It wasn’t too long ago since River Plate managed to persuade Marcelo Gallardo to remain at the club for another year when it appeared the Copa Libertadores winning coach was set to leave. Now, ahead of an important year, president Rodolfo D’onofrio was delighted to announce on Wednesday that Gallardo would be staying put until 2021.
D’onofrio’s recent presidential re-election will run for the same length of time and given the trophy-laden three-and-a-half years that Gallardo has been in charge of River, supporters will be confident of adding to that.
If Gallardo sees out this most recent contract, the 41-year-old will surpass the iconic Angel Labruna as the longest serving River coach.
“I belong in this house, my link with River is for life,” Gallardo said after putting pen to paper on this latest extension.
¡Vamos por más! 🙌 ⚪️🔴⚪️
Marcelo Gallardo firmó un vínculo con #River hasta 2021.
🏆 Los títulos del DT del Más Grande 👇 pic.twitter.com/IZllgBBuMq
— River Plate (@CARPoficial) January 4, 2018
At some point Gallardo’s future does seem destined to lead to Europe but after already winning the Copa Sudamericana, two Recopas, the Copa Libertadores and the Copa Argentina, that was always expected to be sooner rather than later.
River begin 2018 with any hopes of a league title already virtually gone but another crack at the Copa Libertadores was too tempting for Gallardo.
D’onofrio is confident River have four more years with the “best manager in Argentina” and hinted that there could be even more after that but above simply challenging for honours in 2018, the pair stressed the project that they both envisage.
The onus here was particularly on River’s academy as the club has become more dependent on signing from other clubs in recent years and D’onofrio would like to see an increase of in-house talent graduating from the youth sides to the first team.
The far more immediate focus is on arming Gallardo with a team that can win the Copa Libertadores after a disappointing end to 2017, that was glossed over by lifting the Copa Argentina in December.
— Atlético Nacional (@nacionaloficial) January 3, 2018
Franco Armani is set to be the first reinforcement and it will undoubtedly be one of the most important. Since Marcelo Barovero left 18 months ago, River have struggled to fill his sizable gloves and the mistakes of young Augusto Batalla and the experienced Germán Lux forced River into the market.
Armani was one of the stars of Atlético Nacional’s Libertadores victory but his excellence went largely unnoticed in Argentina. D’onofrio has confirmed that the club will meet his $4 million release clause, the Colombian side have confirmed his departure and the 31-year-old now hopes that playing for River he can force his way into Jorge Sampaoli’s plans.
River will also be aiming to finally replace the goals lost when Sebastián Driussi and Lucas Alario were sold and for this, Los Millonarios are reportedly living up to their nickname. D’onofrio confirmed that an offer for Lucas Pratto is forthcoming and the Argentina striker could come to the Monumental for as much as $11 million.
A huge sum of money for an Argentine club but a signing that would give River genuine firepower, vast experience and an almost guarantee of goals.
Damián Musto had looked to be the other new signing but a failed doping test from earlier in the year whilst playing for Rosario Central may have scuppered the transfer. River await confirmation on this matter after already agreeing the deal with the midfielder and Tijuana.
One player on his way out looks to be Carlos Auzqui with Standard Liege interested in taking the forward on loan but his absence will not be felt by River. The 26-year-old, so impressive while with Estudiantes, failed to carry that form after moving to the Monumental.
River supporters may have been frustrated that as yet not one transfer is confirmed but it is almost certain that with Gallardo staying for another four years and the money available to spend, Los Millonarios will be in far better shape come the end of January.