Dani Osvaldo played his first match in four years as the former Inter and Roma striker came out of retirement for Argentine side Banfield.

Ex-Italy international Osvaldo last played for powerhouse Boca Juniors before quitting football in 2016 to pursue his passion for music.

Osvaldo, however, traded his guitar for football boots in January and the 34-year-old made his stunning return on Sunday.

The veteran – who was released by Boca for reportedly smoking a cigarette in the dressing room – came off the bench with 16 minutes remaining as visiting Banfield lost 1-0 to River Plate in Buenos Aires, where he was whistled and jeered.

Osvaldo almost capped his remarkable comeback with a goal – an audacious long-range chip leaving River goalkeeper Franco Armani scrambling as the ball sailed just over the crossbar.

"I am very happy, in Banfield they treat me very well and make me feel important," Osvaldo said post-match.

"Physically I felt good. I really wanted to play again, I'm happy for that."

Banfield are 16th in the 24-team Superliga, nine points outside of the Copa Libertadores places and 17 adrift of leaders River.

River Plate have retained their 2018 Copa Libertadores title after arch-rivals Boca Juniors' appeal to have them disqualified was turned down by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

River claimed the title by defeating Boca 5-3 on aggregate after extra time in the second leg of the final in December 2018.

That match was played at the Santiago Bernabeu in Madrid after Boca's team bus was attacked en route to El Monumental for the initially scheduled return encounter.

After being shut down by South American confederation CONMEBOL, Boca appealed to CAS in an attempt to have River disqualified from the 2018 Libertadores over the behaviour of their supporters.

However, CAS declared that punishment would have been too harsh and instead ordered Marcelo Gallardo's team to play their next two Libertadores home games behind closed doors.

A statement read: "The CAS panel found that while River Plate had violated the CONMEBOL disciplinary regulations it could not order the disqualification of River Plate from the 2018 Copa Libertadores since such sanction would have been excessive in the circumstances of the case.

"The panel considered that the appropriate sanction to be imposed on River Plate for the bus attack was two matches behind closed doors, to be applied to River Plate's next two home matches in the Copa Libertadores."

Boca Juniors have failed in a bid to delay the resumption of the Superliga season, after claiming a clash with players' international commitments left them at a disadvantage.

The next full round of Superliga games is billed for January 24-26, ending a six-week mid-season break, but Argentina Under-23 players will be engaged in qualifying for the Olympic Games.

Argentina play Colombia, Chile, Ecuador and Venezuela between January 18 and January 30, looking to advance to the next stage in February and close on one of two CONMEBOL places at Tokyo 2020.

Boca had just two players named in the squad last month - Nicolas Capaldo and Alexis Mac Allister - yet they led protests against the Superliga schedule.

The club released a statement on Thursday, which read: "The new leadership of the club considers that restarting the championship as planned means a sporting disadvantage for our institution, due to the players that we have contributed to the national team, and we ask for the corresponding postponement.

"If there is something that characterises Boca throughout its history, it is the commitment to the national teams in all its representations.

"And the only thing we want is to continue with that commitment [while] taking care of the interests of our club, which is the task entrusted to us by the members in the elections of December 8, 2019.

"For this reason, through a letter to the Superliga authorities signed by president Jorge Amor Ameal, Boca requests the postponement of the start of the tournament in question, as well as a meeting to discuss economic aspects."

However, the Superliga announced on its website that the 17th round of games would go ahead as planned, after "general consensus" was reached at an executive committee meeting.

Argentinian sports newspaper Ole reported the results of a poll among the 24 Superliga clubs.

It said that with 16 votes required to make the alteration, just 15 were in favour, with Boca's rivals River Plate reportedly among the nine against the motion.

Boca, who sit in second place, behind Argentinios Juniors, are due to play Independiente on January 26.

One story is dominating the sporting agenda in Spain on Saturday: Xavi's potential return to Barcelona.

The Catalan giants have reportedly earmarked the club great to take over from the under-pressure Ernesto Valverde at the end of the season, and held informal discussions with him on Friday in Doha.

Xavi, 39, is currently coach at Al Sadd but would likely relish a return to Camp Nou, where he won eight LaLiga titles and four Champions League trophies during a glittering playing career.

A strong affinity with a club is not a guarantee of success, however, and we have taken a look at eight other examples of players returning to manage teams they starred for.

 

HITS

Pep Guardiola

After leaving Barcelona as a player in 2001, Guardiola returned as the Barca B boss in 2007 before being promoted to head coach of the first team a year later. Over four years in charge at Camp Nou he led the Blaugrana to 14 trophies, including three LaLiga titles and two Champions League crowns. Success has continued to come Guardiola's way with Bayern Munich and Manchester City.

Zinedine Zidane

World Cup winner Zidane was part of Real Madrid's 'Galacticos' in the early 2000s and he finished his playing career at the Santiago Bernabeu. Like Guardiola, he returned to oversee the second team before stepping up to the top job after the departure of Rafael Benitez in January 2016. Zidane went on to win an unprecedented three successive Champions League titles with Madrid before stepping away in May 2018, only to return 10 months later.

Antonio Conte

In 13 seasons as a player for Juventus, Conte won almost everything there is to win – five league titles, the Coppa Italia, the Champions League and the UEFA Cup. He moved into management two years after retiring and worked his way back to Juve after spells with Arezzo, Bari, Atalanta and Siena. Juve won three straight Scudetti under Conte – the start of their ongoing dominance – before he accepted the Italy job. He is now back in Serie A and thriving with the Old Lady's bitter rivals Inter.

Roberto Di Matteo

Like Lampard, Di Matteo accepted the top job at Chelsea in 2012, having previously been assistant to Andre Villas-Boas. Di Matteo – who won the FA Cup twice with the Blues as a player – went on to lift two trophies as Chelsea boss, including their first Champions League title with a penalty shoot-out win over Bayern Munich, but he was discarded early in the following season.

MISSES

Alan Shearer

Record Premier League goalscorer, Newcastle United legend and lethal England striker – Shearer's playing career was full of success. When he retired in 2006, Shearer moved into television as a pundit, but when the Magpies came calling in 2009 he stepped in to try and save them from relegation. Sadly for Shearer he was unsuccessful, his eight-game reign ending in Newcastle slipping out of the top flight after a 1-0 defeat to Aston Villa on the final day.

Filippo Inzaghi

Employing former players as head coaches had previously worked well for AC Milan – Fabio Capello and Carlo Ancelotti proving particularly successful. When the Rossoneri turned to Inzaghi in 2014 after Clarence Seedorf's brief tenure, the move was therefore no surprise. However, the former striker – who won eight major trophies at the club in his playing days – flopped, winning 14 of his 40 matches in charge as Milan finished 10th, their worst league finish in 17 years.

Thierry Henry

Henry made his name at Monaco after breaking into the first team in 1994, the forward going on to become a world champion and a Premier League icon with Arsenal. After a period as youth coach with the Gunners, Henry was named as Belgium boss Roberto Martinez's assistant. Permanent roles with Bordeaux and Aston Villa were mooted, but in October 2018 Henry chose Monaco. He lasted just three months, losing 11 of his 20 matches in charge across all competitions before being replaced by Leonardo Jardim, the man he had succeeded.

Juan Jose Lopez

One of the most decorated players in River Plate history, having won seven league titles in an 11-year spell, Lopez was a popular appointment after making a strong impact in his second period as caretaker manager in 2010. However, he subsequently presided over a poor 2011 Clausura campaign, forcing River into a play-off against Belgrano, who won 3-1 on aggregate. It was the first time River dropped out of the top tier, sparking riots which left many people injured.

Arsenal and Everton are moving closer to confirming their new bosses.

According to reports, the Premier League clubs have identified their preferred candidates and commenced discussions.

But while supporters appear to be onside, it seems Manchester City have been left upset by recent developments.

 

TOP STORY – ARSENAL MAKE PROGRESS WITH ARTETA PURSUIT

Arsenal have opened talks with City assistant Mikel Arteta and the Premier League champions are not pleased, according to The Athletic.

Arteta, 37, reportedly met with Arsenal's head of football Raul Sanllehi last week and discussions regarding his potential appointment are said to have advanced following discussions with key officials Vinai Venkatesham and Huss Fahmy.

The Athletic's report suggests that though the Spaniard has kept his employers informed, City have received no official approach from the Gunners – an oversight that has "angered" those at the Etihad Stadium, according to the Mirror.

Arteta spent five seasons with Arsenal as a player and was in the running to succeed Arsene Wenger in 2018, before the job went to Unai Emery.

 

ROUND-UP

- Arteta has also been linked with a return to Everton but the Toffees look set to land a vastly more experienced candidate. According to The Telegraph, Carlo Ancelotti is on the verge of becoming their new manager on a deal running through to 2024. Everton, however, have denied issuing any contract offers in the wake of Marco Silva's dismissal.

- "Senior stars" at Tottenham have urged Jose Mourinho to sign Wolves winger Adama Traore, reports Football Insider. Traore scored a goal and ran the Spurs defence ragged in his side's 2-1 defeat at Molineux on Sunday.

- LaLiga title hopefuls Real Madrid are taking a close look at teenage Rennes midfielder Eduardo Camavinga, claims L'Equipe. Camavinga has already accrued 20 Ligue 1 starts at the tender age of 17.

- Bayern Munich hope to sign Sevilla winger Lucas Ocampos but may be forced to wait until the end of the season, says Sky Sport Italia reporter Gianluca Di Marzio.

- Remaining with Bayern and, even though the Bundesliga champions sit six points adrift of leaders RB Leipzig, club executives are keeping the faith with interim head coach Hansi Flick, reports Bild. That means Thomas Tuchel will not be making a mid-season switch from Paris Saint-Germain.

- Serie A table-toppers Inter admire 20-year-old River Plate midfielder Cristian Ferreira and have discussed the possibility of a transfer with his agent, reports CalcioMercato. 

Bayer Leverkusen have bolstered their midfield options with the signing of highly rated Argentina international Exequiel Palacios from River Plate.

Palacios, 21, will join on January 1 and has signed a five-and-a-half-year contract with the Bundesliga side.

Capped four times by Argentina, Palacios has been around River's first-team for four years but began to appear more regularly in 2017-18.

A technically gifted midfielder with a keen eye for a pass, Palacios played a crucial role in River's successful Copa Libertadores campaign in 2018.

His form at the time saw him emerge as a reported target for Real Madrid, yet those links went cool despite Palacios' agent claiming in January that talks between the two clubs had gone well and were "quite advanced".

Two significant injuries – a fractured leg and hamstring tear – disrupted his progress earlier this year, but he has continued to earn praise for his performances since returning to fitness.

River coach Marcelo Gallardo expressed his frustration at having an "almost sold player" before the year had even finished at the end of November, with Leverkusen expected to sign Palacios for several weeks.

Monday brought the confirmation that they have their man, with Palacios' release clause at River reportedly securing them a €15million transfer fee.

Frenkie de Jong, Matthijs de Ligt and now Donny van de Beek?

Ajax lost stars De Jong and De Ligt in the off-season and Van de Beek is now reportedly nearing an Amsterdam exit.

It may be the case that the midfielder can choose between the two Spanish powerhouse clubs.

 

TOP STORY –  BARCA & MADRID WANT VAN DE BEEK

LaLiga giants Barcelona and Real Madrid are battling to sign Ajax midfielder Donny van de Beek, according to reports.

Van de Beek was heavily linked to Madrid as an alternative to Manchester United star Paul Pogba during the previous transfer window.

Now, Sport claims Van de Beek could be available for between €50-60million.

 

ROUND-UP

Bayer Leverkusen are poised to sign River Plate's Exequiel Palacios, says Kicker. Palacios – previously tipped to join Madrid – is set to move to Bundesliga outfit Leverkusen in January in a €22m deal.

- Mundo Deportivo and Calciomercarto claim Barca and Milan have met to discuss the future of defender Jean-Clair Todibo. LaLiga champions Barca are reportedly happy to part with the 19-year-old.

- According to 90min, Liverpool are set to beat Manchester City and Chelsea to Coventry City left-back Sam McCallum.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic has walked away from negotiations with Milan, reports Calciomercato. A free agent after leaving LA Galaxy, Ibrahimovic has been linked with a return to Milan, as well as Napoli. But the 38-year-old is reportedly not moving back to San Siro after failing to reach an agreement.

- Valencia teenager Ferran Torres is high on the agenda of Madrid, according to AS. The 19-year-old is attracting interest from across Europe, including Liverpool and Juventus.

- Keen to provide competition for Tammy Abraham, 90min says Chelsea are considering a January bid for Bordeaux forward Josh Maja.

Marcelo Gallardo has confirmed he will stay on as River Plate head coach in 2020.

Barcelona had been linked with an approach for Gallardo but the 43-year-old signalled his intention to remain with River at a news conference on Wednesday.

"At the end of the year I usually stop to see where I'm going, what stimulates me, my state, what gets me going and what works with my professional and personal priorities," said Gallardo.

"Something began to be generated regarding the decision I was going to make. I don't want that to continue. On January 2 I will be here and I will start the pre-season, which may be in Uruguay, Buenos Aires on the south of the country.

"I am not interested in generating any kind of uncertainty. My wish is to continue with this team.

"I never had doubts about staying. Being here is hard with the requirements you put on yourself and what it means to be in charge of this club. That's why you have to stop and reflect.

"Beyond my contract, which expires in December 2021, there is no clause. The leadership and I have a very cordial relationship."

Gallardo, who won six league titles and the Copa Libertadores as a River player, took over in 2014 and has led them to 10 trophies, including a pair of Libertadores triumphs.

The last of those continental successes came in memorable fashion in 2018 with a 5-3 aggregate defeat of arch-rivals Boca Juniors after extra time in a final second leg that was moved to the Santiago Bernabeu.

River were unable to defend the Libertadores trophy last month, however, as they fell to a dramatic 2-1 loss to Flamengo late on in Lima.

Gallardo's side sit fifth in the Superliga, three points off the top, and will play their final match of the year when they take on Central Cordoba in the Copa Argentina final on Saturday.

Freddie Ljungberg's spell as Arsenal interim head coach starts away at Norwich City on Sunday.

If the Swede gets his wish, it will be the humble beginning of a long-term tenure.

The Gunners are reportedly receptive to the idea of keeping him in the dugout, at least until the end of the season.

 

TOP STORY – LJUNGBERG KEEN ON LONG-TERM ARSENAL CHANCE

Could rookie coach Freddie Ljungberg go from hugging the touchline at Highbury to patrolling it permanently at Emirates Stadium?

According to The Guardian, the 42-year-old is determined to prove he should succeed Unai Emery at Arsenal on a full-time basis.

Carlo Ancelotti, Massimiliano Allegri and Mauricio Pochettino are among the many men linked with the role, although club chiefs are reportedly prepared to let Ljungberg stay on for the remainder of the season.

 

ROUND-UP

- Staying in the Premier League and Wolves will fight "tooth and nail" to keep Arsenal coaching contender Nuno Espirito Santo, says the Daily Mail.

- Inter have been linked with a South American double swoop. Antonio Conte wants more depth and the Serie A side are keen on Real Madrid playmaker James Rodriguez and promising River Plate defender Lucas Martinez Quarta, reports La Repubblica.

- Edinson Cavani knows a contract extension will not be forthcoming but the striker wants to stay at Paris Saint-Germain until the end of the season, according to Le Parisien.

- West Ham CEO Karen Brady expressed her support of under-fire manager Manuel Pellegrini in The Sun, although the Daily Mail reports he has just two games to save his job.

- Anything less than victory against Hertha Berlin on Saturday will likely spell the end for Lucien Favre at Borussia Dortmund, says Sky Sport Germany.

Jadon Sancho looks set to leave Borussia Dortmund sooner rather than later.

Sancho has established himself as one of the best young players in Europe since leaving Manchester City for Dortmund in 2017.

However, the 19-year-old's stay in Germany appears to be coming to an end.

 

TOP STORY – DORTMUND READY TO PART WITH SANCHO

Dortmund are ready to do business and sell in-demand star Sancho, according to the Independent.

The teenager is wanted by Manchester United, Liverpool, Real Madrid and Barcelona after starring since arriving in the Bundesliga.

But Dortmund are willing to let the England international leave as soon as January due to a breakdown in relationships.

The winger was benched for the midweek Champions League defeat at Barcelona, having felt humiliated by his first-half withdrawal in the Klassiker rout to Bayern Munich.

 

ROUND-UP

- La Nazione says Premier League leaders and Champions League holders Liverpool are interested in Fiorentina star Federico Chiesa. The 22-year-old has sparkled in Florence, leading to links with Serie A champions Juventus and Inter.

- Could Everton be set for a South American triple swoop? According to the Liverpool Echo, the Merseyside club are keen on signing Inter forward Gabriel Barbosa – on loan at Flamengo – and River Plate's Rafael Santos Borre. It comes as the Toffees have reportedly identified Flamengo head coach Jorge Jesus as a possible candidate to succeed Marco Silva following his Copa Libertadores and domestic success.

- Marca claims James Rodriguez has turned down a move to Arsenal. According to reports in England, the Gunners want James in January. However, the Madrid playmaker wants to stay in the Spanish capital.

- High-flying Inter are eager to sign Atalanta full-back Robin Gosens, reports Calciomercato.

Milan are targeting Juventus centre-back Merih Demiral, according to Gazzetta dello Sport. The Turkey international has struggled for game time following his arrival in Turin this season.

- As Flamengo struggle to secure a permanent deal for loan star Barbosa, Goal says the Copa Libertadores champions are in talks to sign Atletico Madrid's Diego Costa.

Manchester City have set their sights on Brescia and Italy sensation Sandro Tonali, says Fichajes. The 19-year-old is attracting interest from all over Europe.

River Plate head coach Marcelo Gallardo is not happy with the timing of Exequiel Palacios' proposed transfer to Bayer Leverkusen as he questioned the club.

Linked to LaLiga powerhouse Real Madrid previously, River star Palacios is reportedly set to join Bundesliga outfit Leverkusen.

The 21-year-old midfielder – also believed to have attracted interest from Paris Saint-Germain, Manchester City, Inter and Ajax – has established himself as a key member of Gallardo's squad.

And Gallardo vented his frustration after the in-demand coach was asked about Palacios' future amid a potential January switch to Germany.

"I don't know exactly what is going to happen," Gallardo told reporters. "We haven't finished the year and we already have an almost sold player [Exequiel Palacios].

"I don't know what the rush was to close this. I've a player now thinking on his departure and we still have three games ahead. They could have waited a little bit, we could have waited a little bit. I don't handle those kinds of things.

"Now I must think on a player who's going to play these three matchdays. Because he's a valuable player for us. But already whit his mind elsewhere. I don't handle those kinds of things. So, I don't know what it's going to happen. I don't know." 

Palacios, who was sent off in the Copa Libertadores final loss to Flamengo earlier this month, has scored three goals for River this season.

 

Rafinha promised to decorate his heavily-inked body with a new tattoo to celebrate Flamengo's first Copa Libertadores title win since 1981.

The 34-year-old right-back left Bayern Munich at the end of last season, bringing an end to an eight-year stint with the Bundesliga champions.

He counted a Champions League and seven Bundesliga titles among his honours at Bayern, and Rafinha continued the trend when helping Flamengo to a dramatic 2-1 victory over River Plate in Lima on Saturday.

Following Flamengo's triumph, Rafinha – who has a host of tattoos to represent meaningful moments in his life and career – vowed to ink his skin once more in honour of the victory.

"For sure, I will tattoo it, yes. I like to mark my achievements and the tattoo is a form that I find works," Rafinha told reporters.

"This will certainly have a little space in my body, preferably on my arm, which is where I tattoo my trophies. It will definitely be marked.

"This was my goal, to win titles for Flamengo. I knew it was very difficult because we have one of the most difficult championships in the world, which is the Brazilian championship.

"And consequently the Libertadores which is the Champions League here in South America. I didn't expect to win a first title so soon. I am very happy to have won this title and made a mark in Flamengo's history."

Flamengo looked to be heading to a defeat to defending champions River, but two goals in quick succession from Gabriel Barbosa late on secured a remarkable triumph.

Flamengo head coach Jorge Jesus described his side's Copa Libertadores triumph as "the most important title of my career".

Two goals in three minutes from Gabriel 'Gabigol' Barbosa saw Flamengo snatch a 2-1 victory over defending champions River Plate in Lima on Saturday.

Flamengo were trailing to Rafael Santos Borre's first-half strike, until Gabriel equalised in the 89th minute and netted the winner three minutes later.

A three-time league champion with Benfica, while he also claimed silverware at Braga, Sporting CP and Al Hilal, Jesus revelled in the achievement.

"It's the most important title of my career," Jesus said post-game. "The Copa Libertadores is for South America what the Champions League is for Europe.

Any of the teams in the continent could have won it. Now we will try to win the Brazilian Serie A, but this is undoubtedly the most important trophy."

Jesus arrived at Flamengo in June and the Brazilian side are 26 games unbeaten in all competitions as they also close in on Campeonato Brasileiro glory.
 
"When I decided to come to Flamengo a lot of people didn't agree with me, including my friends and my agent," Jesus added.

"But I made my own decision to come without being influenced by others. If we win the Club World Cup, it will be the best year of my career."

Jesus has been linked to LaLiga champions Barcelona, but the 65-year-old Portuguese boss said: "I feel very good at Flamengo. I've made many friends in Brazil and the people have always treated me very well."

It was Flamengo's first Libertadores title since 1981 and Gabriel – on loan from Serie A side Inter – added: "Flamengo have to win the Brasileirao, win the Club World Cup…"

 

Flamengo became champions of South America on Saturday as two goals in the last five minutes from Gabriel Barbosa snatched a 2-1 win over River Plate in the Copa Libertadores final.

The one-off match, relocated to Estadio Monumental in Lima due to civil unrest in Santiago, looked set to be settled by a first-half strike from Rafael Santos Borre.

Marcelo Gallardo's men, bidding to become the first team to win back-to-back titles since Boca Juniors in 2001, had the game largely under control until Gabriel levelled in the 89th minute.

The striker then smashed home on the half-volley in the second minute of injury time before being sent off along with Exequiel Palacios in one of the most dramatic finales to the competition's recent history.

A shot at the sporting immortality of back-to-back continental titles against a formidable opponent in the form of Flamengo.

River Plate face a Brazil v Argentina blockbuster in the first Copa Libertadores final to be staged as a one-off game – a change now mired in the logistical nightmare of moving the showpiece from Santiago to Lima at short notice.

Yet all of this is nothing to fear when compared to the bigger picture.

"All us River fans are scared that Marcelo Gallardo could leave," midfielder Exequiel Palacios told Infobae.

"No one wants him to leave. We hope that he'll stay for many more years and keep giving joy to River fans."

Increasingly, for Palacios, his team-mates and a fervent fanbase, this looks like a forlorn hope.

Since returning to coach the club he represented across three spells as an attacking midfielder during his playing days, Gallardo has inspired one of the most successful periods in River's decorated history.

Witheringly nicknamed Las Gallinas by sworn enemies Boca Juniors due to their reputation for choking on the big occasion, River have doubled their number of Libertadores triumphs under Gallardo's leadership, from two to four.

Number four, of course, arrived unforgettably at Boca's expense last season. River prevailed 5-3 on aggregate after a 3-1 extra-time win in the unfamiliar surroundings of the Santiago Bernabeu – the second leg of the final having been moved to Madrid after Boca's team bus was attacked en route to El Monumental for the originally scheduled fixture.

If growing speculation is to be believed, it is LaLiga's other major footballing coliseum where Gallardo might soon by plying his trade.

Barcelona bound?

"Gallardo will be coach of Barcelona in December," former River midfielder and 1986 World Cup winner Claudio Borghi told TNT Sports this month, in comments unlikely to have been welcomed by under-fire Blaugrana boss Ernesto Valverde. "He is one of the best coaches in the world.

"[River Plate president Rodolfo] D'Onofrio said he'd only leave by quitting his post, but I know this from a direct source."

Irrespective of the veracity of Borghi's information, while acknowledging the man himself has sought to quell the rumours, the prospect of Gallardo landing another of the biggest jobs in world football is compelling.

His record on the big occasion is outstanding, as evidenced by the 11 trophies lifted during his tenure.

A directive from the River board to focus on continental success has been carried out to the letter, with the 2014 Copa Sudamericana and three Recopas Sudamericana sitting alongside the 2015 and 2018 Libertadores.

This return has come amid a huge turnover in playing staff – a long-accepted reality for South American teams turning out high-quality football before the prying eyes of European scouts.

Of the side that won the 2015 Libertadores, only Leonardo Ponzio, Jonatan Maidana, Gonzalo Martinez, Camilo Mayada and Rodrigo Mora remained among the squad that tasted glory in Madrid. The Camp Nou powerbrokers would do well to spot Gallardo's astute ability to rebuild, given their uneven and expensive record in the transfer market over recent years.

Boca would certainly be delighted to see the back of him. The ultimately futile 1-0 win in this season's Libertadores semi-final second leg at La Bombonera, after going down 2-0 in the initial match, was their first in seven Superclasicos.

Gallardo's shrewd tactical flexibility was to the fore during last season's final, with a switch from his favoured and fluid 4-4-2 to a back three for the away leg providing extra width that Boca struggled to deal with.

Injuries in attack forced him into a 4-5-1 for the return, but slick combination play and the feature of midfield runners supplementing the attack remained in fine working order on River's night of nights.

Admired by Guardiola and Messi

"What Gallardo has done is unbelievable. He gives them consistency year after year, even though they lose players," Pep Guardiola told TNT last month.

"I don't understand how he's never nominated for manager of the year. It's as if only Europe exists."

That seal of approval from a Barcelona great comes alongside a potentially more significant one from Lionel Messi, who included Gallardo behind Guardiola and Mauricio Pochettino in his top three when voting for the 2019 Best FIFA Men's Coach award.

Of course, Barcelona have gone down the route of appointing a coach from Messi's homeland fairly recently and his fellow Rosario native Gerardo Martino finished the 2013-14 season without a major trophy or his job.

An acclimatisation process would be necessary, not least in terms of week-in, week-out combat in LaLiga. River's superb recent Libertadores record has come at the expense of seriously competing for the Superliga. Key men are routinely rested either side of major knockout matches and their last league success was in 2014, immediately before Gallardo's arrival.

There would be these and more questions to answer. If he is able to see off Flamengo and lift the third Copa Libertadores of his coaching career, the chances of Gallardo having to provide the answers might increase considerably.

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