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Football Cantera

The future of La Roja is now.

Canteranos Set to Breakout in 2013/2014 season

August 27th, 2013

With the new football season just started, here is a look at some of the potential breakout stars for the new campaign.

Last season saw the breakout of the likes of Asier Illarramendi, Alberto Moreno, Dani Carvajal, Ruben Garcia, Jese Rodriguez and so on as they took their game to the next level and began to deliver on the promise they showed as youth on the grand stage.

Here are some of the players likely to emerge this season:

Alejandro-Pozuelo

Alejandro Pozuelo (Swansea City)
Pozuelo is the latest Spaniard to join Michael Laudrup’s Spanish revolution at Swansea City or ‘Ciudad Swansea’ as I love to call it. Signed from Real Betis for €500,000, he is a potential for bargain of the season. His Swans career is off to a flyer already as he netted in his first competitive game in the Europa League 3rd qualifying round game against Malmo FF.

Pozuelo is an attacking midfielder who sits behind the forward, providing the armoury. He is blessed with a delightful touch, quick feet and thought and complete with an eye for the pass.

Pozuelo has for long been tipped for stardom and not so long ago was linked with a move to Manchester United. There is inevitably, a feeling of what could have been amongst Beticos.

His move to Swansea could not have come at a better time as he is at the stage of his career where he needs to be playing regularly at a high level and the move to Swansea will afford him just that.

Ismael ‘Isma’ Lopez (Sporting Gijon on loan from Athletic Bilbao)
Isma is one of the most talented players to come out of Athletic’s Lezama in recent times.

The talented winger returned to Athletic last season after a brief spell at Lugo where he helped them gain promotion to the Segunda Division.

He broke into the team earlier in the season but injuries and inconsistent displays saw him on the fringes.

On loan at Sporting Gijon for the season. The move to the rocky climes of the Asturias, under the guidance of Jose Ramon Sandoval could see his career hit new heights.

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Jose Campaña (Crystal Palace)
Campaña recently signed for Crystal Palace for €2million after failing to agree to a new contract. London may be just what he needs to kick-start a career that has promised so much yet delivered precious little.

For long he was touted as the next big thing to come out of the Sevilla youth system. He obliterated records at youth level and often played with kids above age – such was his talent – and he went on to make his first team debut against Hannover 96 in a Europa League qualifier aged 18.

Playing in central midfield, Campaña reads the game cleverly and has a very impressive range of passing and can also dictate the tempo of a game. What he lacks in pace and power, he more than makes up for in intelligence and technique. He is in every way the archetypal Spanish midfielder. He sights ball retention and distribution as his best qualities.

“What I like to think are my best qualities are keeping the ball and having good distribution”

His ability is not in question but why things did not quite work out well with Sevilla remains a mystery. Crystal Palace represents a chance to begin afresh.

Pablo Sarabia (Getafe)
A product of Real Madrid’s famed La Fabrica academy, Sarabia took the all too familiar route of joining city neighbours, Getafe from Real Madrid in 2011. He has however been unable to break into the team, making 15 starts in both league and cup in two seasons. Not even a long term injury lay off to Pedro Leon in 2012 could aid his cause. Luis Garcia is the kind of coach that likes to stick his tried and trusted team.

He recently voiced his dissatisfaction at the lack of opportunities and may look to move away from the Coliseum Alfonso Perez.

A European champion at U19 and U21 level with Spain, he was part of the Spain team that beat all comers at the just held Euro U21 championships in Israel, putting in a brilliant performance against Holland in the group stage where he assisted two goals as Spain ran out 3-0 winners.

An attacking midfielder who often plays from the right despite being left footed, he can also play across all the attacking positions. Sarabia is good on the dribble and has a very good cross. He often looks to drift inwards from wide positions and have a pop at goal. He is also very dangerous when one against one. What stands him out the most is his eye for the final pass.

As I mentioned earlier, he may look to move away from Getafe with Elche mentioned as a likely destination for a loan move or he may yet stay with Getafe and with Abdel Barrada having departed, he may play a major role for the Azulones this season.

Ruben Pardo(Real Sociedad):
The 20 year old midfielder has the uneviable task of filling the void left by Illarramendi in La Real’s midfield. Not an easy task by any means but it shows how much belief the La Real management have in the youngster.

Manager, Jagoba Arrasate recently said he is not looking forward to bringing in any more players and stated his satisfaction with his current squad – a huge endorsement for Ruben.

La Real’s mangement have taken a slow and steady approach as regards drafting him in the first team, preferring to carefully blood him in rather than throw him in at the deep end – a decision that has not often gone down well with the Txuri-Urdin faithful who demand to see the pearl of the Zubieta in regular action.

Pardo is a central midfielder who likes to drop deep and collect the ball, spreading it beautifully across the pitch; orchestrating play. He always wants the ball, moving brilliantly across the pitch and always making himself an option to recieve the pass.

Of course, there have been comparisons with Xabi Alonso – the inevitable cross it seems that every midfielder coming out of the Zubieta these days have to bear…Ask Illara – and a bid from Real Madrid earlier in the year was reportedly turned down.

With Real Sociedad set to play in the Champions League this season, Pardo has a big season ahead of him.

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Francisco ‘Paco’ Alcacer:
Paco did not have a successful loan spell at Getafe last season. He made a total of four starts in both league and cup, scoring four goals. He played a combined total of 867 minutes and he only twice completed 90 minutes. A disappointing season, no doubt but the experience of playing in the top flight will be invaluable.

Paco will hope to force his way into Valencia’s team this season. Manager, Miroslav Djukic , recently said the 19 year old striker is on his agenda.

Good pace, intelligent movement and composure all combine to make Paco a lethal finisher.

With Soldado and Valdes having departed Valencia, he should feature prominently for Los Che this season.

Uyi Ogbebor can be found on twitter @goody2_boots

Carlos Leto

July 9th, 2013

Full Name: Carlos Ramírez Gálvez “Leto”
Team: U. D. Las Palmas
Position: Right Back
Age: 17
Birth Date: December 12, 1995
Birth Place: Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain
Height: 172 cm

Another young star is coming up from the U.D. Las Palmas prolific “cantera”: Carlos Ramírez Gálvez, known as “Leto” looks like the bright future of the canary team’s right back position.

carlose letoShort but strong and dynamic, his name is beginning to be thrown around by youth football experts, especially after his brilliant participation on the recent youth tournament “Copa de Campeones” played in Vigo last Spring: important newspapers like AS (who included him in the all-star team of the competition) and Marca (who dedicated a report on its TV channel) have underlined his qualities and it is known that Barcelona (eliminated from the competition in Quarter Final exactly by UD. Las Palmas) took note of his talents. Defensively reliable, he likes to go on the attack (he always says that his model is none other than Dani Alves) and he tends to impress in the more important matches.

Because of the retirement from active football of Pignol and because of the constant injuries of Aythami, this Summer Carlos Leto should train with U.D. Las Palmas first squad to permit coach Sergio Lobera evaluate if he is ready to compete with professionals.

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

 

Canteranos in Exile: Roman Golobart

June 4th, 2013

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Roman Golobart joined Wigan Athletic from Espanyol’s Juvenil B team in 2009, aged 17, having been identified as one for the future by Roberto Martinez.

He spent the next couple of seasons playing for the Wigan youth teams and at the start of the 2011/2012 season he was sent out on loan to Inverness Caledonian Thistle in the Scottish league to gain some first team experience. Culture shocked by the physicality and high tempo nature of the SPL, he made a disastrous start to life in Scotland as his mistake on his debut led to Aberdeen’s 2nd goal as Inverness lost 2-1. He soon settled, putting in consistent top notch performances. He made a total of 25 appearances, scoring two goals as Inverness finished 10th. He was voted player of the season and won a gobsmacking total of 9 man of the match awards during the course of the season.

At the expiration of his loan with Inverness, he returned to Wigan and was again sent out on loan, this time to League One side, Tranmere Rovers on a one month loan deal. He made just one appearance before returning to the Latics.

Roman is a ball-playing centre-back in the mould of Gerard Pique – comfortable with the ball at his feet and good at moving the ball out of defence. Standing at 6 ft, 4″, he is physically, very imposing and also good in the air.

Roman made 9 appearances for Wigan this just concluded season, 6 of them coming in the F.A Cup which Wigan won. He played a key part in Wigan’s run to the final as Martinez used it as an opportunity to give his youngsters a run out. Martinez was full of praise for his display against Bournemouth in January in the third round of the F.A Cup, his first ever match for Wigan, describing his performance as “faultess”. Later that month, he made his league debut at the Britannia Stadium, playing all 90 minutes in a 2-2 draw against Stoke. He made two further appearances in the league – one, as a substitute for Stam in a 3-2 win over West Brom at The Hawthorns and a full 90 minutes in the 2-2 draw against Villa at Villa Park, Wigan’s last game of the season.

With Wigan’s campaign ending in relegation and Roberto Martinez resigning his position as manager, it’s quite unclear what the future holds for Roman. A mass exodus of players could result in more game time in the championship or he could yet be sent on loan once again. I also wouldn’t be surprised if he’s signed once again by Martinez as he is a player that embodies his footballing philosophy.

Whatever it is, the future is definitely bright for this immensely talented youngster.

Article contributed by Uyi Ogbebor
Twitter: @goody2_boots

Results – Fútbol Draft 2013

May 22nd, 2013

The 8th edition of the prestigious Futbol Draft award was decided on Tuesday, with the top 33 young talents in Spain being honoured by an independent panel of experts from the RFEF, LFP, AFE and more. Players born after 1992 were voted into three teams, Gold, Silver and Bronze, based on who the panel think are the most promising at this moment in time.

In recent years the likes of Thiago, De Gea, Fabregas, Pique, Mata, Javi Martinez and Busquets have all been honoured with places in the Gold XI, but who are the next generation of stars that could be unconvered by Futbol Draft? We take a look at the three teams.

Gold

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In goal is for me the obvious choice, Athletic Bilbao ‘keeper Kepa Arrizabalaga having had a great year in particular with Spain’s U19 side, where he kept goal for their European triumph and earned a promotion to the U21’s.

In defence, Bayer Leverkusen’s Dani Carvajal has taken the regular Bundesliga action with ease and is wanted back at Real Madrid, with Sevilla’s breakthrough star Alberto Moreno on the other flank. Catalan pairing Jordi Amat and Sergi Gómez make up the central pairing, the latter enjoying another solid campaign for Barca B, and Espanyol’s Amat having reminded us again of his quality on loan at Rayo.

Atlético Madrid duo Koke and Saúl Ñíguez are chosen in the heart of midfield. As an undisputed starter for the rojiblancos Koke picks himself and keeps his place from last year’s Gold XI, although 18 year-old Saúl is a little more surprising, but not undeserved nonetheless. Málaga’s Isco Alarcón is of course the playmaker, and is arguably the biggest talent in the team.

Despite an underwhelming campaign, Basque wonderkid Iker Muniain is included for a third successive year, with teenage star Gerard Deulofeu (Barcelona) and Álvaro Morata (Real Madrid) unsurprisingly making up the attack.

Silver

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A regular for struggling Racing Santander, Dani Sotres is chosen as goalkeeper for the Silver team. The youngster is likely to keep goal in the U20 World Cup for Spain next month.

Two more of last year’s Under-19 heroes are in defence, tough centre-half Derik Osede of Real Madrid, and Celta Vigo’s 19 year-old utility man Joni Castro, who has enjoyed a solid first campaign in La Liga this year. They are joined by Pablo Iñiguez, another teenager who is now a regular in Segunda with Villarreal, and Athletic Bilbao left-back Jon Aurtenetxe, who provides experience to the team.

The midfield is made up of three young talents who all debuted for Spain’s Under-21’s last February, Real Sociedad’s playmaking prodigy Rubén Pardo, tough tackling Pedro Obiang of Sampdoria, and the pearl of Atlético Madrid’s cantera, young Óliver Torres.

Ahead of them, another of this year’s La Liga breakthrough stars in Rubén García (Levante) makes the team, as does ex-Real Madrid wing wizard Pablo Sarabia. Now at Getafe, he is not their only representative in this team, with Paco Alcácer, the prolific centre-forward on loan from Valencia, the main striker.

Bronze

BRONCE

For the bronze team, stopper Rubén Blanco, another of the sublime generation coming up at Celta Vigo, is included and is the youngest representative of all three teams.

Atlético right-back Javi Manquillo makes the team, with two of his Spain U20 teammates alongside him in edefence. Sevilla’s Israel Puerto scored in the recent friendly win over Paraguay and partners Jonas Ramalho of Athletic in the centre, with another La Masia graduate in Marc Muniesa at left-back.

Two of Barcelona B and Real Madrid Castilla’s main midfielders are in this team, Álex Fernández and Sergi Roberto, who despite being rivals at club level have played many times for Spain’s youth sides and have had impressive seasons respectively in the Liga Adelante. Liverpool’s supremely talented playmaker Suso makes up the midfield in the #10 role.

Surprisingly, the star of Real Madrid’s La Fabrica academy and ‘pichichi’ of the Under-19 Euro’s, Jesé Rodríguez, only makes the bronze team as a left-forward, with clubmate Raúl de Tomas (18) the striker. Making up the line-up is Betis winger Álvaro Vadillo, another in the long line of talented widemen from the 1994 generation in Spain.

There were a few perhaps surprising omissions, for example Barcelona’s fabulous young left-back Alejandro Grimaldo didn’t make the cut, although he has suffered a lot from injuries lately. The same can apply to Sevilla’s José Campaña who had an excellent tournament in the U19 Euro’s last year, and to a lesser extent Manchester City youngster Denis Suárez, although other players from that team were overlooked on a different basis. For example, Juanmi (Racing, on loan from Málaga), who has sadly regressed a lot in the last 18 months, and the very impressive Juan Bernat of Valencia were also not included.

Of course though, with the huge amount of talent coming through in Spain right now, it is always going to be difficult to make decisions like this, and there will always be quality left out. Looking at the three teams though, you can be sure that the current generation have a line of successors that have the potential to match their success and knows, maybe even emulate it. Two of the Golden XI, Isco and Muniain, have already represented La Roja at the highest level, but you can be certain they will bet the first of many of the names you see on this page.

What next for Arsenal’s young Spaniards?

May 21st, 2013

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It’s been a season of mixed emotions for Arsenal’s three young Spaniards – Jon Toral, Ignasi Miquel and Hector Bellerin. First team debuts, cup runs in the NextGen series, injuries, match-winning goals, last ditch tackles. The trio has had their highs and lows. While they may head off now on summer holiday and to sunny climes, they will all probably be thinking about what’s next. So what do we think?

Ignasi Miquel: Made 4 appearances in the Premier League in the 2011/12 season and was probably looking to push on this term but has found his opportunities limited. Able to operate as at centre back or left back, he scored his first career goal in Arsenal’s 6-1 win over Coventry City in the League Cup.

The arrival of Nacho Monreal as competition for Kieran Gibbs meant the Gunners had sufficient cover at left back, while opportunities in the first team squad have been hindered by the continued fine form of more senior players such as Per Mertesacker and Laurent Koscielny.

Johann Djourou was shipped off for a temporary spell in Germany in the January transfer window. Should he leave the club permanently, Miquel may well find himself in and around the first team squad next year as back up.  Probably needs a season out on loan at a Championship or Premier League club to get more regular football and prove he can make it at this level.

Hector Bellerin: Has made the right back spot his own in the Arsenal reserve side and has impressed all season long with his rampaging runs forward. Scored a brilliant late winner against Manchester United in April and Wolves earlier this month. Bellerin was also a key part of the NextGen side that went all the way to the semi finals of the competition.

The 18-year-old experienced being in the first team squad for the Carling Cup fixtures against Coventry and Reading, although he’s yet to make his full debut for the Gunners.

Despite his young age, next season may be the time to promote him to first team duties to compete with Carl Jenkinson for the right back spot, particularly if Bacary Sagna leaves.

Jon Toral: Signed from Barcelona at the same time as Bellerin, Toral made a promising start to his Arsenal career with some impressive displays in midfield last season and in the early part of this campaign.

The second half of the season has been frustrating, as he’s had to watch events from the sidelines due to injury.

Will most likely have another season in the Reserves next year to find his form and fitness again, while a loan spell somewhere may also help his development.

Canteranos of Jornada 35

May 17th, 2013

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Jon Aurtenetxe, Athletic Bilbao

Aurtenetxe assisted Aritz Aduriz’s opener as Athletic defeated lowly Mallorca 2-1. The 21-year old left back joined Athletic’s famed Lezama youth academy at the age of 10. This season he has three assists in La Liga; he seems to be Athletic’s left back for the future. Last season he appeared in over 50 matches, which propelled him to the starting lineup (usually).

 

Dani Carvajal, Bayer Leverkusen

The Bundesliga’s best young Spaniard contributed once again, getting an assist in Leverkusen’s 3-1 win over Hannover. Carvajal, just 21, has played admirably in his first season abroad. With a goal and eight assists from the right back position, he has gained many supporters. In fact, there are rumors of him returning to his old club Real Madrid over the summer; keep an eye on this.

 

Recio, Granada

The loanee from Malaga did his part, crashing home an equalizer as Granada stole a point from Real Sociedad with a 2-2 draw. After only playing in three matches for Malaga in the first half of the season, the 22-year old midfielder was loaned out in the middle of January. He now has two goals in 13 games.

 

Alejandro Arribas, Osasuna

Having just turned 24 years old earlier this month, Arribas’ time in this section should be up. But this weekend he headed home the only goal of the game from a corner kick as Osasuna defeated Getafe in a testy 1-0 affair. He has been solid for Osasuna all season long in the back and he has a bright future there. In the 2012/13 campaign he now has two goals in 32 matches; the goals have came in the last three weeks.

 

Javier Espinosa, Barcelona B

The 20-year old midfielder scored an equalizer in the 79th minute as Barca B earned a 1-1 draw with Liga Adelante leaders Elche. The talented native of Talavera de la Reina now has five goals this season. Not only is this Espinosa’s second straight game with a goal, it marks a three game stretch that also includes two assists. He has found regular playing time hard to come by in the 2012/13 season but is primed to become a starter in due time.

 

Iago Falque, Almeria

It has been a long career for the Galician at age 23. Starting his football formation at Real Madrid, he moved to Barcelona, where he scored in his only game for Barca’s B squad. He was signed by Juventus, where he did play a single Serie A game, as he was loaned out to Villarreal’s B side. A move to Tottenham Hotspur followed, where he is now permanently owned by the London club. Currently at Almeria on loan, the attacking midfielder scored a goal in the club’s wild 5-3 win over Lugo, taking his Segunda Division totals to two goals and four assists. Earlier this season he was dynamic for Spurs’ reserves, notching five goals and five assists in the U21 Premier League.

Canteranos of Jornada 34

May 10th, 2013

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Alvaro Gonzalez, Real Zaragoza

Gonzalez made his 29th start of the season for Zaragoza in an important 3-0 victory over Rayo Vallecano. The center back played all 90 minutes without a booking as his defense kept a clean sheet. Gonzalez, 23, began his youth career with Racing Santander but moved to Zaragoza in the summer of 2012. The native of Potes has had a solid season and looks to be a permanent option for the future.

 

Alberto Moreno, Sevilla

The promising 20-year old has become Unai Emery’s top choice at left back and his recent performances have justified his selection. He played the entire game without being cautioned as Sevilla defeated RCD Espanyol 3-0. Born in Seville, he ascended through the youth categories at his hometown club before making his La Liga debut in late 2012. Moreover, he has picked up two caps for Spain’s U21 squad. He has been impressive the last two months as a starter and there is no reason he can not maintain his starting spot next season.

 

Nosa Igiebor, Real Betis

Nosa assisted Ruben Perez for Betis’ second goal in an unfortunate 4-2 loss at the hands of Barcelona. The 22-year old midfielder has had a busy year between fighting for playing time in Betis’ midfield and playing for his native Nigeria in the African Cup of Nations earlier this year. The highlight of his season so far was his dramatic equalizer in the derby match against Betis. He is a bright prospect but his future at the club is up in the air.

 

Fede Vico, Cordoba

Vico was at it again, scoring the go-ahead goal in Cordoba’s 3-1 victory over Xerez. The attacking midfielder now has six goals and four assists in 30 Liga Adelante matches. At 18 years old, he is one of Spain’s most impressive teenagers. He has already made appearances for Spain’s U19 and U20 squads; with potential like this, he may not be at his childhood club for much longer.

 

Victor Machin Perez, Las Palmas

Perez, who goes by the nickname Vitolo, scored two goals as Las Palmas beat Sporting Gijon 4-2. Vitolo was born and raised in Las Palmas and started playing for the local club’s reserves at 18 years old. He made his first-team debut in August of 2010. Being right-footed and preferring to play on the left wing, Vitolo has been prolific this season, amassing 14 goals and seven assists; he is tied for sixth among all goal-scorers in the Segunda Division.

 

Borja Gonzalez, Huesca

Borja “Baston” scored for the second straight week as Huesca fell to Hercules 2-1. Gonzalez has nine goals in 27 appearances for Huesca on loan from Atletico Madrid. The 20-year old striker is a raw talent and may need another season on loan before breaking in to Atletico’s squad.

 

Real Madrid Castilla’s Duo

The Castilla squad handily defeated Real Murcia 2-0 thanks to goals from Alex Fernandez and Jese Rodriguez. Fernandez has not received regular playing time for the squad, as the midfielder now has three goals and three assists this season. Named the best player of the 2011 UEFA U-19 Championship, the 20-year old still has a ton of potential as a dynamic midfielder. Meanwhile, Jese is arguably the most prolific young Spanish scorer out there, and his record this season is no joke. He has 21 goals, second in the Liga Adelante, and 10 assists, a testament to his playmaking ability. All comparisons to Cristiano Ronaldo aside, he is an immensely talented player who can play centrally or on the wing. I would like to see him play in one of Real Madrid’s last games of La Liga this month.

 

Jairo Samperio, Racing Santander

Lost amidst the shipwreck that is Racing Santander is 19-year old Jairo. The winger/center forward is the club’s brightest jewel of its cantera. This past weekend’s game saw the best and worst of him, as he scored a goal and received his first red card of the season. He has six goals and two assists in the 2012/13 campaign. He was named to Spain’s U20 team earlier in 2013. With Racing on the brink of being relegated once again, the club may be forced to sell Jairo. Keep an eye on him.

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.

A2-42143699

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

 

Atlýtico_de_Madrid_Juvenil_A_-_Real_Madrid_Juvenil_A

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

16.00

Spain To Miss UEFA U-17 Championship

May 2nd, 2013

Spain U17

The 2013 edition of the UEFA U-17 Championship begins on May 5th in Slovakia, which means it’s literally less than a week before the tournament begins. An arduous qualification process took place last year; the initial qualifying round took place between September and November 2012 with 52 countries. 28 survived the first round and advanced to the Elite round, which concluded just last month in March.

Spain, as you can imagine, made it to the Elite round, albeit barely. They booked their place in the final round on the basis of being the best third-place team among the 13 groups. La Rojita ran out of luck in the Elite round, losing to group rivals Croatia and France. A third-place finish was not enough this time, as only group winners Croatia earned a place in the tournament.

Because of their lackluster conclusion to qualifying, Spain is ineligible to appear in this summer’s U-17 World Cup in Saudi Arabia. However, it is not the end of the world for these young players. Some of these guys are among the finest U-17 players in Europe.

Some of the players have already hit the radar and made waves in their club’s youth ranks such as Jose Angel Pozo and Adama Traore. In fact, here are seven other U-17 players you should keep an eye on:

 

Pedro Chirivella, Valencia

Chiri was the youngest player on the squad this spring, having been born in May of 1997. The midfielder scored a goal from the penalty spot in each phase of qualification (against Poland in the first round and France in the Elite round), adding an assist in Spain’s loss to Croatia. He is currently playing for Valencia’s Juvenil A side, with promotion on the cards. You can follow him on his very active Twitter account: @pedro5chiri

 

Rodrigo Tarin, Barcelona

Born in July of 1996, Tarin was chosen as captain of the squad by manager Santi Denia. He scored the only goal of the game in a friendly against Italy’s youngsters in January. A native of Valencia, Tarin plays for Barcelona’s Juvenil A squad, where is an imposing figure at center back. Twitter: @rodrigotarin

 

Francisco “Curro” Sanchez, Sevilla

Sanchez is a great midfield talent. Born January of 1996, he is already playing for Sevilla’s reserve squad in the Segunda B division (third tier). Having played as a wide man, he is most comfortable in a deeper role, perhaps as a holding midfielder. Twitter: @currito3_Lpm

 

Joaquin Fernandez and Antonio Marin, Almeria

It is amazing that Almeria, a second-division club in Spain, had two canteranos playing in the Elite round.

Fernandez, born in May of 1996, has already played matches this season for the club’s reserves in the Segunda B. A deep-lying midfielder, Fernandez began training with Almeria’s first team in the summer of 2012: a testament to his talent. Marin, born in June of 1996, is playing with the Juvenil A side. As a defender, he started all of the matches in the qualifying round. I am curious as to how long these guys will stay within the Almeria organization, especially if the club stays in the second tier. Twitter: @MarinAntonio5

 

Roberto Nunez, Atletico Madrid

As a striker in Atletico’s cantera, it is extremely difficult not to compare this guy to Fernando Torres. Another young talent in the Colchoneros’ assembly line of young talent, Nunez has yet to break into the club’s reserves, seeing as how he is just 17 years old. He supplied two assists in the qualifying round against Poland and Croatia.

 

Nicolas Canizares, Juventus

Originally in Rayo Vallecano’s cantera, Canizares was swooped up by Italian giants Juve in the summer of 2012. There is a lot of potential for this defender born in February of 1996. He and Pozo were the only members on the team playing for clubs outside of Spain. Talking to AS about the move to Italy, Canizares said he was excited about getting the autographs of Andrea Pirlo and fellow defender Giorgio Chiellini. Twitter: @Nicolas5cgl

Football Cantera

The future of La Roja is now.