It has been a great year for our U19 team. Nay — it has been an extraordinary year. It was a year of unprecedented success, as Juvenil A, lead by Guti, won their first ever treble. In the past, we had the pleasure of watching some spectacular teams, but none managed to win the elusive treble.
So let's go through the entire squad.
José María Gutiérrez Hernández
Guti — an enigma of Real Madrid. An extraordinary player when he wanted to be and just average when he didn't feel like living up to it. When he officially retired in 2012, I bet that nobody thought that this erratic genius would pursue a managerial career. However, in 2013 he joined Real Madrid Cadete A as an assistant and stayed there for two year before making the jump to Real Madrid Juvenil B — this time as a coach. After a very successful campaign in Juvenil B, he was promoted this season to Juvenil A to replace Santiago Solari.
Guti subscribes to free flowing attacking football, however you have to put some of his results into context. The regional division can't really be taken seriously, because apart from Atleti and Rayo Vallecano, the teams aren't good at all. It is better to look at his results in UEFA Youth League, Copa de Campeónes, and Copa del Rey Juvenil. He won two competitions and reached the semifinals in Youth League, where they were physically battered and outplayed by Benfica in the first 20-30mins, which ultimately decided the tie.
Guti went through numerous systems from three at the back to 4-3-3, 4-2-3-1, and 4-4-2 to try to accommodate different players. It must be said that he was always quick to make early substitutions and corrections when things didn't go well. However, as the season went on, he slowed down his rotations and a number of players from the bench didn't get enough minutes.
Throughout the season, he was heavily linked with promotion to Castilla and many fans were rightfully excited, but in the recent weeks a number of reports emerged that Solari will be given another chance and Guti will stay for another year in Juvenil A.
Still part of Juvenil B team, Moha was called up to Juvenil A in the autumn of 2016 due to Belman's and Dário's injuries. His meteoric rise through ranks didn't stop, as this 16-year-old player (at that time) was called up for a couple of first team trainings earning him some silly comparisons to Gianluigi Donnarumma from the media. Another injury, this time to Luca Zidane, gave him the starting spot in the knockout stages of the UEFA Youth League.
Moha is a tall keeper (1.88m) with all the advantages and disadvantages that comes with that kind of height. His is very good at guarding the box and claiming crosses, but sometimes he can be a bit slow to reach low crosses. His passing game also needs a lot of improvement, because if he is pressed by an opposing striker, he usually retorts to hoofing the ball. He needs time to mature, especially mentally, because in the Youth League we could see that he was overwhelmed by the moment. However, it is clear that he is rated by coaches and Real Madrid's higher-ups and it is expected that the next season he will be the undisputed Juvenil A starting GK in both the League and Youth League. He is definitely a keeper to watch out for.
Belman started out as a first choice keeper, but just after one month into the season, he got injured. Moha took over and his great performances kept Belman out even when he got back. Belman got his chance to show his talent in the Copa del Rey Juvenil, because Moha went on international duty with Spanish U17.
Belman came up with number of crucial saves throughout the whole Copa del Rey and played a big part in winning this trophy. He was arguably the man of the match in the final against Atleti, as his saves kept Juvenil A in the game. He is very good on the ball and his one-vs-one shot stopping ability is on a great level. While he isn't a short keeper per se (1.84m), he isn't as comfortable as Moha when it comes to claiming crosses. We will have to see what will happen to him this summer.
Along with Álex Martín, he was the first choice center-back for Guti. Originally a midfielder, Manu Hernando possesses great ball playing abilities and vision. In possession, he often made surgical runs into midfield to help progress the play.
A number of times, he came up with crucial clearances from the line and last ditch tackles. In defensive transition, he was mostly used as the last defender sweeping up any potential danger, while his center-back partner was stepping up into the midfield.
This season, I would put him as the best center-back of the season for Juvenil A, very closely followed by Álex Martín. His excellent reading of the game and positioning was evident the whole season. However, his lack of height might suggest that it will be harder for him to make a meaningful impact in Real Madrid.
He is strongly linked with a jump to Castilla next season and it will surely be interesting to see how he will cope with senior and more physical players. If he can transmit his performances from Juvenil A to Castilla, it will be extremely welcomed, because it has been a while since we saw a decent/great central defender there.
His superb performances earned him a call up to the first team's US preseason tour.
Another converted midfielder to center back, but unlike Manu, Álex did also play as a midfielder this season. He was the backup defensive midfielder behind Martín Calderón, while also playing as a first choice center-back for Guti.
Even though he is just one centimeter taller than Manu, he gives an appearance of a towering defender. He is physically very imposing and frequently steps up into the midfield to make vital interceptions. Together with Manu, they created a very well balanced and secure center-back partnership.
This was Álex Martín's second season in Juvenil A and the next season he won't eligible to play in this category, so Real Madrid have to decide what they will do with him. So far, he is rumoured to be part of Castilla the next season, but we are still waiting for official confirmation.
Javi is yet another example of a versatile defender (it’s starting to sound like a theme, right?). Predominately played as a left-back, Javi was mainly used as a center-back and I'm sure that if there was a lack of midfielders, he could step up there as well.
Javi was a vital important rotation piece for Juvenil and played a decent number of minutes this season. Even though he produced a number of very solid defensive performances, there is another aspect of his game that truly stands out — his long range efforts. As you can see in the attached video, Javi likes to drive into the midfield and test the keeper. Great goal, right? You might think that this was a fluke, but he scored two more like this one.
Soti had a decent season overall, but he really turned it up in the business end of the season. Against Getafe (second last game of the regional league), he did his best imitation of a certain Sergio Ramos and scored the winning goal in 96th minute. This goal gave Juvenil A the league title.
Soti alternated between right-back and center back, and was mainly a backup player to both positions, because unlike in midfield, Guti did rotate his defenders a lot more.
Fran García is touted by some as one of, if not, the best left-back prospect in La Fábrica. And it's not hard to see why. A winger converted to full-back, Fran is an extremely explosive player and he displayed very impressive offensive capabilities. He is always there to overlap his winger and to receive the ball in the final third.
His brilliant start to the season was hampered by a shoulder injury against Legia Warsaw in UEFA Youth League. When he got back, he quickly assumed the starting role, but at the end of the season against Las Palmas (in CDR Juvenil) he had an unfortunate collision with an opposing player and he re-injured his shoulder, which ruled him out of the season. It's a shame that his otherwise brilliant season was ended by the same injury he suffered in September.
The left-back backup who, thanks to Fran's injuries and Guti’s rotations, got plenty of minutes this season and was even called up to Castilla. Cobo completed a solid season and it is expected that he might be on his way to Castilla this summer, because he won't be eligible for Juvenil A next season.
Cobo is a hard working and physical full-back not afraid of hard tackles. Going forward he is decent, but he would be more comfortable in a system that doesn't rely that much on full-backs to provide width.
Gorka Zabarte was the main right-back for Juvenil A this season, even though he is originally a center-back. Zabarte is a quick and aggressive full-back, but he isn't that good at trying to take on his defenders, which makes you think about his future as a full-back. Otherwise he is a solid option at right-back, but there are certainly other and better options in Juvenil B.
It will certainly be intriguing to see what Guti decides to do with him next season. Maybe he will return to play as center-back. Guti did play him there at times this season and I think that would make the most sense.
Tati is yet another talented right-back in La Fábrica pipelines, but this season was marked by his injuries, so he only managed to participate in 11 games in all competitions.
He is a quick player capable of putting in great crosses into the box. He can take his opponent on and possesses good overall technique. Real Madrid is truly blessed with right-back prospects. However, Real Madrid made a strange decision and it appears that we will part ways with another very promising right-back from Juvenil B - Paolo Medina, who was, along with Luca Zidane, the only one from Real Madrid to be nominated for the Golden Boy award this season.
Óscar Rodríguez Arnaiz
The star boy and captain of this treble-winning side. The player of the season. Whispered as the next great midfielder to emerge from La Fábrica, he finally got recognition from Real Madrid fans who don't follow the youth teams. Óscar was heavily scouted by many top European teams, because his contract was up in June 2017. Luckily for Real Madrid supporters, Real Madrid secured his services for four years to come.
Óscar is a midfield general. Everything floats through him and he is in the heart of every attacking move. As the season progressed, he dropped deeper and almost formed a double pivot with Martín Calderón. His vision and technique are on a superb level. Óscar is capable of finding any player in any position, because his passing range is excellent. Not only does he makes those hollywood passes, but his quick and short combinations with Toni Robaina in the centre of the pitched helped unlock many defences.
His speciality are free kicks. For example, he scored a winning free kick in Copa de Campeones and another one in Copa del Rey final. Every free kick that he takes is a genuine threat to the opposition. Not to mention that Óscar scored 22 goals in all competition.
If we take in mind the Castilla's midfield exodus, it is pretty much certain that Óscar will be moved to Castilla and very possible given the starting role.
His superb performances earned him a call up to first team's US preseason tour.
The tidy defensive midfielder, who caught the headlines with his spectacular goal against Atlético in a 6-1 demolition, was a constant presence in Guti's lineup. Rarely given rest, Martín was asked to cover for marauding full-backs and his very offensive midfield partners. It must be said that he did a fine job. There are still a lot of aspects of his game that needs to polished, but he nicely complemented Óscar and they formed a great midfield duo.
At times, he showed that he still needs time to mentally mature. His red card against Málaga (Copa de Campeónes final) in the 23rd min after two yellows in quick succession was simply unforgivable, but I'm sure that this experience will help him grow as a player.
Antonio Segura Robaina
Toni was bought in the summer 2016 from Real Betis and he immediately assumed a starting role in Guti's Juvenil A. An attacking midfielder by nature, he quickly showed his Gran Canarian flair. Toni is superb in tight spaces and has an eye for a final penetrating pass.
His one-twos with Oscar were always fun to watch, and they weren't doing that just to show off — it was an effective way to break down deep blocks. He did suffer two minor injuries during the campaign and he was sorely missed in those games. He will also probably make the jump to Castilla next season.
The Dutch wonder-boy signed from Ajax at the tender age of 16. Mink was highly rated in the Ajax academy, however he’s yet to consistently show why he was rated that high. He was signed for Juvenil A, but the next season he was relegated to Juvenil B and this season he was once again moved to Juvenil A. All three season are very marked by his injuries. He completely missed the whole preseason and first half of the season due to his injuries, and his first appearance of the season wasn't until January 2017. In total, he only played 33 games in three-and-a-half seasons with Real Madrid.
When Mink got back, Guti played around with the formation to accommodate Mink, but he failed to consistently deliver. He did have flashes of brilliance, but they were just flashes. Another problem is that both of his favourite positions are either occupied by superb players, or doesn't exist (he’s a left winger / #10). Mink was then used as a central midfielder or striker, however neither role really suits his skill-set. His future is a question mark and I wouldn't be surprised if he doesn't make it to Castilla in the future...
Gregorio López Teruel “Gori”
Gori was very rarely used throughout the season, and most of the time, he didn't even make the bench. His impact on the team and their results was minimal. The coaching staff and higher-ups from La Fábrica probably didn't rate this player at all and as a result he was recently released by Real Madrid.
He was supposed to be the defensive midfielder backup, however Álex then assumed this role. Bravo can play as either a central midfielder or defensive midfielder. As the season progressed and Álex was the main defensive midfielder backup, he had only sporadic substitution cameos. But even then he managed to score seven goals in all competitions.
He is decent in recycling possession and has an okay passing range, but nothing truly stands out. I'm afraid that Juvenil A will be his last Real Madrid team.
Franchu was a result of a new trend in Real Madrid's youth system. They are finally starting to go after the best players in Spanish academies. This time, Rayo Vallecano's academy was raided and we acquired the services of Franchu. And what a signing he turned out to be.
Franchu has excellent pace coupled with great technique and one-vs-one ability, making him a perfect winger. He skips past his defenders as if they weren't there. In terms of roles, he can play both as the traditional winger and the inverted winger. Franchu became one of the most important offensive players, scoring 11 goals and ending the season as the third highest goalscorer in the team.
The whole left side (Fran García+Óscar+Franchu) was the main side used for attacking the opposition and particularly Franchu's combinations with Fran García were a nightmare for defenders. However, his offensive exploits were almost matched by his defensive effort. Franchu always diligently tracked back and helped Martín to cover gaps left by Fran.
His fantastic performances earned him a call up to the first team's US preseason tour.
Alberto was the most surprising player for me this season. Promoted from Juvenil B in the summer, I certainly didn't think that he would have such a prominent role in the squad. However, Alberto was full of surprises this season.
He's a very hard working winger, who can also fill in as a right-back, if the manager needs him to. Another strong aspect of his game is his raw pace, one-vs-one ability and overall balance of his offensive and defensive game. Unlike Franchu, Alberto was mainly asked to provide depth on the right side, because of lack of true attacking right-back.
At the age of 17, Alberto quickly became an indispensable member of Guti's starting lineup.
This young left winger had a tough time cracking the starting lineup, because Franchu was putting one excellent performance after another. The bulk of his appearances came in the form of second half substitutions.
Álvaro has a low centre of gravity, which greatly helps him to hold on to the ball. His finishing is also good, although this season he only managed to get once on the scoring sheet.
Jesús Rodríguez Ortuño “Echu”
One of Guti's super subs. Echu is a winger capable of playing on both wings. He was usually the first offensive player to come on and he did repay Guti's faith with eight goals this season.
He's a quick and tricky winger with a very good eye for goal. However, he will probably be loaned out to a Segunda B club, as he won't be eligible for Juvenil A and I'm not convinced he will be moved to Castilla.
The pichichi of the team. Dani was the undisputed starting striker scoring 32 goals in all competitions. Without Dani, the team lacked a killer instinct and, even though Llario was a decent backup in the minutes he was given, he didn't manage to match Dani's performances.
Dani is a typical predator in the box. He has excellent positioning and an eye for a goal. He didn't have to create that much, because all the wingers and midfielders supplied him with enough quality chances. All they needed was a guy to convert them and this was a tailor made job for Dani. However, it is still up for a debate if he can be the all rounded modern striker. I have my doubts.
His fine performances earned him a spot in first team's US preseason tour and quite possibly a promotion to Castilla.
Llario was the first choice backup for Dani Gómez, and while he didn't live up to his expectations, he did have a decent return this season — seven goals in all competitions. As I said, he wasn't give a lot of minutes and, even though he appeared in roughly 17 matches, the vast majority of his appearances were late substitutions.
He is a fast striker with decent technique and his overall game is a bit better than Dani's, but he lacks hunger in front of the goal.
This was a season to forget for Ousama, as he only featured in nine games all season, scoring just one goal. His time in La Fabrica coincided with Dani Gómez and Llario and he never had the chance or fought his way to get a more prominent role.
Ousama turned 19 this March and it's hard to see him continue in Real Madrid's youth teams. I suspect that he will be let go this summer and we will have to see if any team from Segunda B or any other division will pick him up.
Dário Ramos & Gorka Fidalgo
Both Dário and Gorka didn't feature at all this season due to their injuries. Dário's injury wasn't as grave Gorka's, but when he got back he had Moha and Belman in front of him in the pecking order. I think he will be the backup goalkeeper next season, but frankly he needs to play regularly, because he was a promising player.
Gorka Fidalgo was yet another promising right-back, however his serious injury didn't allow him to get any playing time at all. Let's hope that he will fully recover.
Team of the season
GK: Moha Ramos
DEF: Gorka Zabarte, Manu Hernando, Álex Martín, Fran García
MID: Toni Robaina, Martín Calderón, Óscar Rodriguez
ATT: Alberto, Dani Gómez, Franchu
Player of the season
Óscar Rodríguez Arnaiz