La Liga Lowdown
Five LaLiga Talents You May Not Have Heard Of
Written by the La Liga Lowdown Squad
MADRID – Darío Poveda (by Euan McTear)
After having the second-oldest squad in Spain’s first division in 2019/20, a squad that crawled over the finish line exhausted, one of the principal objectives for Getafe this summer was to get younger. The acquisition of 23-year-old striker Darío Poveda on loan from Atlético Madrid is a big step in that direction.
Poveda arrives at the Coliseum Alfonso Pérez after missing the second half of 2019/20 with an ACL injury, but the striker has been working throughout the summer, even canceling his holidays to focus on his recovery.
Before his injury, Poveda – who came through Villarreal’s youth academy before moving to Atlético Madrid in 2018 – had scored 10 goals in 10 Segunda B games for Los Rojiblancos’ B team. That caught Diego Simeone’s attention and he rewarded the youngster with a first-team debut in a LaLiga Santander match against Granada. Poveda repaid his faith and really should have been awarded a penalty in the 1-1 draw. With Diego Costa sidelined by injury, it seemed Poveda was in line for a run in the first team. But then disaster struck in the form of his own long-term injury.
Fully recovered and raring to go, this physical and technical centre-forward should fit in to José Bordalás’ system perfectly. Poveda even said that he picked Getafe because he believed he suited their style. He is a quality player and a great human being too, even earning a fair play award at a 2015 youth tournament for gifting football boots to Uruguayan opponents who he noticed were playing in simple running shoes.
Poveda deserves this opportunity. Let’s hope his knee holds up.
CATALUNYA – Pedri (by Román de Arquer)
Pedro González, better known as Pedri, is an extremely talented player who is trying to make it at Barcelona the hard way. And I say this because it’s unusual for such a young player to reach the club’s first team without taking at least a year to develop in Barça’s youth system, ‘La Masia’.
But his outstanding quality encouraged the club to close a deal with UD Las Palmas in 2019, when he was barely 16 years old, allowing him to stay one more year in the Canary Islands to prove his worth in the Segunda División, which he did.
He was a regular starter for manager Pepe Mel who did not hesitate to say “Pedri is going to mark an era in Spanish football”. In the 19/20 season he played 36 games, scored four goals and gave seven assists, also becoming the youngest player to ever score for the team.
Pedri is a versatile footballer capable of playing as a winger on either flank, and also as an offensive midfielder. On the pitch he often resembles his idol, Andrés Iniesta, with gifted technical abilities and superb vision. Equally relevant for such a young talent to succeed is his down-to-earth mindset on and off the field; cool, calm and composed.
However, he now faces a major challenge at Barça, where he’ll need to fight for his place in an overcrowded squad in attacking positions with the likes of Lionel Messi, Ousmane Dembélé, Philippe Coutinho, Ansu Fati, Martin Braithwaite, Francisco Trincão…
VALENCIAN COMMUNITY – Uroš Račić (by Paco Polit)
Yes, Valencia’s midfield might look like a bit of a wasteland after their board’s atrocious handling of Dani Parejo’s and Francis Coquelin’s transfers, but such shocking developments usually mean a big chance for an appropriately hungry young player.
Enter Uroš Račić, the Serbian midfielder who Valencia signed for peanuts (two million Euros) in June 2018. He was only 20 back then, but playing under Marcelino proved an impossible task due to the sheer quality of some of his teammates, so the club decided to send him to Tenerife on loan so he could keep adding quality minutes to his resumé in the competitive Segunda División.
He climbed another step on the ladder in the 2019-20 season, when he was loaned to FC Famalicão and became a regular starter, enjoying 33 games in the Primeira Liga and scoring three goals. Spending 12 months in Portugal proved an unwittingly wise move, as he avoided all the turmoil within the club after Marcelino’s unceremonious sacking, Celades’ bland managing and Voro’s struggle as Valencia finished a disappointing ninth.
A very physical player, Račić combines his ability to cover a large amount of ground with his drive to make penetrating runs into the opposition box. As Javi Gracia seems to favour a battling midfield, where aggression and defensive prowess compensate for the lack of creativity after Dani Parejo’s departure, the Serbian might have a real shot at becoming a household name in a squad full of young players with potential.
ANDALUSIA – Aitor Ruibal (by Gregor Chappelle)
A player I believe is set to surprise many and make a name for himself in LaLiga this season is Real Betis forward Aitor Ruibal. He signed for Betis from Segunda B side CE L’Hospitalet in 2015 and was assigned to play with the Betis B team in the third tier where he scored 20 goals in 72 appearances.
He only featured twice for the first team before being sent out on a series of loan moves with spells at Cartagena and Rayo Majadahonda in the second division, followed by a season at Leganés before returning to Betis this summer.
I see a lot in Ruibal’s play that makes me think he can be a success at Betis this year if he’s given a chance. He’s extremely industrious, quick, strong, likes to run into space, and during his time on loan has greatly improved his decision-making and reading of the game. He also has a goal in him and I think the fact that he scored 11 in 34 in Segunda B for Rayo Majadahonda, a team who were struggling and were finally relegated, is a sign that he could do well if he is surrounded by better players.
His coach during his time at Betis B, José Juan Romero, heaped praise on him in an interview with Radio MARCA.
“I have a big soft spot for Aitor,” Romero said. “He’s the most complete player I’ve ever coached. He’s and elite level player and I have absolutely no doubt about that”. Ruibal is very versatile and was used in a variety of roles by Romero at Betis B. “I used him in every position and I used to tell him he could probably even play in goal,” he added.
After a few seasons on the road I think he’s come back to Betis a more complete player. I hope Manuel Pellegrini shows some faith in him and gives him the opportunity to show people just how good he really is.
BASQUE COUNTRY – Jon Morcillo (by Beñat Gutiérrez)
After two consecutive seasons of not being able to clinch a Europa League spot, there is growing demand for Gaizka Garitano to give the young players a chance at Athletic Club, even if that means a few seasons of transition.
It’s clear the process of renewal has already started, with legend Aritz Aduriz retiring and classic names like Beñat Etxebarria or Mikel San José leaving the club. While players like Oihan Sancet or Unai Vencedor are trying to be part of Garitano’s plans when he rotates, and the incredibly hyped Nicos — Serrano and Williams — are still waiting for an opportunity, there´s a cachorro who convinced Garitano to make him a león: Jon Morcillo who made his first appearance with Athletic on Saturday against Granada. Morci is a powerful, fast and hard-working left winger, qualities which make him a perfect fit for Garitano’s philosophy.
Born in Amorebieta in 1998, he joined Athletic’s academy from Cultural de Durango in 2016. He spent two years playing for Basconia (Athletic´s third team) scoring six goals each season in the always tough Basque group of the Tercera División. Then last season, in his second of two years at Bilbao Athletic (the ‘B’ team), he had his breakthrough campaign, scoring a total of 10 goals, including a memorable effort from inside his own half against Tudelano.
A successful career is not only about talent but timing. Athletic’s troubled pre-season gave Morcillo the perfect chance to display his abilities, with goals against both Alavés and Eibar. Let’s see if Garitano grants him more as the season progresses.
If you'd like to see more up-to-date Spanish football news, match information, or need to better understand the growth trajectory of Gareth Bale's hair - you can find us on Twitter @LaLigaLowdown