Sebastian Driussi – Zenit’s New Lion

Sebastian Driussi celebrating a goal against Rubin Kazan. Photo: Вячеслав Евдокимов/fc-zenit.ru

It’s the middle of May, and it is time for the Superclásico, the Argentinean derby between Boca Juniors and River Plate. One of the biggest games in the world. Going into the game, which is played at Boca’s historic home ground La Bombonero, the home team leads the league with River trailing behind. River head coach Marcelo Gallardo has pointed his focus on the Copa Libertadores, and the results in the league have suffered as a result. Nevertheless, they began climbing up the table, and reached a point where the league title is within closing distance. Obtainable only if they beat their arch rivals. 

By the end of the game, River won 3-1 and Sebastián Driussi scored the winning goal in the 91st minute.

After the clash he was naturally filled with joy over the prestigious victory;

“It’s a huge joy. I lived trough this game with a lot of enthusiasm and happiness. This is our eternal rivals and whenever you come to this court you have to walk out with the desire to win.”

In the end, the victory wasn’t enough as Boca Juniors still emerged as league champions, but it was fantastic way for Driussi to finish his career with River, as he only a few months later moved east to St. Petersburg and Zenit.

Growing up in San Justo, in the outskirts of Argentina’s capital Buenos Aires, Driussi was no stranger to the importance of the Superclásico. At the age of nine, he began playing for River, and he slowly made his way through the youth teams. Even from an early age he coped with the pressure, and his family received $40,000 from River when he joined the club.

In June 2013, a few months before his debut for the first team, he proved that the $40,000 was a good investment for River, as he helped the club win the Under-17 World Club Cup, and even scored the decisive goal in the final against Atlético Madrid. The victory in the final came after a number of impressive performances, which included a 4-0 victory against Sampdoria, a 1-0 win against Malaga, a defeat to Real Madrid, and then a semi-final victory against FC Barcelona. Not only was it a success for the team, but also for Driussi personally, as he made three goals and finished as the top scorer of the tournament and one of the stand out talents.

Unsurprisingly, soon after he found himself playing with the first team, and being prepared for entering men’s football.

Senior Breakthrough

After his first training sessions with River Plates first team he declared his gratitude to the manager Ramón Diaz who brought him to the senior team and believed in him;

“It’s a big privilege to play with big players like these. I’m very grateful for that”. 

The debut with the senior side came in December that year, against Argentinos Juniors, a minor side from Buenos Aires. After the debut he declared that playing for River had been his dream for a long time.

Despite the early promise and debut, it took the striker longer than expected to make an impact at River. He was in the squad which won the 2013/2014 Primera Division and later the 2015 Copa Libertadores, but didn’t really make much of himself, and he was often played out of position on either the wings or as an attacking midfielder. For the same reason, his goal tally during his first seasons at River are quite misleading.

It wasn’t until the 2016/2017 season that he finally exploded. The partnership with fellow striker Lucas Alario was supreme during the whole season, and Driussi’s sharp runs and Alario’s precise headers proved to be a great combination for River. By the end of the season, Driussi had scored 17 goals and made four assists, a tally only bettered by Boca’s Dario Benedetto.

With such a season, it was just a matter of time before someone in Europe would send millions to Buenos Aires in exchange for his signature on a long-term contract. That someone was Zenit, who fought off interest from Marseille, AS Roma, and especially Tottenham Hotspur, where the former Newell’s Old Boys player Mauricio Pocchettino was said to be interested in bringing in “the next Sergio Agüero”. However, unlike Javier Pastore, Paolo Dybala and numerous other Argentineans who preferred Southern Europe, Driussi picked Zenit in the north.

Complete Striker

Although he has been moved around a lot at River, Driussi is best up front as a forward. Up there, he can use his pace and great technique, and because of his strong control of the ball, he is a difficult task for any defender. On top of that, he is also relatively good in the air despite his short stature (174 cm, 5’7). Because of his early struggles as a senior player, he has learned that he needs to give one hundred percent for the team, and has developed an instinct to always give his all, no matter what.

Another strength of Driussi is the fact, that he seems to make his teammates better. Perhaps the main reason for River’s strong finish to last season, was that Alario was made better by his young partner. In his first two seasons at River, Alario scored a combined ten goals, but last season he found the back of the net 12 times, as he and Driussi really hit it off.

These strengths make him quite different from Zenit’s other strikers Aleksandr Kokorin and especially the stationary target-man Artyom Dzyuba, and gives head coach Roberto Mancini some alternatives to the big man, which the Blue-White-Sky Blues have needed ever since Hulk left last summer.

In his first three games for the club, Driussi has already scored two goals, both of them in the 2-1 victory against Rubin Kazan, and is slowly becoming popular among the fans. This is not only because of his performances on the pitch, but also because of his personality, and especially the giant lion tattoo on his back, which is also one of Zenit’s prominent symbols.

Segunda victoria, Vamos por más👍🏻. 2-1⚪️🔵⚪️

Et opslag delt af Sebastian Driussi 🇦🇷 (@sebadriussi.11) den

So far, Zenit and Driussi are off to a great start with three victories in three league games, and a shared first place with Akhmat Grozny and Lokomotiv Moscow. Driussi has already scored twice, and contributed to vital victories, and by the looks of it, that should become a regular occurence for the St. Petersburg outfit in the future.

Author: Oskar Uneland

Malmö FF supporter. 24 years old. Loves football, have followed Swedish, Russian and Argentine football for a long time.

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