As the news arrived that Thierry Henry would be going back to Arsenal in December on a two-month loan from the New York Red Bulls, so too did it emerge that his former international teammate and strike partner at Monaco David Trezeguet would be making an emotional return of his own.

 

Seventeen years after the last of his five appearances for Platense, he had decided to go ‘home’ not to France, the country where he was born, but to Argentina, the country of his father Jorge, where he had spent his childhood. “From that moment on,” Trezeguet said, “the dream of coming back here was ever present, even if it was only on holiday.”

 

After severing his ties with the Dubai based club Baniyas, who he had joined following Hercules’s relegation from La Liga in Spain, Trezeguet caught the eye by signing a two and a half year deal with River Plate.

 

Like Henry, who will always be associated with Arsenal, Trezeguet shares a similar sentimental bond with Juventus after a decade-long spell in Turin during which time he became the most prolific foreign goalscorer in the club’s history with 171 goals in 320 games.

 

Yet, while he continues to hold a special place for them in his heart, it’s River who he claims to support.

“To play for this club and in Argentine football is to crown a dream,” Trezeguet told reporters at Ezeiza international airport. “I left Buenos Aires very young and I’m really enthusiastic about this move.”

 

Quite understandably, so too is River’s young coach Matías Almeyda who frequently came face-to-face with Trezeguet in Serie A when marshalling Lazio’s, Inter’s and Parma’s midfields.

 

He even cut short a family holiday in Miami to join president Daniel Passarella in playing a personal role in negotiations to bring the World Cup and European Championship-winning centre-forward to the club.

 

There’s nothing particularly strange about that in and of itself. Almeyda has insisted on meeting each of River’s potential new recruits since he replaced Juan José Lopez in the autumn to “see if they really want to come”.

 

Nevertheless it was clear by his excitement at the prospect of landing a player of Trezeguet’s calibre that he felt this wasn’t any old run-of-the-mill transfer. This might prove a game-changer.

 

Almeyda admitted that his thoughts had first turned to Trezeguet in September, but back then he thought the chances of reaching an agreement were impossible. Once he heard the situation had changed, however, he knew that this was an opportunity not to be missed.

 

“I love Trezeguet,” Almeyda gushed in an interview with Olé, abandoning his hard-man image. “David is a fan of River.”

 

Since an official statement confirming Trezeguet’s arrival was released on the club’s website on December 19, there have been anecdotes in the local papers detailing his experiences as a River hincha. He has been known to catch the 152 bus with his friends to watch them play at El Monumental and was apparently there in June for the second leg of the team’s relegation play-off against Belgrano.

 

River lost and went down to the Nacional B for the first time since they appeared in the Argentine top-flight in 1908. It was a shock. Not least because River have won the league title 33 times, more than anyone else, and they, among with Independiente and rivals Boca Juniors, had never suffered the ignominy of relegation since football became professional in Argentina in 1931.

 

The soul searching that followed the rioting, which saw El Monumental and the surrounding area trashed by the incensed barra brava, led to some enlightened thinking. River have made a policy of adding players to their young squad who appear to have a genuine affection for the club, which in turn has led many of the fans, disillusioned by the events of June, to reconnect with them once more.

 

Summer signings Fernando Cavenaghi and Alejandro ‘Chori’ Domínguez, both of whom played for River between 2001 and 2004, and are vocal about their support of the club, returned from Europe, where they enjoyed decent reputations, to help their team in its hour of need. Trezeguet, it seems, also falls into this category.

 

“It’s good for us and the fans because to Trezeguet football is not about earning a fortune, it’s about taking on a sentimental challenge,” Almeyda said. “I like that as a coach because I know I’ll have the commitment of a big player.”

 

Unveiled to the media on January 4 after River’s first training session of the summer recess ahead of the second half of the season in Argentina, Trezeguet said: “It was the ideal moment for me to return. River are going through a very difficult time… I want to be part of the history (of their recovery). What I can experience here can be even better than all that (I did in Europe). Being here is a unique feeling, motivated by everything that River represents.”

 

The real coup of Trezeguet’s signing is that he of course has been through this exact same situation before with Juventus, who were relegated for the first time in their history in 2006 after the Calciopoli scandal. In addition to his goals, it’s that kind of experience which River have sought to acquire. “He is a No 9 who can bring a lot of things to the team on and off the pitch,” Almeyda explained.

 

Reflecting on that period of his career, Trezeguet said: “At Juventus we showed it could be done with young players who are now in the Italian national team. Our shirt represents a history and the Juventus youngsters understood that (of theirs).”

 

River currently lie second in the Nacional B, two points behind Instituto de Córdoba after 18 games. Defeats to Aldosivi, Atlético Tucumán and Boca Unidos have shown that they aren’t having it all their own way and that, even for a club as prestigious as their own, getting out of the second tier won’t be a walk in the park.

 

Yet with Trezeguet strengthening their ranks, River should have more than enough firepower to blaze their way back to the Primera División. Cavenaghi is already on 13 goals and is proving as integral as he once was to Bordeaux’s title-winning campaign in 2009, while Domínguez is still capable of pulling the strings like he once did for Rubin Kazan in the Champions League in 2010 when he scored a stunning goal against Inter and laid on the assist for Gökdeniz Karadeniz’s winning goal against Barcelona at the Camp Nou.

 

As an attacking trident, a tactic Almeyda is due to experiment with during the upcoming summer friendlies against Estudiantes, Racing and Boca in a pair of Superclásicos, they’re potentially formidable. Whether it’s workable or not remains to be seen.

 

There have been doubts about Trezeguet’s fitness ever since he underwent operations on each of his knees in his penultimate season at Juventus. But 12 goals in 32 games for a struggling Hercules side in La Liga last year indicate that, even at the age of 34 one of the finest strikers of his generation can still cause whole opposition defences to lose sleep the night before a match.

 

“For me football is passion and I wasn’t getting that in Arabian football at Baniyas. What better place to experience that than here?” Trezeguet asked. He’s right, of course, for there are few parts of the world that feel football as intensely as they do in Argentina.

 

This article first appeared on The Score