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Javier Pedro Saviola Fernández (born 11 December 1981 in Buenos Airesmarker) is an Argentinemarker footballer who currently plays as a striker for Sport Lisboa e Benfica in the Portuguese first division.

Known for his speed and ability to score from almost any position, he is also an Argentine international, and was named, as the youngest player, to Pelé's FIFA 100 list of the 125 greatest living footballers. Saviola also holds Spanish nationality.

Club career

River Plate

Nicknamed El conejo (rabbit), Saviola made his debut for River Plate at the age of 16, and went on to be a prolific goalscorer for the club. He helped River to the 1999 Apertura and 2000 Clausura championships, and earned the 1999 South American Footballer of the Year award. Still only 18, he gained a reputation as a phenomenol prospect.

FC Barcelona

In 2001, aged 19, Saviola moved abroad to play for FC Barcelona in a £15 million transfer. He obtained Spanish citizenship shortly after, thereby not being restricted by the Spanish league maximum on the number of non-European Union citizens allowed in each club. Under coach Louis van Gaal, he scored 17 goals in his first season, finishing third best scorer in the league.

Saviola with Barcelona
His second year at the club did not start well, as he only scored two goals in the first half of the season. When van Gaal was fired and Radomir Antić became the new Barcelona manager, Saviola went on to score 11 goals in the latter half of the campaign. At the start of the following season, Frank Rijkaard was appointed as new manager, and Saviola scored 14 goals in the league alone, but was deemed surplus at the club, as was longtime offensive partner Patrick Kluivert.

Saviola was sent on loan the following year, moving to AS Monaco in the French first division championship in the summer 2004. As he did not fit into Rijkaard's plans, Saviola was again loaned out in the summer of 2005, this time to Spanish club Sevilla FC, in order to replace Júlio Baptista, on the move to Real Madrid. At Sevilla, Saviola won his first title in Europe, when the club won the 2006 UEFA Cup - he also scored nine times in the league, good enough for fifth.

Saviola returned to Barcelona for the 2006-07 season, playing in 18 league games (six as a starter) and scoring five goals. He benefited greatly from injuries to teammates, most notably to Samuel Eto'o, and added five in as much games in that season's domestic cup, notably a hat-trick against Deportivo Alavés (3-2 win at home, 5-2 aggregate).

Real Madrid

On 10 July 2007, Real Madrid signed Saviola after his Barcelona contract expired, on a three-year deal. Although on a financially lucrative contract, he endured a difficult time at Real. He was mainly restricted to cup matches and sporadic appearances (mainly as a substitute) in the league and the Champions League. The arrival of Klaas-Jan Huntelaar limited his opportunities even more, and Saviola finished his Real Madrid spell with five goals in 28 overall appearances.

Benfica

On 26 June 2009, Sport Lisboa e Benfica and Real Madrid agreed on a 5 million deal that would see Saviola play in Portugalmarker for the next three years, with an option for one more; a €30 million clause was added. Saviola scored his first goal for the club on a penalty in a friendly match against FC Sion and, on 16 July 2009, Saviola scored twice to put his team to the Guadiana tournament trophy finals. On October 22 Saviola scored a further 2 goals for Benfica, guiding them to a 5 0 victory over Everton. On October 26 he scored another 2 over Nacional. On the 5th of November, Saviola scored 1 goal out of a 2-0 win against Everton in the Europa League.

International career

Saviola starred in the 2001 edition of the World Youth Cup, held in Argentina. He was top scorer and was voted player of the tournament, as the national team won the competition. With 11 goals in seven games, he became the record goal-scorer in World Youth Cups history. His vintage performance earned himself many offers from European clubs but, surprisingly, he lost his place in the Argentina national football team squad for the2002 FIFA World Cup in favour of veterane Claudio Caniggia.

Two years later, Saviola played in the 2004 Olympic Games and won the Olympic gold medal. Under coach Marcelo Bielsa, Saviola was given few playing opportunities for Argentina, but after Bielsa's resignation in 2004, new coach José Pekerman, who also coached the player at youth level, gave him more playing time with the A's.

Saviola was called up to represent Argentina at the 2006 FIFA World Cup. Luciano Figueroa and winger Luciano Galletti were also in contention for a place on the roster, but Saviola's excellent form for Sevilla secured his place in the squad. He made his presence felt at the tournament, as he scored a goal against Côte d'Ivoire in Argentina's opening game, and made two assist in the 6-0 victory against Serbia and Montenegro.

Club statistics



86||44||colspan="2"|-||colspan="2"|-||111||55
165||62||20||8||50||19||235||89
29||8||0||0||7||4||36||12
8||4||1||1||5||4||14||9
287||116||21||9||62||27||395||163


Honours and awards

Club

River Plate


Sevilla


Barcelona


Real Madrid


International

Argentina


Individual



References

  1. Sky Sports profile
  2. Sublime Saviola sinks Alavés
  3. Saviola to sign off at Barça


External links



1998-99 River Plate Argentine League 20 7 -
1999-00 31 17 -
2000-01 35 20 -

2001-02 Barcelona Spanish League 32 17 1 0 11 4 44 21
2002-03 36 13 1 0 14 7 51 20
2003-04 33 14 5 2 7 3 45 19

2004-05 Monaco French League 29 8 0 0 7 4 36 12

2005-06 Sevilla Spanish League 30 9 0 0 13 5 43 14
2006-07 Barcelona 18 5 5 5 1 0 24 10
2007-08 Real Madrid 9 3 6 0 2 0 17 3
2008-09 7 1 2 1 2 0 11 2

2009-10 Benfica Liga Sagres 8 4 1 1 5 4 14 9

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