Football Cantera

The future of La Roja is now.

FC Barcelona’s Roger Riera Bound for England

July 13th, 2014

roger riera

This is the time of the season where youth players of varying talent are unceremoniously dumped from their respective clubs, diamonds from canteras who do not make the cut and have to look for another team before the upcoming season. Some departures are harder to take then others, and one of those is the departure of Roger Riera from Barcelona’s Juvenil A side.

Barcelona announced that they would not be extending Riera’s contract, a mind boggling thing when you look at the youngster’s pedigree. The nineteen year old has been raised at La Masia, learning the Barcelona way for the last nine years. Known for his charisma and leadership qualities, Riera helped win a league title each of those years and lead his team to two other prestigious trophies in the span, the Nike Premier Cup 2010 at Old Trafford and the first UEFA Youth Champions League this past April in Nyon.

He has captained every team he has played for and his winning league record is unprecedented in the hallowed halls of La Masia. It is fitting that his last silverware in the Blaugrana be the most prestigious, with the historic 3-0 victory over Benfica in the inaugural UEFA Youth Champions League.

So where next for young Riera? Reports this morning hint that a move to Nottingham Forest could happen as soon as Monday. The Football League Championship team could be a great step for Riera who follows a steady stream of youngsters who leave Barcelona for English shores. Could he be the next Gerard Pique who spent key years of his young career in England before returning to Barcelona to become a highly rated defender? Or will he follow Ignasi Miquel’s career path who seems to be stuck at the reserves in the Arsenal camp after joining in 2008?

And what kind of player will Nottingham Forest, or some other club be getting? Riera is a consummate professional with the aforementioned winning pedigree, two intangibles which make him worth a try. On top of that, Riera is great with the ball at his feet, not a surprise after nine years at La Masia, he is good in the air and at 6ft 1in will be able to compete physically in the English game.

I cannot guess the politics and other reasons for his departure from Barcelona but I will follow Riera’s career closely. He has the potential to become a leader for a first division team in years to come, whether that be England, back in Spain or abroad.

Looking Forward: The Future of La Furia Roja

June 23rd, 2014


The sheer amount that has been written on Spain’s shocking (or not so shocking) exit from FIFA World Cup 2014 would stop a team of oxen in their tracks. I do not want to relive the last ten days, I want to give all of you fans of the Beautiful Game that has come out of Spain for the last five or six years something to look forward to.

I have heard many respected (and not-so-respected) people in the footballing world write Spain off. This is categorically false! While I would agree that this is the end of an era… an era that has given us some of the best football ever played, along with some of the most gracious and humble winners who have inspired a generation of young footballers around the world… the Age of La Roja is far from over.

The only part of this World Cup I want to bring to your attention is the effect that a single player had on Vicente del Bosque’s team. Jorge Resurrección Merodio, or Koke came on for Xabi Alonso at half-time in the game against Chile. Spain looked like a new side in comparison to their play in the first half. Koke represented the best that we have come to expect from Spanish midfielders: composed on the ball, quick to press, kaleidoscope vision and a perceptible drive to win. His stats are telling, in forty-five minutes he made six tackles and seventy-seven touches with a pass accuracy of 90%. But it was the confidence that the twenty-two year old brought to a midfield in crisis that was the most impressive.

Enough looking back, the future is exciting for La Roja as the production lines from the various football factories continue to develop and churn out some of the brightest talents in the beautiful game. EURO 2016 in France is only two years away and the Spanish will be well built to ruin the party for the French. And then before you know it, it will be 2018 and Spain will be on their way to Russia for the next World Cup.

Over the next few days I will take a look into my crystal ball and see what the Spanish team could look like in two and four years.

Spain 2016 (1)

EURO 2016:

Manager: Vicente del Bosque has a contract that runs until the 2016 European Championships and I fully expect him to be at the helm in France.

Goalkeepers: David de Gea (Manchester United), Iker Casillas (Real Madrid), Pepe Reina (Napoli)

De Gea will continue to develop into one of the world’s top goalkeepers, there were many calling for him to start in this tournament, two years from now he will be the go-to starter. Casillas and Reina will both still be in the squad to provide much needed leadership.

Defense: Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid), Gerard Pique (Barcelona), Inigo Martinez (Real Sociedad), Alberto Moreno (Sevilla), Jordi Alba (Barcelona), Dani Carvajal (Real Madrid), Javi Manquillo (Atletico Madrid), Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea)

I fully expect a 30 year old Sergio Ramos to lead the line in the back. His partner in this tournament, Gerard Pique, has to prove over the next two years that he still has the drive and talent to be considered for a starting role. Javi Martinez could slot in beside Ramos or maybe Real Sociedad’s Inigo Martinez will finally make the step up in his development. Sevilla’s Alberto Moreno is one to watch over the next two years as he could become an elite defender. Jordi Alba and/or Cesar Azpilicueta will be in the squad but I fully expect one or both of Dani Carvajal and Javi Manquillo to be challenging for their seat on the plane.

Midfield: Andres Iniesta (Barcelona), Sergio Busquets (Barcelona), Cesc Fabregas (Chelsea), Koke (Atletico Madrid), Isco Alcoron (Real Madrid), David Silva (Manchester City), Javi Martinez (Bayern Munich)

Iniesta will be 32 years old but will be in the squad, Sergio Busquets will be in his prime at 27, but their supporting cast will look much different. Koke will be a bonafide midfield maestro at this time and will provide the pace and clearness of thought that the midfield lacked this year. I think that Cesc Fabregas under Jose Mourinho will become a very useful player for del Bosque and he may even challenge for a starting spot. Another name to watch closely is Isco. He managed to have a positive impact in many key matches during Real Madrid’s march to La Decima and I was surprised not to see him in the squad headed to Brazil. He will be 24 in 2016 and a great option to relieve Iniesta.

Forwards: Thiago Alcantara (Bayern Munich), Juan Mata (Manchester United), Gerard Deulofeu (Barcelona), Jese Rodriguez (Real Madrid), Pedro (Barcelona)

This is where I get excited. You only have to look back to the Spanish U-21 side of 2011 to know that the future of Spanish football is in good hands. Thiago Alcantara will be a key part of the Spanish team moving forward. The U23 side missed him in the 2012 London Olympics and del Bosque surely missed him in Brazil. Juan Mata and Thiago have great chemistry and will be making the lives of every defender miserable. I believe that they will be joined by Gerard Deulofeu in a creative three behind a scorer. The next two years will see Deulofeu blossom into a key player in an aging Barcelona squad and he almost made the cut in this tournament. Leading the line will be Jese Rodriguez who is already proving to be a key player for Real Madrid and a player who could easily fill the void left by David Villa. He provides creativity, clinical finishing, and good physicality which will create space for his creative teammates behind him.

Next up I’ll be looking and who could be featuring for La Roja in 2018. Stay tuned.

Koke To Star In the 2014 FIFA World Cup

May 9th, 2014
Could Villa and Koke bring success to Spain this summer?

Could Villa and Koke bring success to Spain this summer?

Spain is still the team to beat when the world converges on Brazil for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. They have experience, depth and the best starting 11 of any country in the world. With three out of four clubs in the European finals this month being Spanish, there is bound to be some new blood in this year’s squad.

Vicente del Bosque has been hesitant to introduce new names to his squad over the last few years but this might be the tournament where he starts to introduce some of the next generation of La Roja. The only player that – at least on the surface – seems to be a no-brainer for del Bosque to include, is Jorge Resurrección Merodio, or Koke as he is more commonly known.

Koke was born in Madrid, Spain, on January 8, 1992, and has been a part of the Atlético Madrid football system since the tender age of 8. He made his first team debut with Los Colchoneros in 2009 at the age of 18 and has been a mainstay under manager Diego Simeone since his appointment in 2011.

Despite having just entered his 22nd year, Koke has extensive experience with over 100 appearances for his club and over 60 appearances representing his nation at the various youth levels including 7 appearances under del Bosque this year. He was part of the U-21 side that won yet another UEFA European U-21 Championship for Spain last summer, and he has a Copa del Rey, UEFA Super Cup and UEFA Europa League with Atleti in the last two seasons.

KokeHe is a versatile midfielder, able to play in the center or on either wing. He has experience playing in the pivot role for Spain and he is a box-to-box midfielder, providing spectacular creativity and vision. He combines that with a commitment to defence and a pugnacious appetite for the ball. His addition to La Roja’s starting 11 would not change Spain’s style but could provide fresh legs and a new look after what has been a long year for nearly all of Spain’s players. Xavi has already tipped Koke as his natural heir on the Spanish national team, a mantle he doesn’t give lightly after having a similar comparison made of himself and Pep Guardiola early in his career. In many ways the twenty-two year old has surpassed the aging Xavi – with an imminent changing of the guard.

Koke has been one of the most prolific playmakers in La Liga this season. He has scored 6 times in La Liga and has set up his teammates for goals on 13 occasions, putting him second in the league in the category along with Barcelona and Spain midfielder Cesc Fabregas. He has added another goal and 2 assists in the UEFA Champions League this season.

Koke’s escapades in the UEFA Champions League have drawn the envious gaze of football’s giants, and Atleti are preparing for a host of bids for the youngster this summer. Manchester United are keen to sign his services and had multiple scouts at Stamford Bridge last week as Koke and his teammates put on a clinic against Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea. Atletico Madrid have slapped a hefty 60 million euro price tag on their prized midfielder, an indication of how much they value Koke.

His experience with del Bosque this year is proof that he is on his radar screen, and there seems little chance of Koke not being on the plane to Brazil.I If he doesn’t start, look for him to be quick off the bench for Xavi or Xabi Alonso. It will not be surprising if Koke finishes the tournament in the starting line-up, starting a new era for the Spanish midfield.

Suso’s Future: Anfield or Abroad?

April 26th, 2014


Suso is one of Spain’s brightest young talents. He’s wonderfully intelligent, is versatile, being able to play in the center of midfield or anywhere in a front three, he hits a mean dead ball, possesses great vision and pinpoint passing and at 20 years old, has an entire career ahead of him to hone his craft and become a great. Unfortunately that might not be at Anfield. If any player has something to lose from Liverpool’s extreme and unexpected success it’s the Spaniard.

Suso was loaned to La Liga side Almeria at the beginning of the season to gain experience. He is seeking to build on the solid foundations he put in place last season when Brendan Rodgers gave him his first tastes of first-team football. Last season was not the Cinderella story that we have come to expect from Spain’s best youngsters, a la Gerard Deulofeu and Jese Rodriguez this season, fitness was often an issue for Suso and a lack of chances in his favored position in the middle of the park from Rodgers combined for a mediocre rookie campaign.

He put that behind him and has taken his loan opportunity as a fresh start to continue his development. He has started almost 30 matches for Almeria and leads the team in assists with seven on the season, he has also contributed with two goals of his own being one of the bright lights of what has been a dire season for Almeria.

With Liverpool’s success this season, there might not be room for the talented Spaniard next year. With Sterling’s development and Steven Gerrard’s return to his best, there are less attacking roles available for Suso to fill. Add this to the fact that with Champions League football coming back to Anfield, the great club will be able to once again attract some of Europe’s best, Suso is likely to remain on loan or be sold over the summer. Suso’s intention and ambition is to return to Liverpool this summer but that might not be realistic.

He told talkSPORT: “I wanted to play every game this year and get a lot of minutes. Playing in the First Division in Spain is a good experience for me. Next season I’ll be a new player. I’m enjoying it a lot.

“At the beginning of the season, before pre-season, I was talking with Brendan and we were thinking that the best option for me was to go to a team on loan for a year, improve and learn from other players.

“It’s a dream to play at Anfield every weekend – it’s the best option that can happen. I would like to sign a new contract with Liverpool and stay there for many years.

“Brendan is a really good manager; he always treats the players really well. He tries to get the players on the ball all the time. To play football, you have to have control of the ball – Brendan wants that all the time.”

His style of football still fits perfectly with what Brendan Rodgers wants to have at the club and it might be that he returns to Anfield one day. But it would be best for all parties involved if he stayed on loan next season. Rodgers might consider loaning him to one of his Premier League rivals with Everton being a very possible destination for the youngster to supercharge his development under Spanish manager Roberto Martinez.

Munir El Haddadi

April 20th, 2014

Full Name: Munir El Haddadi
Team: FC Barcelona
Position: Forward
Age: 18
Birth Date: September 1, 1995
Birth Place: San Lorenzo de El Escorial, Spain
Height: 5 ft 9 in

FC Barcelona have done it again, the Catalan club have the next big thing in football. Munir El Haddadi is a Spanish-Moroccan footballer and he has been with the club since 2011 when he joined from CF Rayo Majadahonda, a small club in the Tercera Division. Munir was one of the most sought after players in Europe in 2011 after scoring 32 goals in 29 matches with Majadahonda, the likes of Real Madrid and Manchester City sought after his signature.


Atletico Madrid noticed his extreme talent and signed him, immediately loaning him to Rayo Majadahonda where his prolific scoring record drew the gaze of FC Barcelona. Barcelona ended up dedicating one of its academy managers to scouting the youngster who scored a hat-trick in his first match in front of the scout. That sealed the deal and the Catalan giants signed Munir who started with the Juvenil B team, finishing as the side’s top goal scorer.

Haddadi was promoted to Barca’s Juvenil A side this season and has made his Barca B debut as well. He truly announced himself to world football in the inaugural UEFA Youth League. Haddadi’s debut in the competition against the vaunted AFC Ajax academy saw him score twice, setting the tone for the tournament he would have. Haddadi was key to his side winning the prestigious award, scoring 11 goals and adding 5 assists in only 10 appearances in the tournament. He scored 5 more goals than anyone else in the competition, including two goals in the final, one of which was a stunning lob from behind the half-way line.

Like any burgeoning talent he is constantly linked away from La Masia with a host of clubs watching his progress closely. Arsenal were reportedly considering a bid for his talents in January with Wenger likening the youngster to Cesc Fabregas, but any deal fell through the cracks. His current contract keeps him at the club until June 2017 with a release clause of €12 million which will increase to €35 million if he joins the first team. He debuted for the B side in March and scored his first professional goal in Liga Adelante against Girona on April 19, 2014 winning the game for his side 2-1.


Munir El Haddadi has single-handedly slowed the panic around the club which has gone through one of the toughest weeks and winters in over a decade. There is a log-jam of talent coming through La Masia at the moment with Barcelona B teammates Sandro Ramirez and Adama Traore knocking down the door to the first team. Add that to the fact that Gerard Deulofeu and Rafinha are coming back from loan spells at the end of the season and the club’s attacking future is in good hands.

He has yet to play international football and even though he is a native of Morocco he has stated his desire to play for the Spanish national team. Look for him to star in New Zealand next summer at FIFA U-20 World Cup.

Haddadi is that rare kind of player that makes what is difficult look so easy. He was born with a talent that you cannot teach, and with him now honing is craft in the hallowed calls of La Masia, the sky is the limit for the young 18 year old.

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 (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.


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.


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


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.



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.



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?



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.



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.( 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


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.



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.



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.



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.

Football Cantera

The future of La Roja is now.