21 Midfielder Atlético Madrid Spain
Does life get much better than scoring an overhead kick against Real Madrid? If you want the answer, you clears throat better call Saúl (we promise this will the first and only time we use this joke). Saúl is the latest off Spain’s never-ending conveyor belt of brilliant young midfielders, this one drawing most comparison with Xabi Alonso instead of the much peddled new Xavi or Iniesta lines. Fully formed and doing great things already, this is a very impressive young footballer.
2015 has been…
…very good, often inconsistent but when you do see it you realise this is a player.
We often bemoan the way teams treat their young players in this list. Farmed out on unbeneficial loans, sold for a quick profit rather than developed, played out of position or only used when all other options are exhausted, it’s a familiar beat. In Saul’s case it’s nice to point how excellently he’s been managed by Atlético, themselves mindful of the fact that every first team appearance is a reminder to neighbours Real that they shouldn’t have let him go aged just 16.
His path to the first team has been carefully plotted, he was loaned out at the right time to a club who would a] play him (he played in 34 of Rayo Vallecano’s 38 league games) and b] allow him to develop. Atleti may have won La Liga in his absence but he wouldn’t have featured in that side and so got valuable first team experience elsewhere instead. He was then immediately integrated into the first team last year and this season is at home amongst the stars. He’s still handled carefully and competition for the first team is tough, but he’s holding his own and coming along really well.
He plays best as a spoiler, not a true defensive midfielder but one who starts attacks from deep. We mentioned he can be a touch inconsistent but he plays in a high-pressure position for one of Spain’s biggest clubs and is only 21 years old - it’s to be expected. He’s finding a level and we’re thoroughly enjoying his development, well done to all involved.
Just needs to keep learning, keep growing and keep listening to Diego Simeone, a man who knows a thing or two about playing in Saúl’s position. There’s been lots of nonsense about moving but there’s very little chance of that and duly a new contract was signed in the summer. His wages went up, Atleti have him signed on for five years and his release clause is suitably eye-watering. Again, we have to say the club have done really well by the player and we hope he continues to do really well by them.
This is one that’s ticking along nicely and international call-ups and acclaim will come. Love or loathe him, Sergio Busquets is the current benchmark both domestically and internationally for our money. Saúl is a way off getting anywhere near him currently but stands a chance in time. Very promising, bright things ahead.
C+ Get your head down, learn all you can, be brilliant - simple
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