Exequiel Palacios has completed his transfer to Bayer Leverkusen having signed a contract with the Bundesliga club until June 2025.
The 21-year-old midfielder’s departure from the Monumental was no secret and after helping River Plate to the Copa Argentina last Friday, Palacios bid his boyhood club farewell.
Marcelo Gallardo had already referred to Palacios’ transfer in the build-up to the cup final win over Central Córdoba and while the Millonarios will have begun planning for this eventuality it is no less of a blow.
The youngster has developed into a key figure as River reached back-to-back Copa Libertadores finals and while the club would have liked to renegotiate his deal, the $24 million release clause made Palacios a prime target.
“In his last game for River Plate he won the Argentine cup and in 2018 the Copa Libertadores and he was in the final of that competition again in November with River Plate. Exequiel has achieved a lot in spite of his young age. He stands out with his football ability and a remarkable mentality.”
Sporting managing director Rudi Völler was equally thrilled, telling the club’s official website: “Exequiel Palacios is a technically gifted midfielder able to score goals and he has the ability to involve his team-mates. He fits in really well with our team and the way we play.”
Despite making his senior debut at River as a 17-year-old back in 2015, Palacios’ rise from academy prospect to instrumental midfield engine under Gallardo over the past two seasons has been nothing less than meteoric.
Possessing the workrate to carry out Gallardo’s incessant pressing, Palacios is able to contribute defensively and in the opponent’s half, bursting forward late to pose a threat around the penalty box. The youngster’s wide range of passing is equally useful in possession and in cutting through the defence and his energy is able to set the tone for those around him.
This modern box-to-box ability has seen Palacios emerge as a starting option for Lionel Scaloni and the national team too and were it not for injuries during the past year, the 21-year-old would have added to his four appearances, since debuting in September 2018.
“I’m very happy to be able to play for Bayer 04 Leverkusen, for a club that has been home to a lot of players from South America,” Palacios told the club website.
“Bayer 04 have a good reputation here in Argentina. I’m proud to be part of this ambitious club and I’m looking forward very much to the Bundesliga and European games.”
Palacios will join officially on January 1st, linking up with another former River player Lucas Alario.
Alario has boosted his international hopes with a string of good cameos under Scaloni but the hope for Palacios will be to become a more permanent fixture of the midfield. With the promise of game time in Germany, Palacios has all the tools to become a top level player for club and country.