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Football Cantera

The future of La Roja is now.

Waiting for Neymar and Isco – Preseason Begins in Spain

July 20th, 2013

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Yesterday was the first day of work for Real Madrid and Barcelona. All the players who hadn’t played Confederations Cup or for their respective National teams responded to Ancelotti and Vilanova, eager for the new season to begin. Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo were there; ready to start a new season and a new duel: who will win the Liga? Who will score more goals?

Isco, Illarramendi and Carvajal were also present, the three new faces of Real Madrid 2013-14, signed for a total of 80 million Euros. They will represent – together with Jesé Rodríguez, Álvaro Morata and Nacho Fernández – the Real Madrid youth revolution, promoted through young Spanish footballers. This is in stark contrast to the club’s strategy in recent times, when sometimes the team played with all foreigners. Now the priority for Real Madrid is to sell: Ancelotti does not have space for everyone, in Spain the first squads can be composed for a maximum of 25 players and today Ancelotti and Zidane have available 28. The first in going out could be Raúl Albiól (wanted by Rafa Benítez for Napoli) and Antonio Adán (the fourth goalkeeper). The Russian Denis Cheryshev (22 year old, coming from Real Madrid Castilla) is required on loan by Bayer Leverkusen and Gonzalo Higuaín is waiting for moving as soon as possible to U.K. (Arsenal and Liverpool the candidates to sign him). Once the sales are solved, Real Madrid’s management will be able to think about a last signing, having Gareth Bale, Luís Suárez and Zlatan Ibrahimovic on the top of their wish lists.

Barcelona’s situation is in a more advanced stage. Neymar came and David Villa left. Thiago Alcántara signed for Bayern Munich and his substitute will be young Sergi Roberto. Bojan Krkic, Rafinha Alcántara and Gerard Deulofeu have been loaned to Ajax, Celta Vigo and Everton; the next will be Afellay, Jonathan Dos Santos and maybe Isaac Cuenca. The only target from today to the end of the transfer market is a defender, with Brazilian Thiago Silva being the first on the wish list.

Both clubs, beyond who will came and who will leave, are preparing for a long season full of difficulties, where they’ll have among their opponents also José Mourinho (Chelsea) and Pep Guardiola (Bayern Munich), a recent past that will be surely be a measuring stick for the rest of us to compare in the new year.

You can find Mario Cipriano on Twitter @ciprianomario

Preview to the U-20 World Cup: ‘Group of Death’(Group A)

June 11th, 2013

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The U-20 World Cup is upon us. It includes some of the best young talent under or at 20 years of age. This youth World Cup has been held every two years since 1977. Players such as Fernando Morientes, Xavi, Thierry Henry, Ashley Cole, and Michael owen have all played in this tournament.  Since it has come into commencement, only eight different countries have come away with victories—Argentina currently having the most with six titles and Brazil the last team to win the Cup. But astonishingly enough both teams have failed to qualify for this esteemed tourney. This of course leaves more leeway for a more equal tournament with both of the South American powerhouses out.

But alas let us focus on the competition ahead. Group A contains the likes of France, Ghana, USA, and Spain which is also known as ’the group of death’. This group is consisted of by far the most talented and well-rounded group in the tournament.

 

Spain:

KEEPERS: Dani Sotres (Racing Santander),   Adrián Ortola (Villarreal)

DEFENDERS: Manquillo (Atlético Madrid), Jonny Castro (Celta), Derik and Llorente (Real   Madrid), Isra (Sevilla), Gaya (Valencia)

MIDFIELDERS: Ager Aketxe (Athletic Bilbao), Oliver Torres and Saúl Ñiguez (Atlético Madrid), Ruben García (Levante), Suso   (Liverpool), Denis Suárez (Manchester City), Jairo (Racing Santander),   Campana (Sevilla), Juan Bernat (Valencia)

FORWARDS: Gerard Deulofeu (Barcelona), Jesé (Real Madrid), Paco   Alcácer (Valencia).

Spain arrive at Turkey 2013 as one of the favorites for the title after their successful victory at the UEFA European U-19 Championship 2012. They are under the tutelage of Julen Lopetegui, former goalkeeper for Barcelona and Real Madrid.  The juvenile Spainiards play a style similar to that of the country’s senior team. The heart of their play is focused on short passing and possession combined with technical ability. This is a style which central midfielder Oliver Torres is at the cornerstone and  is the chief orchestrator. He pulls the strings of this young side playing deep as a regista, almost similar to the role of Pirlo at Juventus. The only exception is that Oliver Torres possesses the mobility that Pirlo doesn’t. Oliver Torres is not alone, he has the help of the two influential wingers Gerard Deulofeu from Barcelona B and Jese Rodriguez from Real Madrid Castilla. Jese was the leading scorer of the U19 European Championships last summer with 5 and has scored 22 goals in the Liga Adelante this season. He is a pure winger and has the ability to take on players with his speed, power and intensity.  Deulofeu is a similar player. He makes darting, powerful runs through the center of the pitch. He mainly occupies the left wing as an inverted winger and tends to cut onto his favored right foot. Both players will be eager to prove to their clubs that they are able to play in the first team. The U-20 World Cup could certainly be the door to the future.  This squad will be ambitious to replicate the senior side in attaining more and more silverware. With Brazil out of the tournament they could regain the title they lost two years ago.

 

Ghana:

GOALKEEPERS: Eric Ofori Antwi (Amidaus Professionals), Felix Annan (Asante Kotoko), Michael Sai (Berekum Chelsea)

DEFENDERS: Richmond Nketiah (Medeama FC), Jeremiah Arkorful (Tema Youth), Lawrence  Lartey (Ash Gold), Ahmed Adams (Berekum Chelsea), Ofori Ebenezer (New  Edubiase United), Baba Mensah (Neve Yosef, Israel)

MIDFIELDERS: Seidu Salifu (Wa All Stars), Derrick Mensah (Tema Youth), Michael Anaba  (Asante Kotoko), Clifford Aboagye (Udinese, Italy), Emmanuel Gyamfi (Wa  All Stars), Moses Odjer (Tema Youth), Frank Sarfo-Gyamfi (Maritzburg  United, South Africa), Kwame Boahene (Liberty Professionals), Jacob  Asiedu-Apau (Medeama)

FORWARDS: Kennedy Ashia (Liberty Professionals), Ebenezer Assifuah (Liberty Professionals), Francis Narh (Tema Youth)

Foreign-based players to join later: Alfred Duncan (Inter Milan, Italy), Richmond Boakye Yiadom (Sassuolo, Italy) Baba Rahman (Greuther Fürth, Germany)

The Ghana U-20 team known as ’Black Satellites’ are one of the teams in favor of winning this tournament. They are the former victors of the U-20 World Cup as well as the African Youth Championship. They are the only African nation that have challenged the footballing giants of Europe and South America and have had success. The Ghanian team is filled with young talented players who blend their technique and skill on the ball with their sheer pace and determination. Their coach is Sellas Tetteh, who was in charge of the 2009 side that won both the African U-20 title as well as the World Cup. He has opted for mainly locally based players even with some options in Europe including Inter Milan’s Alfred Duncan. The Black Satellites will be without star players Andre Ayew, and Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu. Will key players such as Lawrence Lartey, Ebenezer Assifuah, and Eric Ofori Antwi be able to stand out such as their predecessors did not so long ago?

 

USA:

GOALKEEPERS: Cody Cropper (Southampton FC; Maple Grove, Minn.), Kendall McIntosh (Santa Clara; Santa Rosa, Calif.), Zach Steffen (FC DELCO; Downington, Pa.)

DEFENDERS: Eric Miller (Creighton; Woodbury, Minn.), Juan Pablo Ocegueda (Guadalajara; Riverside, Calif.), Shane O’Neill (Colorado Rapids; Boulder, Colo.), Oscar Sorto (LA Galaxy; Los Angeles, Calif.), Caleb Stanko (SC Freiburg; Holly, Mich.), Javan Torre (UCLA; Santa Monica, Calif.), DeAndre Yedlin (Seattle Sounders; Seattle, Wash.)

MIDFIELDERS: Kellyn Acosta (FC Dallas; Plano, Texas), Luis Gil (Real Salt Lake; Garden Grove, Calif.), Benji Joya (Santos Laguna; San Jose, Calif.), Mikey Lopez (Sporting Kansas City; Mission, Texas), Wil Trapp (Columbus Crew; Gahanna, Ohio)

FORWARDS: Daniel Cuevas (Santos Laguna; Sacramento, Calif.), Danny Garcia (North Carolina; Dallas, Texas), Victor Pineda (Chicago Fire; Bolingbrook, Ill.), Alonso Hernandez (C.F. Monterrey; El Paso, Texas), Mario Rodriguez (1. FC Kaiserslautern; North Hollywood, Calif.), Jose Villarreal (LA Galaxy; Inglewood, Calif.)

The ‘Stars and Stripes’ will be making their 13th appearance since this competition.  After missing out on the last finals in Colombia they have come more prepared than ever. They may not be one of the favorites to win this competition but they are currently at their pinnacle. The U.S.A are led by their engine and powerful force Benji Joya, an attacking midfielder who is naturally right-footed but he scores most of his goals with shots off his left.  His orchestrations and link up play with Jose Villareal will be a vital part of this group. This squad is led by their coach Tab Ramos, who represented the States at the 1983 U-20 World Cup. This team will continue to prosper as the development of U.S. Soccer continues.

 

France:

GOALKEEPERS: Alphonse Areola (París SG/L1), Paul Charruau (Valenciennes), Maxime Dupe (Nantes/L2)

 DEFENDERS: Lucas Digne (Lille), Dimitri Foulquier (Rennes), Christopher Jullien (Auxerre), Jérôme Roussillon (Sochaux), Youssouf Sabaly (PSG), Mouhamadou Naby Sarr (Lyon), Samuel Umtiti (Lyon), Kurt Zouma (Saint-Etienne)

MIDFIELDERS: Geoffrey Kondogbia (Sevilla), Mario Lemina (Lorient), Axel Ngando Elessa (Rennes), Paul Pogba (Juventus), Jordan Veretout (Nantes)

FORWARDS: Jean-Christophe Bahebeck (Troyes), Alexy Bosetti (Nice), Yaya Sanogo (Auxerre), Florian Thauvin (Bastia), Thibaut Vion (Porto).

Last but not least we have the nucleus of youth football, France, also known as Les Bleuets. The French have never lacked talent. The recent uprisings of Pogba, Sevilla’s Kondogbia, Thauvin, Zouma and others have sparked a new age for French football. This is the first time that France have qualified for two consecutive FIFA U-20 World Cups. Having participated in the first-ever event, they had to endure a 20-year wait for their second appearance, and then another four for their third, followed by a decade-long gap before their fourth and most recent qualification, in 2011.(Fifa.com)They are led by Pierre Mankowski former assistant coach of the France National team. These group of players have experience and most have already played at the highest level. They play a 4-2-3-1 formation, designed to be compact and competitive in midfield with the tenacious partnerships of Kondogbia and Pogba, as well as the pace of the young 20-year old maestro/forward Florian Thauvin.  A  new renaissance and evolution has come to France and this team is at the center of it.

A new crop of fresh young talent will be at this respected tournament with the squads from the ’Group of Death’ being at the quintessence of it. Its only a matter of time before they become world class players.

Follow on twitter: @PureCatenaccio

 

Preview: Copa de Campeones 2013

May 4th, 2013

The league season may be over at youth level and the title winners decided, but for Spain’s top Under-18 sides, the hard work has only just begun. For those who are not familiar, the highest youth division in Spain (División de Honor) is split into 7 regional groups, and after the season ends in April, two national competitions are held to determine who are the overall champions of the country.

Later on this month we will see the Copa del Rey, but first up is the Copa de Campeones on Monday, a 5 day knockout tournament that this year will be hosted in Vigo. As the name suggests, only the seven regional champions get to take part, as well as the best runner-up to make up the numbers. Unlike the Copa del Rey, games are one off instead of being played over two legs, and they are also televised live by MarcaTV to give extra significance. The current champions are Sevilla, who overcame Espanyol in last year’s final with a 1-0 win.

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Barcelona celebrate winning the Copa de Campeones in 2011

They are back this year to defend their title as Group IV winners, as well as 2011 winners Barcelona, Athletic Bilbao, Celta Vigo, Real Madrid, Villarreal, Las Palmas and Atlético Madrid, who despite finishing second in Group V qualified as best runner-up across the 7 divisions. The action kicks-off early on Bank Holiday Monday, Barca first up against Las Palmas. The winner will take on Sevilla or Athletic in the semi’s, who play at lunchtime, with the other to be between the winners of the later games, Atletico vs. Villarreal and Celta vs. Real Madrid. They will all be played at the Madroa complex, Celta’s training ground and home of their Juvenil A side, before moving to the first team’s Los Balaídos stadium for the semi-final and final.

Below, we take a look at the 8 sides bidding to win the competition, and also some of the players who will hoping to follow in the footsteps of the countless number of star names to have played in previous versions of the competition.

 

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Celta Vigo

The home side and runaway winners of Group I, Celta are without doubt one of the favourites for the tournament. Their main obstacle will be the fact they have been drawn against a very strong Real Madrid side, but they are full of attacking talent themselves, as shown by the fact they scored 102 goals in their 30 league matches. The main news is that they will have the predatory Santi Mina available, who has been on fire for Celta B lately. Having started the season with Juvenil A, 17 year-old Mina hit an incredible 27 goals in 17 matches, earning him promotion to the reserves as well as a first team debut against Getafe in La Liga. However, he is now back and ready to help out the youth side, who still managed to storm to the title without their main man.

Ones to watch: Santi Mina, Yelko Pino, Jordan, Borja Fernández, David Goldar

 

Athletic Bilbao

Always strong at youth level, Athletic are back in the Copa de Campeones with yet another promising generation of players, and be hoping to make it to the final for the first ever time in Vigo. They are most likely to be the youngest team involved with the majority of their team born in either 1995 or 1996 (the age limit is 1.1.1994), as historically, players are promoted to their Tercera division side, CD Baskonia, early on to try and ready them for the step up. Top scorer Iñaki Williams is one to definitely keep an eye on, Ghanaian born, he has been dubbed ‘the Basque Balotelli’, and hit 31 goals in 30 games in the league this year. With their selection policy, you can bet a number of the players on show will find their way to the first team in the future.

Ones to watch: Iñaki Williams, Alejandro Remiro, Unai López, Jurgi Oteo, Yanis

 

Santi Mina

Red-hot: Celta Vigo striker Santi Mina

 

FC Barcelona

Last year they competed as runners-up after losing out to a brilliant Espanyol side, but blitzed the competition this year, finishing 22 points clear of their local rivals at the top. Like Athletic, they have also been playing the NextGenSeries throughout the season, and also lost top scorer Sandro Ramírez to serious injury, but it didn’t stop them as they took 81 points from a possible 90. Having been drawn against Las Palmas, they are up there with the favourites to regain the title they won two years ago. As you would expect, they play with the exact same style you see from the first team every week, and many of their players will progress to Barcelona B in the coming years, with the likes of Sergi Samper and Adama already beginning the make the breakthrough.

Ones to watch: Sergi Samper, Adama Traore, Xavi Quintilla, Ebwelle, David Babunski

 

Sevilla

The reigning champions, Sevilla saw off fierce competition from Málaga and Almería to win the Andalusian group and qualify for the chance to defend their title. Most of last year’s side are now well established in their B and C outfits, but the current Juvenil A crop are arguably just as good, with plenty of Spanish youth internationals in the ranks. Although they have earned a reputation lately for producing attacking talent (mainly wingers), this team is built on a solid defence, and as shown by their record of just one defeat all season, a setup that makes them very difficult to beat. They are without Antonio Cotan, but do have 1996 born midfielder Fran “Curro” Sánchez, a Spain U17 international who has already played good minutes on Segunda B for their reseve side.

Ones to watch: Curro Sánchez, Juanje, Beto, Carlos Fernández, Modesto

 

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Real Madrid’s excellent Juvenil A side

 

Real Madrid

For me the strongest team in the competition man-for-man, Real Madrid stormed to the title in Group V and for me are the team to beat. With 83 points, they were statistically the best team of all those involved this season based on league performance, and will be further strengthened by the additions of Álvaro Medran and in particular the fit-again Raúl de Tomas, both third division regulars for their C-team. Also, with four Spain U19 internationals, including goalkeeper Alfonso Herrero, in their backline, they are tough to break down, and are also filled with attacking creativity, hitting 101 goals in their league campaign. The club has worked hard to bring in quality players at youth level and this Juvenil A side has been labelled their strongest in years, so fingers crossed we will see some of them running out at the Bernabéu one day.

Ones to watch: Raúl de Tomas, Cristian Benavente, Ivan Saez, Álvaro Medran, Marcos Legaz

 

Atlético Madrid

Runners-up in Grupo V, last year Atlético were champions with the wonderful Óliver Torres in midfield, despite going on to underperform in the cup competitions. However, this year they managed the same amount of points and qualified on that basis. They have a lot of strength in their cantera, as seen by them providing 9 of the Madrid region’s squad that won Spain’s Under-18 territorial championships last weekend. Captain Borja Martínez is the undoubted star, although they also have Samuel Villa, who started recently in a first team friendly, and have drafted in promising centre-backs Fallou Gallas and Lucas Hernández (1996 born), to cover the untimely injury of defensive talisman Aitor Ruano.

Ones to watch: Borja Martínez, Jony, Samuel Villa, Chele, Ivan Alejo

 

Atletico

Atlético Madrid qualify as best runner-up across the 7 groups

 

Las Palmas

Las Palmas will naturally be seen as outsiders as they are from the less competitive Canarias division, but they won Group VI convincingly and have proven down the years as regular representatives from their group that they can compete with Spain’s best. Known for producing creative players, their cantera has always had thriving success as a club who rely heavily on their youth set-up. Unfortunately, they will have to overcome the strength of Barcelona if they want to progress, but shouldn’t be written off still. Another team who are strong defensively, they finished comfortably ahead of runners-up Tenerife and only lost once all season. I’ll admit I know very little about their team, but from research have found there are a number of interesting players in their ranks, and other we will likely see for the first time in the Copa.

Ones to watch: Benito, Hector Hernández, Matias, Dani Ojeda, Stephane

 

Villarreal

They only just made it here having edged Levante on head-to-head record after finishing level on 72 points, but Villarreal, despite no longer having a top division first team, are a team known for their academy, and have great strength and depth throughout their youth ranks. From what I’ve seen, their most promising canteranos are not at this level yet, but they still have a very strong Juvenil A side and despite tailing off following a sublime start, will probably be slight favourites in their tie against Atlético. With former player Nihat Kahveci assistant to manager Eder Sarabia, we can fully expect the free-flowing attacking football that is a trademark of the Yellow Submarine.

Ones to watch: Pablo Larrea, Álvaro Fernández, Javi García, Alberto, Nahuel Leiva

 

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Quarter-final
Monday 6th May

10.30 – Las Palmas vs. Barcelona
13.00 – Athletic vs. Sevilla
16.00 – Atlético vs. Villarreal
18.30 – Celta vs. Real Madrid

 

Semi-final
Thursday 9th May

12.00 – Las Palmas/Barcelona vs. Athletic/Sevilla
17.00 – Atlético/Villarreal vs. Celta/Real Madrid

 

Final
Saturday 11th May

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Atlético put faith in the cantera for Europa League clash

February 20th, 2013

After a shock 2-0 home defeat to Rubin Kazan last week, Atlético Madrid manager Diego Simeone is looking to the cantera to help keep his team in the Europa League, naming 7 players from the B and C teams in the squad that will try to make a comeback in Russia on Thursday.

Currently second in La Liga and with a 100% home record in all competitions, the Rojiblancos were strong favourites to make it through and defend their title, but fell victim of one of the upsets of the season as ten man Rubin stunned the Vicente Calderón on Valentine’s night. However, they have proved in the last year or so that they are more than capable of producing big away performances especially in this competition, so will probably still feel there is something to play for despite the deficit.

Simeone on the other hand seems more intent on success in the league and cup now though, and will leave most of his first team in Madrid for the second leg. This has opened the door to a number of promising youngsters, many of whom are Spain youth internationals who we hope to see get their chance on the European stage and who knows, maybe even make a name for themselves.

Manquillo, Saúl, Kader, Gallas, Calero, Borja Galán and Ndoye (L-R)

Manquillo, Saúl, Kader, Gallas, Calero, Borja Galán and Ndoye (L-R)

18 year-old duo Saúl Ñíguez and Javi Manquillo are the most recognisable of the new faces, both of whom likely to play from the start against Rubin. Rated extremely highly in the Spanish youth set-up, they are already continental champions at U19 level, along with Óliver Torres who unfortunately is ineligible to play in European competition.

After that there is Borja Galán, captain and one of the stars of the Colchoneros’ title-winning Juvenil A side last year. The teenage striker played and scored for Spain’s U20’s in the Torneo L’Alcudia last August, but hasn’t had too many chances with their reserve outfit this year.

Iván Calero is another who excelled at youth level last season with 22 goals from right-midfield, and is now top scoring for Atlético’s C-team. At just 17 he is the youngest player that Simeone has called upon, but his talent is not in doubt with call-ups at national level from U16 to U19’s already to his name.

Another member of the C-team, Senegalese defender Fallou Gallas (18) makes up the numbers, as does compatriot Momar Ndoye (20) from Atleti B, and Moroccan winger Kader Oueslati (21) who like Saúl and Manquillo, has already had good exposure to the first team and started in this competition earlier in the season against Viktoria Plzen.

It’s also worth pointing out that Jorge Pulido, a member of the first team but very much underused by Simeone, could play too, the 21 year-old centre-back another who has represented La Rojita on many occasions and is tipped for big things. Hopefully he will soon be promoted to third choice in his position following some horrendous showings from the veteran Cata Díaz.

As mentioned above, because of UEFA rules there are a few players who probably would’ve taken part in this game but were sadly unable to be registered, no less than midfield star Óliver who is currently with Spain’s U20 side instead. It’s not just him though, the likes of Thomas, Iván Sánchez, Borja Martínez and Dani Márquez would’ve all most likely been in contention as well.

Nevertheless, it will be a great chance for cantera enthusiasts such as ourselves to see just a fraction of the talent coming through at the Cerro del Espino, of which we can expect much more to be produced in the coming years. Should Atlético pull off the impossible and make it through, it could be something of a coming of age for some of the kids involved.

Despite the absence of many regulars they are in good company too, with Radamel Falcao set to lead the line in attack for the red and whites. Be sure to keep an eye on the game and in particular the new faces, kick-off in the Luzhniki Stadium is set for 6pm CET on Thursday 21st February.

Full squad:

Goalkeepers: Sergio Asenjo, Thibaut Courtois

Defenders: Javier Manquillo, Miranda, Cata Díaz, Jorge Pulido, Fallou Gallas, Domingo Cisma

Midfielders: Mario Suárez, Saúl Ñíguez, Raúl García, Cristian Rodríguez, Kader Oueslati, Iván Calero, Momar Ndoye

Forwards: Radamel Falcao, Adrián Lopez, Borja Galán

Rodgers to turn to youngsters to fill the void up front

September 7th, 2012

With the loan of Andy Carroll and no subsequent signing of a replacement, Liverpool is now woefully short on senior strikers in their squad. Now that the transfer window is shut for another summer, Brendan Rodgers has nothing else to do but rely on youngsters to fill the void. He has already shown he is willing to give young players a chance with Raheem Sterling, Jonjo Shelvey and Martin Kelly all receiving starts so far this season. Eighteen year old Suso is at the top of Rodgers’ list as a player who can help fill the void, after a fantastic U19 tournament this summer, the Spaniard has already scored a number of times for Liverpool’s Reserves.

“There might need to be an intermediary way of working now,” Rodgers said. “Boys like Suso will get their opportunity. The percentage under 21s playing in the Premier League is statistically very, very small. We are going to be stretched the limit and [we'll be telling them] ‘if you’ve got little niggles and injuries you’ve got to man up.’ We’ve got to be together and be strong.

“This [situation] will allow guys to stand up to the plate. You get an opportunity but you have got to take it.”

“The younger players will run through a barbed wire fence for you,” Rodgers said. “The older players will look for a hole in the fence – and probably find one!”

Liverpool also signed prolific German teenager Samed Yesil from Bayer Leverkusen. Eighteen year old Yesil scored a remarkable twenty times in twenty-one appearances at the U17 level. The two teenagers will be asked to shoulder a lot more responsibility they probably expected this season but both could be stand-out performers this season. Both players are outstanding examples of talent coming out of two countries that put a lot of money and effort into developing the next generation of players, a fine example to the country they play in now.

Six Canteranos in FC Barcelona’s Champions League Squad

September 4th, 2012

The Catalan club famous for its Cantera is bringing its next generation of players to Europe’s top club competition, the UEFA Champions League. Six Barca B players have been registered by Tito Vilanova for Champions League play including: goalkeeper Oier, defenders S. Gomez and Planas, midfielder S. Roberto and attackers Rafinha, Deulofeu and Tello. These players are in good company with the thirty-one player list made up of twenty-three players who learned their trade at La Masia.

Cristian Tello is the only one with experience in the tournament, having had a taste of Champions League football with two goals in three substitute appearances for the club last season. The twenty-one year old has had a good start to life under Tito with two assists in two starts in La Liga. His teammates up front, Rafinha and Deulofeu have had tremendous starts to their respective seasons in the Spanish second division.

We may not see many of these players this season, but the fact that they are registered means the possibility is there. You can usually count on a few Champions League debuts for Barcelona canteranos through the course of the season and Rafinha and Deulofeu both look ready to tease the rest of Europe with their tricks and skills.

Liverpool’s Spanish Flavor

August 13th, 2012

Although the likes of Xabi Alonso and Fernando Torres are long gone from Anfield, Brendan Rodgers could still field a side with a decidedly Spanish flavour this season. Not only do Jose Enrique and Pepe Reina still play for the club but two youngsters who were signed by Rafa Benitez during his reign could be ready for some first team football this season and boost an attack that ended last campaign in eleventh place in goals scored. Benitez’s Spanish philosophy is still prevalent at the club through the two coaches at the head of the club’s academy and youth development. Former FC Barcelona youth team coach Jose Segura is Liverpool’s Academy Technical Director while the Reserve-team head coach is another former Barcelona maestro, Rodolfo Borrell. Between these two coaches they helped develop the likes of Andres Iniesta, Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets and Cesc Fabregas and have begun to do the same at Liverpool. In Rodgers, the club now has a manager who says he will not be afraid to give Liverpool’s young talent opportunities in the first team, a critical step in the development of youth players.

Dani Pacheco has buckets of potential. The lad was signed from FC Barcelona back in 2007 but has since only earned five appearances with the Liverpool first team. Nicknamed El Asesino (The Assassin) for his prolific form at La Masia, Pacheco was a highly rated, technically gifted player with the ability to play at any position in the attacking third. Liverpool has given the twenty-one year old loan opportunities at Norwich City and Rayo Vallecano. In Pacheco’s short time with The Canaries he impressed and became a fan favorite scoring two goals in six matches and helping the team gain promotion to the Premier League. With Rayo Vallecano Pacheco only earned one start but helped the club remain in La Liga with eleven appearances. He returned to Liverpool this summer and immediately began training at Melwood with the first team. For this country, Pacheco starred at the U19 level, ending as the top scorer of the 2010 UEFA European U19 Championship, a tournament that Spain lost to France in the final.

Suso might be Liverpool’s brightest prospect at the moment. Age is not an issue for the wonderfully gifted eighteen year old. A manager’s dream, the versatile attacker can play comfortably at many positions including center midfield, winger, attacking midfield or as a forward in the False 9 spot. He played a starring role with the U19 Spanish team this summer, winning the European U19 Championships. In addition to the vision and range of passing we have come to expect from young Spanish players, Suso complements that with a bag of tricks that is reminiscent of a young Ronaldinho, making him a dangerous dribbler. His flair and ingenuity in addition to a powerful shot make him a threat around the penalty area. He has already scored a handful of goals for the Liverpool Reserves this summer after his time with the first team in America.

Both of these players have the skill and maturity to make an impact under Brendan Rodgers this season. Neither player was given a chance with Kenny Dalglish at the helm, but another year’s experience and a fresh manager eager to give youth chances could see one nor both of the above players have a breakout season.

Jose Mourinho set to trust canteranos

August 11th, 2012

I have harped on Mourinho’s lack of trust in young talent enough times to give the man credit when he looks to be changing his tune. The two time winning Champions League manager has had his pick of football’s biggest talents, having always been given a large war chest from whatever club he joined. He has proved to be a master at finding appropriate talents to fit into his style of football.

This kind of footballing philosophy has worked for him, but it has come at the expense of his clubs’ canteras and the young players emerging from them. It worked at Chelsea and Inter Milan as the two clubs were focused on winning with experienced squads, leaving the future of each of the clubs to their current respective managers Roberto Di Matteo and Andrea Stramaccioni. To be fair, Mourinho has shown more of a penchant for giving youngsters the chance at Madrid, perhaps a result of the suffocating political and media pressures in the city, but he has given debuts to twelve canteranos since joining Madrid (Juan Carlos, Mateos, Adan, Sarabia, Morata, Alex Fernandez, Nacho Fernandez, Toms Mejias, Jesus, Joseul, Medes and Jese).

The current array of talent at the Castilla may lead to Jose Mourinho adding to that number during the coming season. It has been a summer without transfers (thus far), and while this may be due to an already deep squad that any team in Europe would be jealous of, I choose to think and hope, that Madrid’s generation of wonderful youngsters are ready to fill the gap in what is sure to be a marathon of a season for Los Merengues.

From Left to Right: Alex Fernandez, Jese Rodriguez and Alvaro Morata learning from Gonzalo Higuain.

Goal scoring titan, Álvaro Morata is the only Castilla player, so far this summer, to have received a promotion to the first side. The nineteen year old (twenty in October), ex Atlético Madrid player has impressed with the Castilla and La Roja in the last number of years. His thirty-two goals in sixty-five matches has helped Madrid’s reserve side back to the Segunda Division, a contribution that has earned him his first team place this season. He has received a lot of minutes in Madrid’s preseason, and he scored a goal in the club’s five-one victory over LA Galaxy. For Spain, Morata finished top scorer in last summer’s UEFA European Under-19 Football Championship, leading his country to the title. He has sixteen goals in twenty-one appearances for Spain’s U17, 18 and 19 levels.

There are plenty more players that Jose Mourinho could call upon this coming season if it strikes his fancy. Much has been made of rival FC Barcelona’s La Masia, but the truth is Madrid are just as proficient in developing young footballers as the Catalans, they just choose to use them differently. Players like Nacho, Alex Fernandez, Joselu and Jesé Rodríguez could all play an important part of this coming season providing a fresh look that the Bernabeu faithful are bound to appreciate.

Nacho and Alex Fernandez are brothers and both have been developing at the Castilla for years. Nacho is a central defender who has ninety-two matches to his name with Real Madrid B. He is a highly intelligent footballer and able to play at any position on the back line. His pace and competitive edge earned the twenty-two year old a call up to the first team for Real Madrid’s tour of America this summer. At nineteen, Alex is the younger of the two brothers. He made his first team debut on March 7, 2011, against Racing Santander. He was a key player in the midfield of the Castilla team that gained promotion to the Segunda Division last season. In the UEFA U-19 European Championship last summer, Alex was named Player of the Tournament for his energetic and creative displays at the center of the park. Look for him to be an important figure in the Castilla’s first season back in the Segunda Division.

Even as a cule, I am excited and, admittedly, a little scared of what Madrid’s youngsters mean for FC Barcelona’s title chances. This new generation of canteranos are sure to dazzle and entertain at times throughout the season. Be sure to visit often to get the latest and greatest news on Mourinho’s generation of young guns.

Football Cantera

The future of La Roja is now.