la cuna de los campeones (III)
While translating these articles, I’ve noticed that the majority of the players were the captains of their teams when they were younger, showing that they developed leadership skills at an early age. Here are three more of those leaders: Álvaro Arbeloa, Álvaro Negredo and David Silva. It’s time to visit Zaragoza, Vallecas and Argiuneguín.
Zaragoza – Álvaro Arbeloa.
The town: although Álvaro Arbeloa was born in Salamanca, he grew up in Zaragoza and considers it his home. Zaragoza is the capital of Aragón and the fifth largest city in Spain in terms of population, with more than 700,000 inhabitants. It’s situated on the banks of the Ebro River and its most known landmark is the Basílica de Nuestra Señora del Pilar.
The player: if there’s a quality that defines Álvaro Arbeloa perfectly, it’s competitiveness. Those who know him well agree that he’s been this way since he was a kid, that he was known for his “brutal level of competitiveness” and that on the field, he always appeared older than he really was. Álvaro was already a mini Spartan while in the crib.
He moved with his family to Zaragoza from Salamanca when he was only four years old. The Jesús María-El Salvador school, better known as Jesuitas, was where he began to play football. Fernando Giménez and Mikel Laredo were his coaches at the alevín level. There, wearing the number “9” on his back, he enjoyed scoring goals as a midfielder and showed his personality by playing with a broken arm and even with stitches in his head. They say, “that day, he even scored a header.”
Zaragoza’s scouts quickly took notice of him and they signed him for their Infantil B team when he was 12. Ángel Espinosa was the coach back then, and he says, “his level of competitiveness has helped him to get to where he has. He was a “10” in competitiveness, an “8” in technique, and about a “9” in tactics. He was a hard worker. In addition, he never gave up. He was very ferocious and you almost had to kill him to get him off the field.” Javier Garcés, the second to last coach he had at Zaragoza, also shares this opinion: “he always wanted to win. Physically, he was extraordinary. His physique always allowed him to compete with kids older than him.” In fact, Garcés hasn’t forgotten how when Arbeloa was a cadete, he began to play some games with the Juvenil team, which he was coaching: “I remember that Chechu Dorado told me, ‘míster, let’s see if anyone gets injured so that Arbeloa can be promoted, he bring us to a higher level.'”
He passed from category to category. Lafita, Conde, Lozano and Rojo were some of his other coaches on the team. Everything pointed to him getting to the first team, but after becoming a champion of Europe with the U-16 team along with Jorge Pina, he saw how the club only gave a contract to his teammate. He didn’t feel appreciated and he left. He gave the excuse that he was going to study journalism in the capital. Antonio Soriano, a Real Madrid scout, had been following him and signed him, even though Chirri, Zaragoza’s youth coordinator, refused to release him. In the end, Zaragoza did and Álvaro left.
They will never forget… how he wore the shirt of Atlético after the team won two titles. Those who have known him for quite some time always remember how Álvaro Arbeloa was an Atleti fan. In fact, in the games he played with Jesuitas, he signed the game report as Caminero and his captain’s armband was a wristband with Atleti’s escudo on it. The day after Atlético won its famous doblete in the 1995-96 season, he showed up for Zaragoza’s training session wearing an Atlético shirt. Luckily, not many people saw him and there weren’t any problems because he took it off quickly. With the passing of years, his passion for Atleti faded and now he’s more madridista than anyone else.
Ángel Espinosa on Álvaro Arbeloa: the first coach Álvaro Arbeloa had at Zaragoza was Ángel Espinosa. And he was one of the ones that made the deepest impression on Arbeloa because it was he who decided to change his position and put him as a right fullback. Time has shown that his decision was the correct one. Espinosa says, “he came here as a midfielder. I put him in as a right winger first, but he only played the first few games of the pre-season there. Then I saw qualities in him and moved him to the fullback position. He was fantastic. He was very offensive and the best thing he had was his competitiveness. His defensive capabilities were not normal for someone his age. He had intuition, he was aggressive and he was a bit of a show off, but he had the fundamentals.” Espinosa spent 10 years with Zaragoza, and coached the likes of Lafita, Ignacio Camacho, Zapater and Ander Herrera during this time. He’s currently the sporting director of the youth system of Stadium Venecia.
Vallecas (Madrid) – Álvaro Negredo.
The town: Vallecas was an independent city until 1950, when it became part of Madrid. It is divided into two districts: Puente de Vallecas (in the northeast, with 400,000 residents) and Villa de Vallecas (in the southeast, with 99,000 inhabitants). The Assembly of Madrid, the legislative branch of the Community government, is in Vallecas.
The player: the “Colonia de los Taxistas” (colony of the taxi drivers) area of Vallecas has always been known for producing great footballers, including Fernando Marqués, Borja Gómez, Koke Resurrección and the Negredo brothers. These players began playing in Vallecas’ parks, where the goals were formed by backpacks and textbooks, and where clothing ended up covered in dirt.
Álvaro continues to be the boy next door, the same person he’s always been. He stops to chat with everyone. He plays pick up football with the kids in the parks. He poses for photos with those who request one. He blushes when people compliment him and remind him of his childhood pranks. A neighbor complains “how many times was I woken up from my siesta by the sound of your ball hitting my wall” as she gives him two kisses. Football has always been part of the Negredo family, since everyone except Juani, the mother, plays.
José Manuel Díaz, the current coach of RMC, was Álvaro’s first coach on the AFE team. He says, “from the time he was small, you can see that he had some characteristics and conditions that weren’t common in boys his age. His strength, his left foot and his power in the air made him stand out. He was always very honest, disciplined, hardworking, caring and a good person.” Juan Pedro Navarro, the director of Rayo’s cantera, remembers how he signed Negredo: “Juan Carlos Lavarra spoke well of the kid and one season, I went to see him at AFE. He was playing at nine in the morning in La Elipa. I will never forget that because it was so cold. The first thing that caught my attention was his impressive aerial skills. Not many can do what Negredito does. Then there is his power, his left foot… he was and he is a very complete footballer. In the end, he signed with Rayo and joined the Cadete A team. When he went to Madrid, ‘the boy was in tears.'”
They will never forget… how he always says he is a Rayo Vallecano canterano and not a Real Madrid one. Álvaro Negredo’s face changes when he hears himself being described as a Real Madrid canterano. He always has the same response: “I want to stress that I’m a Rayo Vallecano canterano, which was the team of my neighborhood.” He is remembered as running through the streets with the ball at his feet, or sitting on the ball, watching the older kids train and play. He also always took advantage of any free moment to start a game with the other kids who had come to watch the match.
Javi Varas on Álvaro Negredo: Javi Varas is Álvaro Negredo’s best friend, his brother. The goalkeeper has millions of stories and anecdotes about the forward. Not many of them can be shared, but there are three in particular: “my wife Eugenia and I had prepared to spend our honeymoon in New York. At the same time, Álvaro and Clara had also planned to go to the city. So the four of us went together. I even shared my honeymoon with him.” They share a room during the concentraciones and Javi always has to look for the TV remote in the middle of the night to turn off the TV: “Negredo always has to fall asleep while watching TV, and so in the middle of the night, I have to go look for the remote in his bed. Now, before we go to bed, I take the remote.” Varas will never forget when he allowed five goals against Barça: “I was very pissed off. I didn’t want to go out, I didn’t want to do anything. Álvaro came to my house in a costume to cheer me up… and it worked.”
Arguineguín – David Silva.
The town: Arguineguín forms part of the history of Spanish football. Its origins may be Berber, and it’s said that its name comes from Euskara, where “ar-guin-eguin” would be a reference to the sea routes during the 14th and 15th centuries, with “argi” meaning light and “egin” meaning “to do.” There are other places on the island with names that sound Basque, such as Agaete or Arinaga.
The player: Juan Carlos Valerón made Arguineguín famous in the late 90s, while David Jiménez Silva has also made history in recent times, after becoming the second Spanish footballer, after Reyes (Arsenal, 2005) to win the Premier League. In Arguineguín, Silva is simply “David.” And he can get by unnoticed among the local population, who continue to treat him as the boy who used to kick a ball around while his father Fernando coached the youth teams of C.D. Arguineguín. Silva has a weakness for this team, and always tries to help it out by giving it balls and gifts.
His last coach Miguel Sánchez remembers how when he went to do tests with Madrid, “it’s said that Míchel was there and told them to sign him. But apparently they thought he was too small in stature.” In his town, Silva continues to be the same discrete and humble boy he’s always been.
They will never forget… how the sports complex that bears his name was built by his father. Fernando Jiménez was a city councilor of Mogan before he became known as “Silva’s father.” And as a city councilor, David’s father began building the sports complex that now is named after his son. After Silva went to Valencia, the construction stopped for several years, until the current mayor, Francisco González, restarted the project. The name was changed after the 2010 World Cup.
Miguel “Micky” Sánchez on David Silva: Fernando Jiménez was always David’s coach in the youth teams of C.D. Arguineguín, from the time he was an alevín until he left for Valencia as a cadete. But during his last year with the club, another person coached Silva during the final five months: Miguel Sánchez. Micky remembers his humility and simplicity: “he was a discrete boy and fantastic on the field.” In addition, he remembers David “when he was eight or nine years old, when his father couldn’t train one of the teams due to his work as a municipal police officer, he would run after him around the field. He was always with his father.” There is also a famous anecdote about how David broke his arm and still was present at the field to be a ball boy, with his cast and everything. He was five or six years old at that time.