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Paulo Díaz and Robert Rojas will fill the void left by Chino in the starting team. The DT must define the player profile he wants to accompany Pinola.

Punta del Este. January 2019. Jonatan Maidana was performing the ninth summer preseason at River. There was an ambiguous feeling for him. On the one hand it was the most special and joyful of all. Marcelo Gallardo’s team had just won the final of the Copa Libertadores against Boca in Madrid. On the other hand, he knew internally that it might be the last. And when the team returned to Buenos Aires it was confirmed: its representative had everything arranged so that Joni He went to Toluca in Mexico and could make an economic difference, something that he had been putting off. There was a collateral effect of that transfer: it was the first step towards opening a door to two players competing for a position today.

Maidana’s departure left Lucas Martínez Quarta free to establish himself as River’s “2”. He Chino, emerged from the Lower MillionairesHe was ready, so much so that from that moment until now he shared the central defense with Javier Pinola.

But that summer in Uruguay, Marcelo Gallardo’s mind, like so many other times, was traveling to the future. Before the departure of Maidana, he asked for two defenders. With a particularity: that they played as center-backs but that they could also do so as full-backs. He Doll I saw that he not only had little replacement in the central defense but also on the right side, behind Gonzalo Montiel.

From Paraguay came Robert Rojas, with the nickname of Hitman although it is better than Lassie tied. The statistics showed that he hit little, although the occasional kick gives.

Just ask Enzo Pérez. “You see that scar that I have there,” said the midfielder when they welcomed him. “Is called Hitman Rojas, “he continued. The Paraguayan, playing for Guaraní, his previous club, had faced River in the knockout stages of the 2017 Copa Libertadores and left Pérez a gift. From that moment on, River’s coaching staff began to follow him.

The idea was that at the beginning of 2019 the Chilean would also arrive Paulo Díaz. Gallardo has also followed him since 2017, when the Chilean scored a goal against River in the Nuevo Gasómetro playing for San Lorenzo, by putting his chest to a bad clearance of fists from Augustus Battle on a standing ball.

From Bajo Flores Díaz he went to Al-Ahli from Saudi Arabia. The Arabs delayed the negotiation, so there was no time for the transfer to River to be made in that summer market. But it did materialize the following winter.

Now that Martínez Quarta has gone to Fiorentina, again there was an empty place in the starting team. Between Rojas and Díaz his replacement will come out. What does each offer Gallardo?

Rojas is a fast defender, who played as the first central marker, winger and also as a libero when the Doll he put together a defense with three full-backs earlier this year.

One of the strong characteristics of the Paraguayan is to make good coverage towards the sides, since he is a timekeeper and also anticipates well. He knows how to read the game and takes advantage of his speed to try to beat the rival center-forward. If you let it receive, it is difficult for you to put up with it. In River he played 30 games and scored 3 goals.

Díaz has a stronger physical build but even so, he does not show so much rigidity in the brand. When he played in the cave, or as a marker on the right in the line of three central markers, he also showed good anticipation and lucidity to start playing from the bottom.

Of course: he had problems when he played as a winger. They complicate it with long balls behind their backs. With the River shirt, he played 15 games and scored a goal.

Despite not having a typical central marker size, both Rojas (1.76 meters) and Díaz (1.78 meters) have good aerial play. Either to defend or to go looking for centers in the rival area. There is also another coincidence between them: both are national team players. So now they went to Paraguay and Chile, respectively.

After the double round of the South American Qualifiers, when they return to River a challenge awaits them: replace Martínez Quarta. When Gallardo brought in a defender to set up a line with three central markers in the last game against San Pablo, he chose Diaz. That does not yet mean that the Chilean is the one who occupies the position of first marker back row from now on. Of course: there will be space only for one of the two. And they will compete for that place in each training session at the Ezeiza campus.



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