The Methods To Prevent Arsenal & Manchester United Signing The Latest Spanish Talents
A small crowd gathered in the main stand as both sides walked on to the pitch. Suddenly a young black haired kid begrudgingly made his way to the bench. Whispers and shock spread among the spectators. One made his way down to the bench where he asked one of the coaches why this talented kid wasn’t playing. The coach pointed to a corner where there were at least four Englishmen in attendance. At 15, Oliver Torres was already on a few clubs radar and Atlético de Madrid were fighting tooth and nail to prevent him from becoming the next Cesc Febregas, who moved to Arsenal from Barcelona in 2003.
“While in England, most clubs are looking for the next Cesc, in Spain we are trying to prevent it,” says a youth coach at one of Spain’s top clubs. On the condition of anonymity, he has agreed to speak and explain why some Spanish clubs are keen to hide their best players and to what extent they are willing to go. The story of Cesc is famous in Spain but it is not a happy one. Barca lost two players; Fabregas and Gerard Pique when they failed to match the offers from English clubs. Both players felt their futures would be better abroad and while they both returned to the Catalan club not every club has the financial clout that Barca have.
“Since Cesc, Barca have lost more and more players as scouts pack out the stands of their youth games and now it is not only Barca. Espanyol, Atlético, Real Madrid and Real Betis have scouts in the stands for games of their Alevín category (Under 13s) games,” says our coach, adding that clubs can do nothing about it but just concentrate on the game but admits it can sometimes be distracting from the dugout when you see a foreign scout speaking to the parents of one of your key players.
With the recession showing no signs of letting up in Spain, and with clubs high in debt, most clubs are turning to their youth academies for players. Under Maurico Pochettino, Espanyol transformed their Cantera. The Coach made players play a level above their actual age so as they could become more competitive. He also insisted on a two-touch game, which was enforced at all levels. The result was Espanyol producing more home-grown players. At the moment they have the 2nd most Cantera products in their squad, just behind Club Athletic and Pochettino deserves most of the credit.
In Sevilla, Real Betis are focussed on investing major funds into youth development. The club, who are still heavily in debt, invest whatever money they have in their academy. The affects of such investment is that they have Manchester United, Arsenal and Chelsea scouts, to just name a few, attending games and trying to poach their key players. Most clubs are helpless to prevent their players going. The Premier League can offer more economical stability and the belief in Spain is that top clubs wouldn’t bring you to England if they didn’t believe you would make it. Almost all are willing to forget the Fran Merida example.
In Spain, one of the most famous competitions is the Torneo Nacional Alevín de Fútbol 7. It is a seven-a-side tournament that is played every summer amongst sides in the first division. Stars of previous tournaments have been Andrés Iniesta, Manchester United goalkeeper David De Gea and Chelsea duo Fernando Torres and Juan Mata and David Silva, and they are just a few who come to mind. Scouts from all over the world pack the stands looking for a bargain. Some clubs have taken a very strange approach to avoid losing their best players.
“While no one will admit it, I know of at least four cases where clubs have left their best players at home or on the bench so as not to catch the eye of scouts,” says the coach, who was at helm of one team at the 2011 tournament. He admits that while he didn’t do it that year, he has in the past left key players on the bench or at home and sometimes those at the very top of his club have instructed him to do so. A strange method it may be, but it is proving successful. Some clubs even bring in players on loan just for these competitions to cover those they have left behind.
Right now there is very little clubs can do but play on loyalties and try convince the youngsters that their future lies with their local side. With English clubs offering more than money but also an education and employment for their parents and with Spain moving towards six million unemployed, some families have no choice but to accept the offer and seek better futures abroad. In the youth academies, coaches can only shrug their shoulders as they lose another player and return to work and try preventing it happening again but most believe they are fighting a losing battle.