Forget Özil and Di Maria…

by Jamie Lindsay

Real Madrid president Florentino Perez had a bright idea when he was elected in 2000. He could build the best squad in the world if they followed some simple procedures. In principal the theory sounded perfect. You would spend enormous sums of money on the best footballers such as Ronaldo (€39 million), Zinedine Zidane (€75 million), David Beckham (€35 million) or Luis Figo (€45 million).

The big names would equal revenue, so television deals and merchandise would enhance because these household names would be attractive, especially in the untapped markets of American and Asia, and eventually that large transfer fee would be recouped. Finally players from the Castilla would be promoted, such as Alvaro Mejia and Francisco Pavon, meaning the beliefs of Real Madrid are installed into the team, they would not cause problems if they were not playing consistently and they would not be heavy contributors to the wage bill.

The term ‘Zidane y Pavon’ was tagged to this master plan; however success was limited, mainly due to letting Coach Vicente Del Bosque leave in 2003. Last June Perez returned, and the signs were that he would follow this process again when he splashed around €300 million on Cristiano Ronaldo et al, only to have another trophy less campaign. The investments were more subtle this summer, with Angel Di Maria being the most expensive recruitment at €25 million, but it was a player from Santander signed in February for around €4.5 million that might turn out to be the pick of the bunch.

Many people had not heard of Sergio Canales until he burst onto the scene at the end of 2009. The talented midfielder scored five goals in the space of a month to alert the nation of his talents, which promptly saw Madrid sign him up, even though his contract was four months away from expiring. His rise to prominence is not that shocking however. Canales was part of the Spanish U-17 team which was victorious in the European Championships in Turkey back in 2008, he just needed a coach to give him a chance, one who ironically has links with Real Madrid; Miguel Angel Portugal.

El Querubín looked to be returning to Racing this summer to continue with his footballing education, however with Kaka having an operation on his left knee, which is expected to keep him out until 2011, Coach Jose Mourinho insisted that the U-21 international was to remain at Madrid. It has not taken him long to get comparisons with an outgoing Real Madrid legend in Guti, however Mourinho was quick to relieve him of this tag. “I do not like to compare him to Guti, who had unforgettable moments in the club. They have some similar attributes and think the same way in the field.”

He did not hold back in impressing the Real Madrid fans by scoring on his first start, in the US tour in August, against Mexican side America. Indeed it’s been a busy summer for the midfielder; he was part of the Spanish side which lost the U-19 European Championship final to France. The first game of the new La Liga season against Mallorca he was chosen to start instead of Özil. In his first two outings for the Spanish U-21’s he scored in both matches against Poland and the Netherlands. Hype is surrounding the teenager, but with Mourinho in charge he has a coach who will always deflect pressure off his players. Remember this is a player who has only played 40 games in his professional career, and is still only 19-years-old.

There is a reason why not only people in Spain, but the whole of Europe seem to perk up when they hear his name mentioned. The kid is talented, very talented and has the world at his feet.
Unlike Guti he looks like he will fulfil his potential because of the mentality the teenager has. Soon enough Del Bosque might be bombarded with pleas similar to Dunga – who rejected the requests to select Ganso and Neymar in Brazil’s World Cup squad – to promote Canales into the senior squad.

But where will Canales fit in for Los Blancos? Real Madrid play with a 4-2-3-1 formation and Canales is in competition with both Kaka – once the best player in the world and Özil – who took the World Cup by storm. Perhaps in January he might be allowed to return to Santander when Kaka returns from his lengthy layoff, but if the number 16 continues to develop this rapidly, Mourinho might be wishing that Perez did not spend €68.5million on Kaka and €15m on Özil if this gem turns out better.

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