Second, cradle of stars: Villa, Torres, Pedri and now they come…

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Second is that maternity ward to which Spanish football appears to get excited about what it is but, above all, what the future of this sport in our country will be. Season after season, some name joins that select group of elite players who stood out in this category, where they are already illustrious as Pedri, David Silva, Griezmann, David Villa or Fernando Torres. It happens that in LaLiga SmartBank, the commitment to young talent is high, having played a total of 44,854 minutes with players under 23 years of age.

In this remarkable statistic there is a subtle but proud ‘trap’: Real Sociedad B. The Donostiarra subsidiary has its debut in professional football this season and, according to its idiosyncrasy, only two of its players are over 24 years old, even It is usual to see a youth in Xabi Alonso’s calls. In the absence of a gap in the first team, the Karrikaburu, Turrientes, Roberto López or Alkain exhibit their quality in the Second fields. In fact, San Sebastian defender González de Zarate leads the ranking of minutes played with 2,325.

If there is a team spurred on by their homegrown players, with permission of affiliate White blue It is Saragossa. The Aragonese are the second team in which their U-21s have played the most minutes with 6,420. The club’s commitment to young people, influenced by its limited financial situation, has made the French central defender (2,249′ played), the midfielder Francho Serrano (1,921′) and the striker Azón (915′) are indisputable in the present and future plans of the La Romareda team. All three are U-21 internationals, being French absolutely indisputable for Luis de la Fuente. His name appears on the agenda of clubs like Sevilla or Villarreal, among many others. Footballers of the house, with works from another era and the constant support of a stadium that had to return to having idols who feel Zaragoza like them, the unconditional ones. Azón is now the hero of La Romareda.


U-21 players used

Participation of U-21 players this season

A. Company B

Saragossa

Girona

Malaga

Almeria

Mirandese

12,076

6,420

5,480

4,433

3,476

3,335

Sergio Camel

Alex Baena

karrikaburu

fake

Ramadan

Mirandese

Girona

A. Company B

Ibiza

Almeria

Players born after January 1, 2001 are counted.

U-21 players used

Player Participation

Under-21 this season

A. Company B

Saragossa

Girona

Malaga

Almeria

Mirandese

12,076

6,420

5,480

4,433

3,476

3,335

Sergio Camel

Alex Baena

karrikaburu

fake

Ramadan

Mirandese

Girona

Real Soc.B

Ibiza

Almeria

Players born after January 1, 2001 are counted.

U-21 players used

Participation of U-21 players this season

A. Company B

Saragossa

Girona

Malaga

Almeria

Mirandese

12,076

6,420

5,480

4,433

3,476

3,335

Sergio Camel

Alex Baena

karrikaburu

fake

Ramadan

Mirandese

Girona

A. Company B

Ibiza

Almeria

Players born after January 1, 2001 are counted.

AS was able to speak with the man who ‘led them by the hand’ to the first team, Lalo Arantegui, former Zaragoza sports director. “The success of these players is due to four factors: a real commitment from the club for them, the ability of the players to work, the environment and their feeling of belonging”, affirms the one who was also a Zaragoza youth squad. Weights that tilt the balance for or against the future of future stars.

The zaragocistas are followed by Girona and Malaga. Míchel, coach of the first, has placed his team in playoff positions with lane player Arnau Martínez and playmaker Baena as the main pillars of his team. Together with Mirandés striker Sergio Camello, who has 11 goals and three assists, they both close the top-5 of the U21s with 2,243 for Martínez and 2,218 for Baena. The first is a lung on a Girona right side that bears his name. As a result of this new football where physical power makes the difference, the lane player attacks and defends with superiority. Baena is something diametrically opposite. Raised in the Villarreal academy, the attacker makes the three-quarters of the pitch his own, assisting, finishing off and often unhinging opposing defences.

Málaga, for its part, is not having the season it expected. The Andalusians imagined themselves fighting for promotion and now, ten days from the end of the season, they are immersed in the fight for relegation. The signings have not performed as expected and only the homegrown players have earned the pardon of their parish. Kevin Robles is the one that stands out the most among all of them. After a small ‘bump’ in football and form, the winger is becoming important again with a questionable Natxo and has already accumulated 1,303 minutes.

In the fight for the long-awaited promotion to First Division, we also find decisive U-21s. The sports management of Almería de Al-Sheik always has the radar on the academies of the great European clubs. This season, for example, Rubi has given the stripes of his team to the Belgian Ramazani, with seven goals and one assist, and to the Catalan Puigmal, with three goals and three assists. On the other hand, Tenerife, an unexpected guest in the fight for a direct ticket to the elite of Spanish football, has its ‘pearl of fashion’. The well-known Mollejo is Ramis’ multipurpose knife in a team that plays by heart and always well. The player raised in Atlético can function in the center of the field or on the wings, either as a lane or a winger, but always complying.

He is not the only rojiblanco youth squad that is triumphing in the Second Division: in the Mirandés they vibrate with the aforementioned Camel, but Roro Riquelme is in charge of raising the public from their seats with their dribbles and assists.


Comparison with other great seconds of European football

U-21 players used

Championship

115 players

Direct contribution goals

Players with more minutes and more direct participation in goals in the other leagues

Championship

Keane Lewis Potter

(Shell)

3,509 minutes

Brennan Johnson

(Nottingham Forest)

17 (11 goals

and 6 assists)

League 2

lepenante

(fall)

2,244 minutes

virginium

(Sochaux)

5 (4 goals

and 1 assist)

Bundesliga 2

Thiaw

(Schalke 04)

2,151 minutes

Shuranov

(Nuremberg)

8 (6 goals

and 2 assists)

B-series

Around

(Cremona)

2,115 minutes

Beans

(Cremona)

9 (3 goals

and 6 assists)

Players born after January 1, 2001 are counted.

Comparison with others

great seconds of European football

U-21 players used

Direct contribution goals

Players with more minutes and more participation

direct in goals in the other leagues

Championship

Keane Lewis Potter

(Shell)

3,509 minutes

Brennan Johnson

(Nottingham Forest)

17 (11 goals

and 6 assists)

League 2

lepenante

(fall)

2,244 minutes

virginium

(Sochaux)

5 (4 goals

and 1 assist)

Bundesliga 2

Thiaw

(Schalke 04)

2,151 minutes

Shuranov

(Nuremberg)

8 (6 goals

and 2 assists)

B-series

Around

(Cremona)

2,115 minutes

Beans

(Cremona)

9 (3 goals

and 6 assists)

Players born after January 1, 2001 are counted.

Comparison with other great seconds of European football

U-21 players used

Championship

115 players

Direct contribution goals

Players with more minutes and more direct participation in goals in the other leagues

Championship

Keane Lewis Potter

(Shell)

3,509 minutes

Brennan Johnson

(Nottingham Forest)

17 (11 goals

and 6 assists)

League 2

lepenante

(fall)

2,244 minutes

virginium

(Sochaux)

5 (4 goals

and 1 assist)

Bundesliga 2

Thiaw

(Schalke 04)

2,151 minutes

Shuranov

(Nuremberg)

8 (6 goals

and 2 assists)

B-series

Around

(Cremona)

2,115 minutes

Beans

(Cremona)

9 (3 goals

and 6 assists)

Players born after January 1, 2001 are counted.

As in life, in football the phrase “Mr. Money is a powerful gentleman” can also be applied. And it is only through him that the situations of the aforementioned clubs can be explained. Zaragoza has been wandering for too long in a ‘no man’s land’, now waiting for the purchase of Jorge Más to come to fruition, as it seems. Girona, on the other hand, has in theory the healthiest coffers of the list, but several failed promotion campaigns have forced Quique Cárcel’s sports management to pull from a previously forgotten quarry. And Malaga? Malaga, at least, breathes a sigh of relief to see that the liquidation of the club is already in the past. The disastrous management of Al-Thani and sons plundered the club’s coffers with templates above their budgets, unlikely signings and projects that came to nothing. And of those muds, those muds. In 2019-20, the shadow of a disappearance due to defaults, like that of Reus years before, hovered over one of the historic teams of Spanish professional football. However, the sale of youth squad Antoñín to Granada for 1.5 million euros saved the club. “The sale of Antoñín saved us from having no defaults and from having a treasury that will take us to the end,” said Manolo Gaspar, club sports director Now, the people of Malaga breathe and look gratefully at a quarry that continues to be their joy.

Returning to those factors that help polish the diamond, Pepe Mel, an illustrious figure of the Second Division, follows the thread of the former director of Zaragoza. Whoever gave Pedri a chance in professional football and, later, trusted the Moleiros, Óscar Clemente and Loiodice for his team, also affirms that “those factors (mentioned above) are key to seeing a young footballer succeed”. Taking into account his stage as coach of Las Palmas, Mel assures AS: “For me, there is no age but talent. I didn’t care whether Pedri was 17 years old or Rubén Castro’s almost forty. I wanted the best on the pitch”. And he didn’t notice the age either Fran Garagarza, sports director of Eibar for a decade, who fished successfully so many times in the silver category. “Maturity is not linked to age,” he acknowledges to this newspaper.

The coffers of the world of football suffered a severe blow with the COVID crisis. Salary limits dropped drastically so many clubs, both in First and Second, they were forced to look to their academies for a useful player. They found them, and not a few. In their training camps they have found what they are looking for and, above all, their fans, as Mel points out: “Someone from the house who would help the club financially and the fans who came out very upset in the spirits”.

Today, those temporary solutions become realities in the cradles that the Second Division provides to this sport so that children who dream of making history want to mark a before and after in the silver category.