Javier Saviola

Javier Pedro Saviola Fernández (Spanish pronunciation: [xaˈβjeɾ ˈpeðɾo saˈβjola feɾˈnandes]; born 11 December 1981) is an Argentine former professional footballer who played as a forward.

Javier Saviola
Saviola during his presentation as a Benfica player, 2009
Personal information
Full name Javier Pedro Saviola Fernández
Date of birth (1981-12-11) 11 December 1981
Place of birth Buenos Aires, Argentina
Height 1.68 m (5 ft 6 in)
Position(s) Forward
Club information
Current team
Ordino (assistant)
Youth career
Parque Chas
River Plate
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
1998–2001 River Plate 86 (45)
2001–2007 Barcelona 123 (49)
2004–2005Monaco (loan) 29 (7)
2005–2006Sevilla (loan) 29 (9)
2007–2009 Real Madrid 17 (4)
2009–2012 Benfica 69 (24)
2012–2013 Málaga 27 (8)
2013–2014 Olympiacos 26 (12)
2014–2015 Verona 15 (1)
2015–2016 River Plate 14 (0)
2018– Encamp (futsal)
Total 434 (159)
National team
2001 Argentina U20 7 (11)
2000–2007 Argentina 39 (11)
Teams managed
2016– Ordino (assistant)
Representing  Argentina
Men's football
Copa América
Runner-up2004 Peru
FIFA Confederations Cup
Runner-up2005 Germany
Olympic Games
2004 Athens
FIFA U-20 World Cup
Winner2001 Argentina
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only

He represented both Barcelona and Real Madrid, also having notable spells with Benfica and Olympiacos, and was named as the youngest player on Pelé's FIFA 100 list of the 125 greatest living footballers in 2004. Due to his ancestry he also holds Spanish nationality since 2004, and he amassed La Liga totals of 196 games and 70 goals over the course of eight seasons; he started and finished his career at River Plate.

Saviola won league titles in Argentina, Spain, Portugal and Greece during his playing career, as well as a UEFA Cup. An Argentine international for seven years, he represented his country at the 2006 World Cup and the 2004 Copa América, where Argentina reached the final. He also won a gold medal at the 2004 Olympics in Athens.

Club career

River Plate

Nicknamed El Conejo (The Rabbit),[1] Buenos Aires-born Saviola made his debut for Club Atlético River Plate at the age of 16, and went on to be a prolific goalscorer for the club.[2]

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 phenomenal prospect, and was even regarded as a potential heir to Diego Maradona, in particular after he broke the latter's 1978 record by becoming the youngest player to win the Golden Boot award.[3]


In 2001, aged 19, Saviola moved abroad to play for FC Barcelona in a £15 million transfer.[4] 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 team; under coach Carles Rexach, he scored 17 goals in his first season, finishing joint-fourth top scorer in La Liga.[5]

Saviola with Barcelona in 2007

Saviola's second year at the Camp Nou did not start well, as he only scored two goals in the first half of the season. Radomir Antić became the new coach after Louis van Gaal was fired, and he went on to net 11 goals in the latter half of the campaign; Frank Rijkaard was subsequently appointed as new manager for 2003–04, and the player scored 14 times in the league alone, but was deemed surplus at the club as longtime attacking partner Patrick Kluivert.[5]

Saviola was sent on loan in the summer of 2004, moving to AS Monaco FC in Ligue 1. As he did not fit into Rijkaard's plans he was again loaned out the following year, this time to Sevilla FC who were seeking to replace Real Madrid-bound Júlio Baptista; with the Andalusians he won his first title in Europe, conquering the UEFA Cup — he also scored nine times in the league, good enough for fifth.

Saviola returned to Barcelona for 2006–07,[6] playing in 18 league games, six as a starter, and netting five goals. He benefited greatly from injuries to teammates, most notably to Samuel Eto'o, and added five in as many matches in that season's Copa del Rey, notably a hat-trick against Deportivo Alavés (3–2 win at home, 5–2 aggregate).[7][8]

Real Madrid

On 10 July 2007, Real Madrid signed Saviola after his Barcelona contract expired, on a three-year deal.[9] Although on a financially lucrative contract, he endured a difficult time at Real, being mainly restricted to cup matches and sporadic appearances (mainly as a substitute) in the league and the UEFA Champions League.

The arrival of Klaas-Jan Huntelaar limited Saviola's opportunities even more, and he finished his Real Madrid spell with five goals in 28 overall appearances.[10][11]


Saviola celebrating a goal for Benfica, 2011

On 26 June 2009, S.L. Benfica and Real Madrid agreed on a 5 million deal that would see Saviola play in Portugal for the next three years, with an option for one more; a €30 million clause was added. On 16 July, he scored two goals to send his team into the Guadiana Trophy finals after defeating Athletic Bilbao.[12]

Saviola netted twice on 22 October 2009, guiding his side to a 5–0 victory over Everton for the UEFA Europa League (he would also score in their 2–0 win in Liverpool in the second match),[13] adding another brace four days later in a 6–1 routing of C.D. Nacional for the Primeira Liga.[14]

On 6 December 2009, Saviola scored through a chip shot against Académica de Coimbra in a 4–0 home win.[15] On 20 December he netted the game's only goal as Benfica defeated rivals FC Porto at home;[16] during the victorious campaign, he formed a deadly attacking partnership with Paraguayan Óscar Cardozo, with the pair combining for more than 50 goals overall.[17]

On 3 January 2010, shortly before receiving the SJPF Player of the Month award,[18] Saviola scored another winning goal against Nacional, now for the Taça da Liga,[19] again being the game's only scorer in an away defeat of Rio Ave FC, netting in the 48th minute.[20] He scored his 19th goal overall in a 3–1 home triumph against F.C. Paços de Ferreira on 7 March,[21] and the Lisbon club was eventually crowned league champions


In the last hours of the 2012–13 summer transfer window, Saviola agreed on a move to Málaga CF.[22] He played 45 minutes in his first appearance, a 1–0 win at Real Zaragoza on 1 September.[23]

On 15 September 2012, Saviola scored once and provided one assist in a 3−1 home win against Levante UD.[24] He continued with his streak the following game, Málaga's first-ever in the Champions League group stage, netting in a 3–0 home win over FC Zenit Saint Petersburg.[25]


On 25 July 2013, Saviola signed a two-year contract with Greek champions Olympiacos FC.[26] He scored his first goal in the Superleague on 25 August, coming on at half-time and helping his team come from behind to win 2–1 at home to Atromitos F.C. On 10 December he netted a brace – and also missed a penalty – in a 3–1 success over R.S.C. Anderlecht also at the Karaiskakis Stadium in the group stage's last round, which helped the Piraeus team finish second and qualify at the expense of former side Benfica.[27]


On 2 September 2014, Saviola joined Serie A club Hellas Verona FC.[28] He made his official debut on 22 September, starting in a 2–2 home draw against Genoa CFC,[29] and scored his first goal on 2 December, netting the only in a home win over Perugia Calcio for the Coppa Italia.[30] His sole goal of the league season came on 25 January 2015, the only one in a home victory over Atalanta BC.[31]

Return to River

On 30 June 2015, River Plate announced that Saviola had returned to the club.[32] He left in January of the following year, after failing to find the net in his second spell,[33] and subsequently retired from professional football at the age of 34.[34]

Retirement, coaching, and futsal career

Immediately after retiring, Saviola settled in Andorra with his family and was appointed assistant manager at FC Ordino in the Primera Divisió.[35] In February 2018, he joined local futsal team Encamp.[34] In April of that year, he won the principality's futsal league with the side.[36]

International career

Saviola in the Argentina national team, 2007

Saviola starred in the 2001 edition of the FIFA U-20 World 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 the tournament's history.[37]

Two years later, Saviola played in the 2004 Olympic Games and won the gold medal. Under coach Marcelo Bielsa he was given few playing opportunities for the senior team but, after the former's resignation in 2004, new manager José Pékerman, who also worked with him at youth level, turned the tide in the player's favour; he was also a member of the squads that reached final of the 2004 Copa América and the 2005 FIFA Confederations Cup, netting three times in the former tournament[38] and one in the latter.

Saviola was called up to represent Argentina at the 2006 World Cup – Luciano Figueroa and Luciano Galletti were also in contention for a place on the roster, but his excellent form for Sevilla secured his place in the squad. He scored against Ivory Coast in the country's opening game, and made two assists in the 6–0 victory over Serbia and Montenegro also in the group phase.[39]

Saviola retired from international football on 5 December 2009, although not yet 28. He stated that he felt his career as an Argentina player had come to an end, and that he wanted to concentrate on club football.

Style of play

Saviola was known for his speed, agility, dribbling and ability to score from almost any attacking position on the field.[4][40][41] A diminutive, talented, and prolific forward, with a slender build, he was capable of playing as a striker, in a more creative role as a second striker, or even in a playmaking role as an attacking midfielder.[40][42][43][44][45] Throughout his career, Saviola was nicknamed El Conejo (The Rabbit, in Spanish), due to his appearance, and also El Pibito (The Little Kid, in Spanish), a reference to compatriot Diego Maradona, who was nicknamed El Pibe de Oro (The Golden Kid, in Spanish), and to whom Saviola was often compared in his youth.[41][46][47]


Saviola was sponsored by sportswear company Nike, and appeared in commercials for the brand. In a global advertising campaign in the run-up to the 2002 World Cup in Korea and Japan, he starred in a "Secret Tournament" commercial (branded "Scopion KO") directed by Terry Gilliam, appearing alongside footballers such as Luís Figo, Thierry Henry, Hidetoshi Nakata, Roberto Carlos, Ronaldinho, Ronaldo and Francesco Totti, with former player Eric Cantona the tournament "referee".[48][49]

Career statistics


Club Season League Cup League Cup Continental Total
Division AppsGoalsAppsGoalsAppsGoalsAppsGoalsAppsGoals
River Plate 1998–99 Argentine Primera División 196196
1999–2000 33193319
2000–01 34203420
Total 86458645
Barcelona 2001–02 La Liga 3617101144821
2002–03 3613101475120
2003–04 331452734519
2006–07 18555102410
Total 1234912700331416870
Monaco (loan) 2004–05 Ligue 1 2970010743711
Sevilla (loan) 2005–06 La Liga 299001364215
Real Madrid 2007–08 La Liga 936020173
2008–09 812120122
Total 174810040295
Benfica 2009–10 Primeira Liga 271121411164419
2010–11 24963311214514
2011–12 184215160316
Total 692410512329712039
Málaga 2012–13 La Liga 2784061379
Olympiacos 2013–14 Super League Greece 251240523414
2014–15 10000010
Total 261240523514
Verona 2014–15 Serie A 15111162
River Plate 2015 Argentine Primera División 1300020150
Career total 43415939141339934585210



International goals

Argentina's goal tally first

1.20 April 2003June 11, Tripoli, Libya Libya1–03–1Friendly
2.8 June 2003Nagai Stadium, Osaka, Japan Japan1–04–1Friendly
3.11 June 2003Seoul World Cup, Seoul, South Korea South Korea1–01–0Friendly
4.30 June 2004Giants Stadium, New Jersey, United States Peru2–02–1Friendly
5.7 July 2004Elías Aguirre, Chiclayo, Peru Ecuador2–16–12004 Copa América
6.7 July 2004Elías Aguirre, Chiclayo, Peru Ecuador3–16–12004 Copa América
7.7 July 2004Elías Aguirre, Chiclayo, Peru Ecuador4–16–12004 Copa América
8.17 November 2004El Monumental, Buenos Aires, Argentina Venezuela3–13–22006 World Cup qualification
9.15 June 2005RheinEnergieStadion, Cologne, Germany Tunisia2–02–12005 FIFA Confederations Cup
10.10 June 2006Imtech Arena, Hamburg, Germany Ivory Coast2–02–12006 FIFA World Cup
11.7 February 2007Stade de France, Saint-Denis, France France1–01–0Friendly



River Plate


Real Madrid[50]

  • La Liga: 2007–08
  • Supercopa de España: 2008


  • Primeira Liga: 2009–10
  • Taça da Liga: 2009–10, 2010–11, 2011–12
  • Supertaça Cândido de Oliveira runner-up: 2010





  • Argentine Primera División: 1999 Apertura Top scorer
  • South American Footballer of the Year: 1999
  • South American Team of the Year: 1999[52]
  • Player of the Year of Argentina: 1999
  • FIFA World Youth Championship: Golden Shoe 2001[53]
  • FIFA World Youth Championship: Golden Ball 2001[53]
  • Trofeo EFE: 2001–02
  • Primeira Liga: Player of the Month December 2009
  • Portuguese Golden Ball: 2010
  • FIFA 100


  1. El 'Mono' Burgos bautizó a Saviola como el 'Conejo' ('Mono' Burgos dubbed Saviola 'Conejo'); Mundo Deportivo, 22 July 2001 (in Spanish)
  2. Interview with Javier Saviola Archived 21 September 2011 at the Wayback Machine; The Argentina Independent, 10 October 2008
  3. "Can Saviola repeat Maradona's feat?". FIFA. 15 June 2001. Retrieved 3 March 2015.
  4. Monti, Fabio (7 July 2001). "Saviola come Diego, al Barcellona da re" [Saviola like Diego, at Barcelona as a king] (in Italian). Corriere della Sera. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
  5. Martín, Luis (26 September 2006). "Saviola, de solución a problema" [Saviola, from solution to problem]. El País (in Spanish). Retrieved 29 August 2018.
  6. Saviola seguirá en el Barça aunque Rijkaard no cuenta con él (Saviola to continue in Barça even though Rijkaard does not want him); El Mundo, 31 August 2006 (in Spanish)
  7. El Barcelona golea sin problemas al Badalona y Saviola se aprovecha (Barcelona have no problems routing Badalona and Saviola seizes chance); Marca, 8 November 2006 (in Spanish)
  8. Sublime Saviola sinks Alavés; UEFA, 17 January 2007
  9. Saviola to sign off at Barça; UEFA, 18 June 2007
  10. Saviola: "Voy a dar la vuelta a esta situación" (Saviola: "I am going to turn things around"); Marca, 7 April 2008 (in Spanish)
  11. Saviola: "Mi situación en el Madrid es intolerable" (Saviola: "My situation in Madrid is intolerable"); Marca, 24 January 2009 (in Spanish)
  12. "Benfica vence Bilbao com 'bis' de Saviola" [Benfica beat Bilbao with Saviola brace] (in Portuguese). Expresso. 16 July 2009. Retrieved 30 August 2018.
  13. Europa League: Everton humbled, Fulham denied; ESPN Soccernet, 22 October 2009
  14. Unstoppable Benfica crush Nacional; PortuGOAL, 26 October 2009
  15. Cardozo and Saviola show fires Benfica to another big win; PortuGOAL, 6 December 2009
  16. Saviola fires Benfica to victory in classico Archived 19 December 2009 at the Wayback Machine; PortuGOAL, 20 December 2009
  17. "Djalmir foi o marcador mais eficaz" [Djalmir was the most effective scorer] (in Portuguese). Record. 10 May 2010. Archived from the original on 22 February 2017. Retrieved 21 February 2017.
  18. "Saviola eleito melhor jogador de Dezembro" [Saviola voted best player in December] (in Portuguese). SAPO. 7 January 2010. Retrieved 30 August 2018.
  19. Gouveia, Ricardo (3 January 2010). "Taça da Liga: Benfica-Nacional, 1–0 (crónica)" [League Cup: Benfica-Nacional, 1–0 (match report)] (in Portuguese). Maisfutebol. Retrieved 30 August 2018.
  20. Alvarenga, Vítor Hugo (9 January 2010). "Rio Ave-Benfica, 0–1 (crónica)" [Rio Ave-Benfica, 0–1 (match report)] (in Portuguese). Maisfutebol. Retrieved 30 August 2018.
  21. Liedson hits four for Sporting; Benfica go three points clear at table top Archived 19 March 2013 at the Wayback Machine; PortuGOAL, 7 March 2010
  22. Bonachera, Rocío (31 August 2012). "Saviola: "Trataré de aportar lo máximo al equipo"" [Saviola: "I will give of myself as much as i can to this team"] (in Spanish). Vavel. Retrieved 31 August 2012.
  23. "Real Zaragoza 0–1 Málaga". ESPN Soccernet. 1 September 2012. Retrieved 3 September 2012.
  24. "Mágico Saviola, histórico Málaga" [Magical Saviola, historical Málaga]. Marca (in Spanish). 15 September 2012. Retrieved 17 September 2012.
  25. Magical Málaga make it a debut to remember; UEFA, 18 September 2012
  26. Javier Saviola completes switch to Olympiacos; Sky Sports, 24 July 2013
  27. "Saviola the hero as Olympiacos squeeze through". UEFA. 10 December 2013. Retrieved 10 December 2013.
  28. "Verona, ecco Saviola, il bomber argentino del Barcellona prima di Messi" [Verona, here is Saviola, Barcelona's Argentine bomber before Messi]. La Gazzetta dello Sport (in Italian). 2 September 2014. Retrieved 19 October 2014.
  29. "Verona salvage stalemate". Sky Sports. 24 September 2014. Retrieved 19 October 2014.
  30. "Verona-Perugia 1–0: Saviola manda i gialloblù agli ottavi con la Juve" [Verona 1–0 Perugia: Saviola sends the yellow-and-blue into the last 16 against Juve]. La Gazzetta dello Sport (in Italian). 2 December 2014. Retrieved 5 December 2014.
  31. "Serie A: Javier Saviola nets winner for Verona against Atalanta". Sky Sports. 25 January 2015. Retrieved 27 June 2015.
  32. "Saviola, mano a mano en su vuelta a River" [Saviola, one-on-one on his return to River] (in Spanish). River Plate. 30 June 2015. Retrieved 1 July 2015.
  33. "Saviola deja River" [Saviola leaves River]. Marca (in Spanish). 7 January 2016. Retrieved 9 February 2016.
  34. Javier de Paz Seguir (15 February 2018). "Saviola se pasa al fúbol sala" [Saviola moves to futsal] (in Spanish). Diario AS Argentina. Retrieved 13 April 2019.
  35. "Saviola ficha por el Ordino de Andorra" [Saviola signs for Andorra's Ordino]. Marca (in Spanish). 19 September 2016. Retrieved 19 September 2016.
  36. "Saviola gana la liga de fútbol sala de Andorra con el Encamp" [Saviola wins the Andorran futsal league with Encamp]. Diario AS (in Spanish). 20 April 2018. Retrieved 5 October 2018.
  37. https://en.goalstudio.com/product/10-facts-about-fifas-u-20/568/
  38. "Copa América 2004". RSSSF. Archived from the original on 22 October 2008. Retrieved 17 February 2015.
  39. "Argentina 6–0 Serbia & Montenegro". BBC Sport. 16 June 2006. Retrieved 17 February 2015.
  40. "Cocu wary of old team-mate". UEFA.com. 22 February 2005. Retrieved 9 January 2020.
  41. "Javier Saviola; 'El pibito' the goalscorer". FC Barcelona. Retrieved 9 January 2020.
  42. "Saviola, ancora l'Italia nel futuro? Lo cercano Bologna, Genoa e Atalanta" [Saviola, still Italy in his future? Bologna, Genoa and Atalanta are looking to get him]. La Gazzetta dello Sport (in Italian). 17 February 2016. Retrieved 9 January 2020.
  43. "Aimar al River, Saviola Resta a Verona" [Aimar to Rivre, Saviola Remains at Verona] (in Italian). Hellas 1903. 31 December 2014. Retrieved 9 January 2020.
  44. "Saviola makes Henry pitch". The Guardian. 16 March 2004. Retrieved 9 January 2020.
  45. Cox, Michael (29 October 2013). "Aguero shows his versatility". ESPN FC. Retrieved 17 May 2020.
  46. Kennedy, Paul (12 June 2001). "2001 World Youth Championship Preview: Eight to Watch". Soccer America. Retrieved 9 January 2020.
  47. Di Gioia, Alessandro (9 December 2017). "Che fine ha fatto? Il 'conejo' Saviola: da nuovo Maradona alla tristezza Verona" [What ever happened to him? The 'conejo' Saviola: from the new Maradona to the sadness of Verona] (in Italian). Calciomercato. Retrieved 9 January 2020.
  48. "A lighter shoe, cooler kits, a faster ball, a Secret Tournament – every touch counts". Nike. Archived from the original on 2 June 2002. Retrieved 26 May 2015.
  49. Cozens, Claire (3 April 2002). "Cantona hosts World Cup with a difference". The Guardian. Retrieved 26 May 2015.
  50. "J. Saviola". Soccerway. Retrieved 4 January 2014.
  51. "Argentina – Record International Players". RSSSF. Archived from the original on 13 January 2010. Retrieved 9 February 2016.
  52. "South American Team of the Year". RSSSF. 16 January 2009. Archived from the original on 21 January 2015. Retrieved 10 March 2015.
  53. "FIFA World Youth Championship Argentina 2001 – Awards". FIFA. Retrieved 2 February 2015.
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