Kids in Spain these days don’t really want to be a number nine. They want to be a creative midfielder, or as recent Spanish youth squads have shown, a winger. This trend seems to have past a young man born in 1997 by.
Santi Mina is his name, 17-years-old is his age and right now he happens to be one of the most exciting young players in Spain. Fortunately for Spain he’s not a technically gifted creative player, or a pace-filled winger; he’s an outright striker. This bodes well for a nation void of naturally instinctive strikers.
On February 16th, Mina replaced Iago Aspas to become the third youngest player to feature for Celta in Primera División, ever. The call-up had not been without foundation too, given that the player had obliterated every defence in front of him at Juvenil level. 27 goals in 17 games to be exact, even more than a certain Lionel Messi achieved at the same level. David de Dios, his coach, couldn’t be more enthused about the striker; “Everything he touches goes in. He can score with his head or foot, can volley, use his left or right, inside the area and outside it too”. The last year the coaches have seen an incredible development in the player, much due to a genuine growth spurt.
Aside from the goals the most notable feature of Mina’s game is his physical capacity, and although just 5’10’ he packs an incredible punch in his strike play. There is upper body strength and balance that faces opposing players, before a combination of power and sharp change of direction give off the whole package. He can operate well off the front line too and hold the ball up, rather than simply being a poacher. Primarily though as his goalscoring record suggests, he knows exactly where the back of the net is.
That debut against Getafe was of course the big reward for impressing with the youth ranks, and efforts shown while training with the first team ona regular basis with Paco Herrera. It’s the time spent with the ‘B’ team that has further rounded Mina’s game however. He’s scored 7 goals in his last 5 games with them, improving all the time after his debut in January against local rivals Depor and their own ‘B’ team. His inclusion has coincided with a push to the top of the Tercera División, and second place is all but assured with the goals from the youngster vital.
It’s no surprise then that Mina was handed a five year contract, taking him until 2018 with Celta. It protects the team from Vigo if the player does indeed progress as expected, and also the player from being hawked around like many of Spain’s best youth prospects are while under a weak contract. Celta aims to have 50% of their squad home grown each year and the hope will be along with the likes of Jonny and Ruben Blanco, Mina plays a key part in the future. The near future may be in Segunda División however, and how Mina will be used then will be intriguing.
Segunda’s a tough league and players need to have a tough exterior to match so they can compete there. Fede Vico has shown at Córdoba despite his tender years he can take the kicks and bruises that come his way, and it’s feasible to think Mina will need to be prepared for the same. There will of course be time spent with the ‘B’ team for Mina, and he’ll no doubt be registered as one of their players. First team training will continue though as it has throughout 2012/2013, and perhaps being used as an impact player like Vico was at Córdoba in his debut season could be the template. The young man at Cordóba is now a first team regular of course such has been the expert handling of his talents.
The Copa de Campeones was perhaps Mina’s goodbye to the Juvenil level that has served him so will over the last 12 months or so and he didn’t disappoint. First he outshone Real Madrid’s own striking pearl in Raúl de Tomas by scoring a brace in the opening game, before scoring a penalty in the semi-final against Villarreal. In the final his Celta side were ultimately defeat by a physically and tactically superior Sevilla, but Mina still managed to grab another goal via a composed penalty spot strike. It meant he finished top scorer at the prestigious tournament with four goals in three games, scoring in every one. When he was on the periphery of the game, an issue his coaches have pointed out that needs to be improved, he managed to eventually come in and impose himself against defenders with his hold up play. It’s the dimension of Mina’s game that is so admirable and so enthusing to witness, rather than confining himself to one area of strength he excels in many.
Santi Mina’s present may be interesting to watch but signs are his future will be enthralling.