruz is finally a River Plate player. Marcelo Gallardo had made it clear that he wanted the Uruguayan under-20 captain at the club and despite strong links to Europe, the midfielder has put pen to paper on a deal at the Monumental that runs until June 2021.
The attacking midfielder has been one of the jewels in Uruguay’s successful youth sides of recent years and captained La Celeste to the South American under-20 championships before reaching the World Cup semi-finals in South Korea.
With the likes of Inter Milan, AC Milan and Valencia all attributed with an interest in the 20-year-old, River Plate are understood to have paid close to $3 million for a 30% stake in the player.
— River Plate (@CARPoficial) August 15, 2017
Whether it has been with Uruguay or for Liverpool, de la Cruz has constantly impressed in the space behind the strikers. Eager to get forward and find gaps, the 20-year-old commits defenders when the ball is at his feet and has a decent eye for goal, as he proved when scoring four goals en route to the under-20 Copa Libertadores final last year.
Gallardo is well aware of the quality that the youngster brings to the squad and with Sebastián Driussi’s goals now in Saint-Petersburg, River will be looking to add more from midfield this season.
One player who excelled at this in Gallardo’s Copa Libertadores winning side of 2015 was Carlos Sánchez and if the new signing looks familiar it’s because he is the half brother of the Monterrey midfielder.
Sánchez and Gallardo both convinced de la Cruz that the Monumental was the best place to progress his career: “He [Carlos Sánchez] talked to me a lot. He has a lot of love for the club and passed it on to me,” the 20-year-old said after signing his four-year deal.
River are in Copa Argentina action on Tuesday evening and de la Cruz will then meet up with his new teammates ahead of the start of the season. As Gallardo’s sixth signing of the window, Los Millonarios are building a squad that look more than capable of challenging for the Primera and the Copa Libertadores.