He arrived in 1999 from Renato Cesarini, but only a year later could he be signed by the Millionaire. In 2005 he went to Corinthians and, despite several talks, he never returned. The history.
The summer of 1999 he met Javier Mascherano for the first time in River. One afternoon in February, the 14-year-old boy, who was playing for Renato Cesarini, the cradle of talents, had arrived to do a test after observers and coaches from the Núñez club’s Inferiors had observed him before. As soon as practice was over, they sent him to the offices on the first floor of the Monumental to sign him. However, a phone call could have changed history and football retirement 21 years ahead …
On the other side of the line, his father Oscar noticed that as his son’s pass it belonged to Renato Cesarini. When one of River’s secretaries contacted that Rosario club, the answer was negative. And he handed the phone to the teenager Mascherano. “Javier, you have to go back. I only accepted that you go for a test, not for them to sign you now, ”Jorge Solari, his coach, told him. Javier’s anger was so great that he didn’t want to play anymore.
However, they managed to convince him and throughout 99 he stayed at Renato Cesarini’s pension. And a year later River insisted again for him and there he did pass. At the age of 15, Mascherano changed Rosario for the Monumental pension. Also, he continued his secondary studies at the River Plate Institute.
Mascherano began to stand out in the River 84 category and quickly made the leap to the Reserve. But the debut in First was delayed. At the same time he had more and more participation in youth teams. He even made his debut in the Senior National Team first. Which led him to think of seeking new horizons.
One day in the winter of 2003 – according to the book “Boss”, Manuel Pellegrini, River coach asked him: “Don’t you know that you are playing at River that you want to go to any club?” On the first date of the Apertura tournament, he took him to the bank and with one minute left (entered by Fernando Crosa) for the match that the Millionaire won against Nueva Chicago by 2 to 1.
Two years he played in the Primera de River (72 games, one goal and one title, the 2004 Clausura) and in the middle of 2005 Corinthians of Brazil paid 15 million dollars for his pass. His last game at Núñez’s club was on July 3, 2005 in the 1-0 victory against Huracán de Tres Arroyos that allowed River to qualify for the 2006 Copa Libertadores playoff.
That afternoon, with Marcelo Gallardo in the starting team, the Little boss He was applauded at the Monumental for several minutes and there were even banners that said “Masche, eternally thank you!”
April 27, 2006 was the only time that Mascherano returned to play at Monumental. For the round of 16 of the Copa Libertadores, he visited Corinthians’ number 3 shirt and was sent off in the second half for a double warning, with the particularity that the second yellow was for an infraction against Gallardo (sought by the Doll). People applauded and cheered as he retreated along the stadium’s running track. River won 3-2 and then won 3-1 in the return leg in Brazil.
Almost 10 years later, Mascherano and River met again. Again face to face. And in Japan, no less, to play the final of the Club World Cup. Masche, with the Barcelona shirt. That Japanese evening (morning in Buenos Aires) on December 20, 2015, the relationship between Masche and the River fans began to break down.
Is that the more than 20 thousand fans of the Millionaire who arrived at the Yokohama National Stadium took it as an offense that the Little boss did not return the greeting after the ovation they gave him before the game. At that time, Masche argued that he did not want to lose focus or that a possible mistake during the game be linked to that situation by the people of Barcelona. Later, he recognized the error of not having raised his hands.
What followed was a story of speculation about a possible comeback that never materialized. Enzo Francescoli maintained contact with him in mid-2016, at which point Mascherano renewed his contract with Barcelona.
And a year and a half later, the rumors increased after his departure from Barcelona, but he chose to go play Chinese football. During a formal visit to that Asian country, River leaders took the opportunity to see him, gave him a shirt and declared him Ambassador of the club.
Finally, Mascherano returned to Argentine soccer but not to River. He arrived at Estudiantes de La Plata at the beginning of this year. And he faced once again with the club of his origins. It was the Millionaire’s victory by 2 to 0 in La Plata. “He never came back because there are moments, it is nothing strange. I appreciate him and celebrate his return, which is very good for our football, “said Gallardo in the preview of that match.
Perhaps, in this sudden decision to leave football, with the addition of a long stop due to the pandemic, the answer will be found to why he did not return to River, the club where Mascherano took his first steps in professional football.