Forza Futbol

A Better Lens at Spanish Football


Ruben Pardo from Real Sociedad


We hope you enjoyed our low down on the best young talent coming through at the first ten teams in La Liga this week, and here is the second and final installment, featuring stars of tomorrow from Osasuna, Racing, Rayo, Real Madrid, Real Sociedad, Sevilla, Sporting, Valencia, Villarreal and Zaragoza. If you read last week’s part one you will know that the best talent all the way down to Cadete (under-16) level will be profiled, so read on to find out more!


Osasuna are a side who have produced many a good player in recent times, Javi Martinez, Raúl García, Nacho Monreal and César Azpilicueta just four names who have emerged from their cantera. Their B-team at the moment are safe in Segunda B, and although there are no real stand out youngsters, players have still proved capable of making the step up in the case of now first choice goalkeeper Andrés Fernández this season. Young defender Unai García has made a good impression too, although only featuring 8 times (with 2 goals). In the first team, young Senegalese striker Ibra started well after his summer move from Atlético, but has been in and out of the team lately.

At youth level, los Rojillos’ Juvenil A team finished the season in fourth place last weekend, and are home to two outstanding talents in goalkeeper Ander Cantero and playmaker Miguel Díaz, both of whom were shortlisted for this year’s Futbol Draft. Their Cadete team have had a very good season too, and although the Navarrese league at that level does not include any other of La Liga’s U16 outfits, they have managed 24 wins from 26 games, and 136 goals in total.



Racing may well be heading into the Segunda next season, however that could not be the worst thing that could happen to them in this state considering they have a number of promising youth talents verging on the first team. We all saw Sergio Canales emerge a couple of years back, and this year  teenage star Jairo Samperio has come into the team and impressed everybody with his low centre of gravity, skill on the ball and vision. His Spanish U19 teammate Dani Sotres also debuted in the first team at Malaga the other week when their ‘keeper was sent off and made a promising impact, keeping his place in goal the next week. U21 Sevilla-bound defender Álvaro González has been the shining light in their dreadful backline this year, and strikers Khouma Boubacar and Julian Luque have also shown enough to suggest they could have a future at the club, and possibly winger Borja as well.

Racing B currently play in Tercera, but sit 3rd in the division and are on course for a play-off place, and last week their Juvenil A side beat Celta to second place in the Division de Honor, ensuring qualification to the summer’s Copa del Rey. Sporting finished five points clear of them in the end, but had they been able to call on Jairo for the whole season things may well have been different. In the Cantabrian Cadete division they do lead the way with a two point league over Club Bansander, so although thinks look bleak at the moment for the Verdiblancos, they may well have a bright future in store.



Rayo have to be commended for the work they have done at all levels with a limited budget this season. The first team are enjoying a fine first campaign back in La Liga, the reserves have been near the top of the Segunda B, and their Juvenil A team came second, above Real Madrid, in the División de Honor. Last year Lassana Bangoura, or Lass, broke through to the first team and made a real impression on the right wing, and seems set to join Valencia in the summer. They also have three Spanish youth internationals Joel, Pulido and Dani Pacheco on loan from Atlético, the first two having featured heavily in La Liga since their move. Their reserves have had a great season too despite tailing off in recent weeks, with Alberto Perea, Nono, Roberto and Mario Gómez notable under-21 performers. Recently striker Victor Manquillo, twin brother of Atleti’s Javier, was promoted from Juvenil A as well, with three appearances now to his name.

Manquillo was one of the main factors in Rayo’s impressive second place finish in the Juvenil Division de Honor, who will play in the Copa del Rey in May. Midfielder Toni Arranz has been praised for his influential performances, and Sergio Nanclares has joined him in the Madrid district Under 18 side. Like Lass last year, they have a number of international players on their books, most notably Uruguayan midfielder Ismael and French forward Pato, and at Cadete level they trail the two big Madrid sides but still sit in respectable third place. Borja Pascual, Álvaro Corral, Nicolás Cañizares and Rubén Quiros have been pinpointed as star players.


Real Madrid

Many uneducated observers like to look down on Real Madrid’s cantera in comparison to Barcelona’s, but they could not be more wrong. Their La Fabrica academy is brimming with talent, and although you may not see an awful lot of players graduate to the first team, many go on to become top La Liga players and internationals. Teenage French defender Raphael Varane is the standout youngster in their first team, impressing in his handful of appearances, and the forgotten man Sergio Canales is now just returning at Valencia following a horrific injury.  Their B-team, Castilla, are marching to the title in Group 1 of Segunda B too, with the likes of prolific strikers Álvaro Morata and Josélu, canary sensations Jesé and Omar, the right-back who many fans want in the first team Dani Carvajal, and midfield general Álex Fernández just a small number of players you can expect to see at the top level before long. All of whom have helped them to secure a certain play-off place with five games to spare.

At youth level Real have had to play second fiddle to neighbours Atlético this season, but their Juvenil and Cadete A are both in the top three of their respective divisions and contain numerous internationals at U16, U17 and U19 level. Raúl de Tomas is undoubtedly the star of their Division de Honor team, top scoring with 29 goals this season. The young striker also starred in the Copa Atlántico with Spain U18’s, and has earned comparisons to Cristiano Ronaldo due to his great technique and ability from free-kicks. Strike partner Mejia has also chipped in this season with 17 goals, and midfielder Fran Pastor has stood out as well. In defense, Iván Saez has had a superb year, earning captaincy of Spain’s U17 side and being labelled by many as the best centre-back in the league, although he’s the team’s youngest player. Full-back Derik Osede is also an Under-19 international. Their Under-16 team sit six points off top spot, and although they lost star player Pozo to Man City, Juanjo Manresa, Aleix Febas, Sergio Molina and Fran Montávez are all worth watching. The Cadete team has British representation too with Scottish striker Jack Harper, brother of Guadalajara’s Ryan, playing for them.


Real Sociedad

Like the other Basque sides in La Liga, la Real take great pride in their cantera and this season especially have managed to breed some of their future stars in to the first team. Defender Iñigo Martínez has been a fixture under Montanier, and fellow La Rojita midfielders Asier Illarramendi, who had a great start to the season, and the talented box-to-box teenager Rubén Pardo have also been given good minutes. It can’t be forgotten that Griezmann, still only 21, came from their academy a few years ago, and is now one of their star players. In Segunda B their reserve side are struggling, currently occupying the relegation play-off spot in group 2, however, next year they may see a much stronger side courtesy of their excellent Under-18 team.

As mentioned in Athletic’s section last week, la Real topped the Juvenil División de Honor this season, although they did so by the skin of their teeth, finishing on 66 points both with Athletic and Danok Bat CF, winning on head-to-head against the two sides. International striker Iker Hernández is their biggest name at Under-18 level, and has featured in Segunda B after his goalscoring involvement in the Copa Atlántico last February, and defender Eneko Capilla is also tipped for big things. In the Euskadi Cadete division they also lead the way, currently holding a three point advantage over Athletic with a game in hand. They don’t have any U16 or U17 internationals at the moment, but Roberto Olabe from that team did make this year’s Futbol Draft list.



We’ve seen Sevilla produce top players for decades now, and their list of future stars is just as long.  Ever since coming in for the Copa del Rey final at the Camp Nou in 2010, left-back Luna has looked at home in the first team, and another of La Rojita’s stars José Campaña is now also a permanent fixture having left their B-team, Sevilla Atlético, for good. Still in that team is playmaker Luis Alberto, another who has featured in La Liga, scoring 22 goals in the last two seasons from midfield. They made the play-offs last year but this time round Atlético are in mid-table, although a huge positive has been the goalscoring form of Japanese striker Hiroshi Ibusuki, who has 16 goals and was trusted with a debut in the derby at Betis back in January. Under-19 international defender Israel has also stood out in the backline, alongside 20 year-old Samu.

Unsurprisingly, Sevilla lead the way in their respective leagues at both Juvenil and Cadete level. In the U18 side, creative midfielders Juanje and Antonio Cotán, linked recently with Premier League teams, have had excellent seasons, both of whom are over two years younger than the age limit which makes it all the more impressive. Two of their Cadete stars, Kike Chavero and Curro, also featured in this year’s Futbol Draft, as they seek to keep their four point lead over rivals Betis at the top of the league. A promising future could be in the offing for los Nervionenses.



Sporting could be in a similar situation to Racing next year; although relegation to the Segunda looks likely, it could open the door for a number of young stars to make the breakthrough. With Sporting though it may take a little longer as their biggest talents appear to be those still playing in the lower categories, who incidentally beat Racing to the División de Honor this season. Winger Álvaro Bustos looks to be a phenomenal player and has starred both for club and country alongside teammate Álex Serrano this year, and full-backs Sergio Menéndez and most notably Borja López, who made the final 55 of Futbol Draft this year, could play in their B-team next season. Sporting’s main rivals Oviedo are hot on their trail in the Primera División Cadete at the moment, but the Rojiblancos hold a narrow lead.

As for their B-team, they have had a decent season  after buying a spare place in Segunda B following their relegation last season, establishing themselves as draw specialists in group 1 of the division this season. Defender Alex Gálvez started the season in the reserves before earning a promotion to the first team, with whom he scored on his debut against Málaga, and playmaker Juan Muñiz will be hoping to the same soon. If you watched the U19 Euro’s last summer you will certainly remember Muñiz for his great passing and long shooting, and he has 6 goals to this name this season. Their top scorer Miguel Ángel Guerrero has a decent total of 13 too, and at still just 21 years old, you have to wonder why he hasn’t had a chance in their first team considering the situation they are in.



Although Unai Emery has been reluctant to turn to youth in his time at the Mestalla, as seen with Isco, it can’t hide the fact that Los Che are another side who boast a fine academy and good quality at all levels. Sergio Canales has just returned from injury and although they don’t own him, Valencia will provide a huge stage in his development, with next season crucial. Victor Ruiz, Dani Parejo, Jordi Alba and Sofiane Feghouli, all born in 1989, make up the other younger first team players and have featured somewhat regularly this year. Followers of Spanish football will all know the name of Paco Alcácer too, a prolific David Villa-style striker who has scored tons of goals at International level up to Under-19’s, including the equaliser and winner in the U19 final in August. At just 18 he has almost 50 goals for Valencia Mestalla, mainly in Tercera, and has finally in recent weeks been receiving the first team calls fans have wanted for so long. His teammate Juan Bernat is another major talent, although after Emery threw him into the starting line-up for their league opener against Racing, he has only made sub appearances for the first team.

Another youngster featuring regularly in the reserves now is left-back Salva Ruiz, who at just 16 years old has played for Spain’s U17 since the beginning of last year. After winning Group 7 of the Juvenil División de Honor last week, Valencia ensured that they will play in the Copa del Rey and Copa de Campeones this summer. Despite the fact that Paco, Bernat and Salva have long left the U18 side, they have still dominated that level, with full-backs José Luís Gaya and Alberto Tendillo, and forward Juan Delgado the stand-out names. As you will find out in the next paragraph Villarreal top the Cadete league, but the whites can still overtake them with 5 games remaining. In that team is David Martínez, a goalscoring midfielder who recently debuted for Spain U16’s.



It’s been so disappointing to see Villarreal’s first team struggling in the depths of La Liga as they are a club who have built so well in the last 10-15 years with huge reliance on their cantera, and as many will know are one of just two La Liga sides, the other being Barcelona, who can boast a reserve side in the second tier. We just hope the first team aren’t there next year. Since the ummer they have been forced to take a lot of players from the B-side because of injuries mainly to their strikers; Paraguayan international Hernán Pérez has been in good form lately after making the permanent transition, and the likes of Joselu, Gonzalo Castellani and Florian Lejeune have joined him in certain games. The highly talented teenage midfielder Moisés Gómez has also played twice in La Liga, and has managed 15 games in the Segunda too, alongside Under-17 international Pablo Iñiguez.

At Under-18 level the yellow submarine missed out on qualifying for the summer tournaments as they finished third in the Juvenil División de Honor, but as mentioned above lead the way over Valencia in Cadetes, three points ahead with a game extra to play. Spain Under-19 star Adrián Ortola is regarded as one of the best upcoming goalkeepers in the country at this time, and may well play at senior level with Villarreal B next season, and the aforementioned Iñiguez has also spent some of the season alongside him in Juvenil A as well. Additionally, they have a promising right winger Joel playing in Juvenil B, and playmaker Javi García a level below, both of whom featured in the recent Futbol Draft list. Also in Spain’s Under-16 team is defender Arnau Vega, who is born in 1997, would you believe.



While their first team attempt the great escape in La Liga, Zaragoza B may just succeed in doing the same thing from group 3 of Segunda B. Just a few weeks ago the young Blanquillos seemed destined for Tercera next year, but a run of five successive wins, one of which came by default, has elevated them into 16th spot, the dreaded relegation play-off, although with some good form they can overtake fellow strugglers Valencia Mestalla. Perhaps the biggest name is La Rojita forward Jorge Ortí, although the 18 year-old, who has seven La Liga appearances to his name, has only found the net in one match in Segunda B this season, albeit with a hat-trick away to Gandía. 17 year-old Ecuadorian winger Joel Valencia also debuted back in December against Granada. Unfortunately promising midfielder Kevin Lacruz, compared at one point to Ander Herrera, has not featured in La Liga this season, but has been a regular in Segunda B still.

Considering Zaragoza have to play in the same Under-18 league as Barcelona and Espanyol, their fourth place position was reasonably impressive, but they finished 29 points off top spot. Three of their defenders, Alejandro Roy, Diego Rico and Luís Martínez have featured in Zaragoza B at some point this season though, with Roy also named in Futbol Draft. Midfielders Sergio Escuder and Saihou Gassama are another two rated highly, and they also have the Argentine winger Martín Acevedo on their books, who has infamously played for Real and Atletico and Boca and River in his youth career so far. In the Aragónese Cadete league they have been incredibly dominant, holding an 18 point lead at the top of the table and having scored double the goals of any other team in the league.

Billy On April - 22 - 2012

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