“80% of the work I do, is dedicated to the cantera….” – Sevilla Sporting Director, Monchi
Alberto Moreno Pérez for the past two months or so has become one of Sevilla’s most reliable players of the current campaign, and while performing impressively he’s also flown the flag for a the cantera at Sevilla. His performances with Sevilla Atlético in Segunda Division B Group IV under highly regarded coach Ramón Tejada were noted by senior staff at the club, and with the left-back situation a problem area it made perfect sense to offer Moreno the opportunity. The youngster has shown outstanding desire and commitment on the field, showing maturity despite his tender years. Skill set wise we see a strong player, both with fine body balance and a decent turn of pace. Over the first 10 yards he’s particularly excellent, offering the ability to shut down opponents and carry out his positional duties. It’s his work on the ball that has impressed though, balancing the ability to take few risks with intelligence while in possession. While we’re not talking the second coming of Dani Alves here, Moreno does indeed possess genuine ability with the ball at feet. His emergence has been perhaps the only positive note for the cantera at Sevilla in recent memory. Sad it very well is, for a club at one point under Joaquín Caparrós were part of the benchmark in Spain for producing young talent. Tejada too has been a positive, and when the future is discussed at the club his name persistently comes into conversation. For now, he’s focusing on duties with Atlético and liaising with Unai Emery; “Me and Unai speak regularly, he always asks about the kids in the cantera. There is communication”.
Communication and cantera
Communication has been an issue at Sevilla in regards to the cantera, partly due to a revolving door of coaches, some players lacking focus and opportunities not handed out in favour of disappointing signings. The next golden generation as it was perceived, of six players Monchi and his technical staff had earmarked as the future of the club, never failed to materialise. Goalkeeper Dani Jiménez, defenders Juan Cala and Antonio Luna, midfielders José Campaña and Luis Alberto and finally Rodri Ríos were the supposed super six. Only Cala and Campaña remains with the club, Luna and Luis Alberto meanwhile are earning their reputations elsewhere. Alberto’s case is special, he’s progressing rapidly at Barcelona B and both clubs will have a serious decision to make regarding his future. With a reputation growing it’s no surprise it’s being asked why could Alberto not progress at Sevilla – for a start he was restricted in terms of opportunities with the first team be it in training or competitive games, and seemed to spend more time negotiating contracts than actually playing. Monchi lamented his loss, insisting that the player had stagnated but also offered concern for the cantera in general, “There are times when a generation is coming through stronger than another. Of course, I wish we could have have 100% homegrown players on the squad but not everyone has the level to”. What can be said for Alberto, can also be said of Campaña, another gifted individual and perhaps the most in this current group. Off-field events have overshadowed his development however, as well as injuries – Sevilla seemed to give up early in terms of steering the player onto the right track, an area which Barcelona did admirably with Gerard Deulofeu. Once over a metatarsal injury, Campaña faces another battle with his head and how much he truly wishes to be a footballer not only at this club, but at any, as his contract draws to expiry in 2014. All these players were not at the level of the previous batch however, consisting of José Antonio Reyes, Jesús Navas, Sergio Ramos, Diego Capel and the always present Antonio Puerta. It’s that sort of level that Sevilla must aspire to, failure to do so could see them be further removed from the elite in Spain. More than ever too, it’s essential they do so.
Del Nido’s debt
When this summer comes around sales are expected to alleviate the pressure economically, with the likes of Álvaro Negredo, Ivan Rakitic and Geoffrey Kondogbia all potentially being sold. Sevilla as recently as December announced a loss for the first time in 10 years, amounting to just over €15m – this contributed to a final total of €49m debt. More concerning is the fact the playing staff are owed sums of money, and although President José Maria del Nido has recently renegotiated aspects of this debt, the problem persists. Martin Caceres sale represented the only significant income in the very same accounts, as it became ever more apparent the current saleable assets will be moved on. Sevilla’s budget for the current season is €60m, and that was down from the previous year – next season will see more budget cutting as Del Nido’s goal is to achieve a €50m budget. This to be done while remaining competitive – something that Sevilla as a team haven’t done successfully in a long time. TV money, poor attendances, a bust transfer market can all be cited by Del Nido and Sporting Director Monchi as contributors to Sevilla’s plight but the duo are culpable and in some quarters they are more than most.
The future…or rather lack thereof
Sevilla’s aim will be to fund and sustain a competitive and rigorous sporting directive with huge projection in the very near future. Some signs are positive, in the fact they attained Bryan Rabello and Kondogbia for example, but Monchi himself has said the markets are constantly changing and a club like Sevilla are being beaten to the punch more often than ever before. This is an area not entirely reliable, especially when the track record of Monchi and his team in recent years, with the greatest respect, has been mediocre at best. Closer to home lies the greatest challenges and although the likes of Alex Rubio, Israel Puerto and Antonio Cotan are promising their handling must be precise over the next few years – otherwise Sevilla risk letting go another batch of magnificent potential. They quite literally, can’t afford to let anymore talented players exit. Moreno simply can’t be a standout case, he needs to be one of many. Across the city at Real Betis they have outlined a plan to focus efforts on youth development due to the financial limits placed on the club – Sevilla, and the majority of other clubs in Spain, should be following suit. The money that comes into Betis in the future, however small the amount may be, will be earmarked for development of the academy and nurturing of the players within it. Athletic Bilbao recently took the step to reinvest the money gathered from Javi Martínez’s sale, in their own sporting structure. Their rivals in the Basque Country, Real Sociedad, are perhaps the most advanced team at this juncture, with a wholesome group of Zubieta trained kids playing in the first team – Asier Illarramendi and Iñigo Martínez could soon be seeing their names on the back of Spain shirts too. Importantly at the club, President Jokin Aperribay has bound all the main assets to long term deals with huge release clauses and transferred the values of the San Sebastián based club to these next generations. La Real’s finest talents play regularly in the first team, in an environment with senior players who have also filtered through the ranks – it’s also key to remember from a general economic point of view they are considerably more stable than many other teams. Monchi stated that he would ideally like 100% of the team to be homegrown players, at some point he or whoever replaces him might have to deal with the reality it’s an eventuality. Quality or not, this is where Spanish football is heading – over the next few years clubs will live and die by their cantera, and how they choose to utilise and stretch its possibilities will inevitably have a final say on any future.
Right now, Moreno is a mere candle in a darkened Ramón Sánchez Pizjuán lighting the way, Sevilla must find more like him to power the club to greatness once again.