Atlético’s Juvenil A team were celebrating on Wednesday evening as they secured the league title with a 6-1 away win at Pozuelo de Alarcón.
Óscar Mena’s side have been in fabulous form in Group V of the Juvenil División de Honor, and wrapped up top spot with a game to spare courtesy of a rampant second half showing.
The win also ensures qualification to the end of season Copa del Rey and Copa de Campeones tournaments for our canteranos, where they will compete against some of the best talent in the country.
Despite having had to cope without a number of star names due to international call-ups and injuries, the youngsters have still managed to win 22 out of their 29 games, with many players expected to join our B and C outfits on a permanent basis for next season.
We were given a bit of a humbling at Real Madrid last month, but it took until late January for us taste defeat for the first time when Diocesano took advantage of our Copa Atlántico involvement by winning 2-1.
The star performer in that tournament was playmaker Oliver Torres, scorer of Wednesday night’s fourth goal from the penalty spot. The teenage phenomenon debuted for Spain’s under-19 side last week, and has been linked to the likes of Manchester United and Arsenal since the turn of the year.
Top scorer Ian González Nieto was on target at Pozuelo as well, hitting a hat-trick to take his tally for the season to 23 goals. He and strike partner Borja Galán are likely to join up with Milinko Pantic’s second string next year, where they will provide competition to youth team graduate Pedro.
Fans will also be familiar with the name of Javi Manquillo following his appearance against Albacete back in December, since which he has alternated between the B-team and under-18 side. Tonight he played the full match alongside fellow la Rojita teammates Dani Márquez, taken off injured during the first half, and David Gil, the young goalkeeper labelled ‘the next David de Gea’.
Another who has been earning rave reviews is Iván Calero, scorer of seventeen goals in the current campaign. Last week he sported the number nine shirt as Spain U17’s failed to qualify for the summer’s European Championships, but nevertheless managed to make a positive impression, scoring twice in 3 games. At just sixteen he may stay under the command of Mena for another year, although he has already debuted for Alberto Santaelena’s C-team in the Tercera division.
The youngsters’ success has been well received by the first-team camp in Germany, with sporting director José Luis Caminero paying tribute. “I want to congratulate both the coach and the boys for their effort for winning the league title. They are an example for us and are the future of this club.” he said.
Carlos Aguilera was appointed director of youth football in the summer at the same time Caminero took the higher role, and has clearly made a real impact on the lower ranks as our Juvenil, Cadete, Infantil, Alevín and Benjamín teams have been firing on all cylinders.
Last year the under-18 side finished in lowly ninth position, and many have put the improvement down to Aguilera’s influence. The former Colchonero idol was also full of praise for the young team, declaring: “This title is a credit to the boys, they’ve had a fantastic season. The club has high hopes for the players in this team.”
As well as Juvenil A, Roberto Fresnedoso’s Cadete A side (under-16) have enjoyed great success this year, topping their league with just two points dropped from 24 matches. They currently hold a nine point lead at the top of the Primera División Autonómica Cadete, and have found the net on an incredible 114 occasions.
Here you can find a video of their 2-1 win at second place Real Madrid back in March, featuring goals from Kevin Stiven and Dani Santodomingo and a terrific goalkeeping display from Spanish under-16 captain Santi Canedo.
Next week, Mena’s team close the campaign at home to UD Salamanca, safe in the knowledge that the hard work has already been done and the title is theirs. After that, they will take part in the Champions Cup against the other group winners and best runner-up, as well as the King’s Cup.
Diego Simeone has already shown his willingness to give youth a chance in his short time as manager, so we can expect a number of these boys to join-up with the first team for pre-season training over the summer.
You should also be able to catch Saúl, Oliver and Manquillo in action for Spain U19’s in the Elite round of European Championships qualifiers in May, and then in the final tournament should they progress.
How impressed have you been by the efforts of our various youth teams this season? Which players could we see running out at the Calderón in coming years?