Atlético’s cantera is struggling

Youth teams hovering above the relegation zones

Alberto Perea no longer used by Rivas (AS)

Alberto Perea no longer used by Rivas (AS)

Atlético B beat Pontevedra on Sunday and now have won their last four consecutive games, but that should not hide the fact that this campaign has been largely disappointing.

Last year the Filial finished just outside the play-off positions for promotion to the Segunda División; this year the team struggled to steer clear of relegation and only climbed up the table in the last few weeks.

The struggle was to be expected, as the club preferred to send Cédric, Keko and Ibrahima on loan, while Joel joined the first team permanently. Borja wasn’t able to contribute until he had fully recovered from his ligament injury late December and Koke was promoted by Quique Sánchez Flores.

Even with so many of last season’s strongholders gone, a club like Atlético is expected to have sufficient youngsters coming through the ranks to step up. But with the exception of Sergio Marcos and Saúl Ñíguez, only 16 years old, few players seem to have the potential to make it all the way from Cerro del Espino to the Vicente Calderón.

At Atlético coaches argue that gaining experience and having the chance to play is of higher priority than getting results, but the players most used by Antonio Rivas this season are all 20 or older, with the exception of aforementioned duo and striker Borja. What’s the point when our second team is neither developing youth players nor fighting for promotion to the Segunda División?

The situation is even more worrisome knowing that Atlético’s two highest youth teams are struggling to survive in their groups this season.

The Juvenil A and Juvenil B, our two top youth teams, are still not guaranteed a stay in their respective competitions, as both teams will have to try to avoid the drop in the final games of the season.

AS-journalist Iñako Díaz-Guerra pointed out that in the División de Honor, the highest youth division in Spain which is split up in regions, Atleti are in 10th position. How is it possible that the U18 team of one of the country’s biggest clubs, renowned for its cantera, is trailing behind six other clubs from Madrid? How can the flagship of our youth system lose against Leganés, Las Rozas and Unión Adarve?

In recent years we’ve seen Camacho, Rubén Pérez, Domínguez, De Gea and Koke come through, but there seems to be a void of talent after their generation. Where Atleti used to have three players in each of Spain’s youth selections, the U17 now only call up Saúl Ñíguez, while behind him Borja Galán seems to be the one and only Juvenil player considered for the younger Rojita selections.

Alberto Perea no longer in Rivas’ plans?

Many Atlético Madrid fans expected Alberto Perea to play a role for the first team this season, certainly after his impressive displays in pre-season. He seemed to take the chance given by Quique with both hands, scoring a stunning solo goal against Betis in the process. The coach handed him his debut in the Copa del Rey in October and even used him in one of our derbies against Real Madrid.

But it seems the winger has fallen out of favor with Antonio Rivas. The B-team coach let the 20-year old start in just two of the last eight games and didn’t use Perea at all in the last four fixtures, which resulted in four wins with Perea’s replacement Hermosa one of the most notable performers.

It’s said Rivas has never been keen on the forward since he made the move from Albacete two years ago, as the player behaves unprofessionally both on and off the pitch. Examples of this are his selfish performances, the fact that he took a penalty when he wasn’s assigned to and his bad disciplinary record.

While Quique has shown a lot of faith in the youngster it seems unlikely Perea will occupy the vacancy that was opened by Simão’s departure, unless he sorts out his attitude.

  • SoLobo

    What about Sebastian Gallegos? And what about German Pacheco? Is he good enough to return? And why isn’t Jorge Pulido even mentioned?

  • Derek Maaijen

    Pulido is officially already part of the first team and recently turned 20. He’s of the same generation as some of the other guys I mentioned, but after them there is a big gap. Atleti’s first team should be fine with some of these players for the next few years, but it’s worrying that behind them there seem to be so few players with the talent to make it all the way to the Vicente Calderón.

    Gallegos has been available almost the entire season but has only made a handful of appearances for the B-team. A shame, because only last season he finished as topscorer of the World Cup U20 along with Borja.

    Pacheco has been loaned to Rayo Vallecano and then Independiente and Gimnasia, both from Argentina. He keeps taking steps down but fails to get into the team. He is still owned by Atlético but I doubt that he’ll break through. I’m surprised by it, because he looked very good in the 2009/2010 preseason when he featured with the first team.

  • SoLobo

    Thanks Derek! Let’s hope for the best!