Colombia striker Teofilo Gutierrez on Tuesday arrived in Buenos Aires to join his new team River Plate ahead of the upcoming start of the Argentine league.
Assuming he passes River’s medical exam, Gutierrez will sign with the team Tuesday afternoon and be ready to begin practice by Wednesday of the following week.
The soon-to-be ex-Cruz Azul goal scorer talked with reporters in his native Barranquilla Sunday about what the move means to him.
“I’ve been a River Plate supporter since I was a kid,” he told reporters in Barranquilla last Sunday, “it’s one of the greatest clubs in South America and wearing that jersey has been a dream of mine.”
Yes, decades later, after a noteworthy career spanning seven teams and three countries, Teofilo Gutierrez will finally get to play for the team of his childhood dreams: it certainly has all the makings of the classic feel-good sports story. Of course, Buenos Aires is probably the most violent football climate in the world, and Argentine fans are notoriously fickle, so the potential is there for the feel-good story to turn sour very quickly.
Not that there’s any good reason to expect that it will.
Gutierrez has gotten into trouble in the past for his erratic behavior, but he runs hard and plays with lots of passion, characteristics the millonarios supporters value highly (in Buenos Aires, the worst thing you can be is a pecho frio, a cold-chested player, which is one thing Teofilo is definitely not). Plus, he’s played several seasons in the Argentine Primera already, for Racing Club and Lanus, and understands the pressure involved in performing in front of the snarling, blood-toothed banshees that tend to show out for games there. He did not start consistently for Cruz Azul, but when he did, he scored important goals, and played a surprisingly mature role in what was an excellent year for the Mexican side. And at River, he will be combining up top with Gabriel Funes Mori, another talented, physical striker who likes working further away from goal than he does, and should complement his play nicely.
What’s more, Gutierrez recognizes how important this transfer could be for him, and asked specifically for it to happen. “What’s coming is going to be very important for my career,” he said Sunday.
River Plate is the biggest club Teofilo Gutierrez has played for, Buenos Aires the biggest stage. At 28, he is one of the older players on the incredibly deep Colombian attacking front. He’s played well for the national team, but if he wants to find starting minutes ahead of Jackson Martinez, who scored 22 more goals that him in club play last year, and in Europe, besides, he is going to need to put on a show for the River Plate faithful.
Meanwhile, after a second-place finish in the 2013 Apertura, and it’s first ever relegation in 2011, River Plate is looking for this signing to give a strong set of players the push it needs to regain the club’s past dominance over the Argentine Primera. They need a big contribution from the big Colombian striker who once was a boy and a fan. And with the World Cup approaching for the best side to ever wear the Colombian colors, Teofilo Gutierrez could use a push himself.