The rain of confetti had only just settled on the lawn of the Estadio Monumental in Buenos Aires when Leonardo Ponzio stepped in front of the cameras. “We only had to take the last step – the most difficult – but we were up to the task. In this job you can’t ask for more. I’m so happy”said the captain of River Plate at ESPN.
The addressed “Last step” was a 4-0 win against Racing Club that made River Argentinian champions on Thursday night, four game days before the end of the season. Next to Ponzio was the man to whom he owed the title to a large extent: Julián Álvarez, with a top hat in the club colors of River on his head.
The 21-year-old benefited from Rafael Borré’s departure to Eintracht Frankfurt in the summer and became part of coach Marcelo Gallardo’s team. Nevertheless, Álvarez experienced a mixed start to the season: The striker only scored two goals after the first eight match days.
This was followed by an international secondment at the beginning of September, which should change everything for Álvarez. Because the young Argentine returned from the Albiceleste as if transformed. Twelve game days have passed since then, Álvarez scored 15 times and provided six goals. River Plate scored 34 out of a possible 36 points during this period. The right foot is not only a master maker, but also a top scorer, top scorer and (shared) top template provider of the Argentine league.
Interest from Europe
These are achievements that have long aroused the interest of top international clubs. According to ‘Mundo Deportivo’, representatives from Juventus Turin, Atlético Madrid, Inter and AC Milan as well as Premier League clubs Newcastle United and Norwich City were present to watch Álvarez in the most recent 4-0 win against Racing alone.
The 21-year-old has also been associated with Bundesliga clubs: FC Bayern, Borussia Dortmund and Bayer Leverkusen are said to have put out feelers.
Change thanks to an exit clause?
The expectation within the industry is that one of the interested clubs will take the winter transfer market seriously. Especially since River would be powerless due to a release clause in the worst case. According to ‘TyC Sports’ this is in the amount of 20 million euros, five days before the transfer deadline it increases to 25 million. You won’t give Álvarez for less.
In Buenos Aires, however, they have apparently not yet given up hope “the spider” – as Álvarez is called in his homeland, because it always seemed as if he was playing with more than two legs – that he could hold. Even an extension of the contract, which will expire in 2022, is not entirely off the table, according to ‘TyC Sports’.
How the attacker will proceed is still unclear. Just like the question of what sporting role Álvarez could play in a top European club. Because although the technique and strength of the Argentine is at an adequate level, at 1.70 meters tall, he is actually too small to appear as a classic nine in Europe. Álvarez could switch to the wings, but he’s not a classic winger. In addition, the spider completed her best games in the river jersey in the storm center.
Álvarez still has around a month to think about his future in peace, then the transfer window opens. At the moment, however, he will have other things on his mind. After all, the confetti rain has only just settled on the lawn of the Estadio Monumental.