Real Madrid: From Juvenil-A to the first team within a month

Real Madrid, Sergio Arribas (Photo by Diego Souto/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images)
Real Madrid, Sergio Arribas (Photo by Diego Souto/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images) /

16th August 2020. A week after Real Madrid‘s disappointing exit from UCL after the nightmare at the Etihad, and 2 days after Barcelona’s humiliating 8-2 loss to Bayern Munich. The big two of Sapin were knocked out from the UCL, and it’s hard for any La Liga fan to watch the Champions League knockout stages without Real or Barca. I had the choice of watching other Champions League knockout matches, but I chose to watch another league held by UEFA, which was the UEFA Youth League.

Real Madrid’s Juvenil-A side was still alive in the Youth League, and they were about to face Juventus’ U-19 side later that evening. I was very excited to watch the Juvenil-A side because they were going to be managed by the club legend and Castilla manager Raul Gonzalez for the Youth League. And that Juvenil-A side had players like Miguel Gutierrez, who was called up by Zidane to play with the first team in the Audi Cup 2019 and trained with the first-team during the post-lockdown training sessions, Sergio Santos, Antonio Blanco, and the young striker, Israel Salazar.

Juvenil-A went a goal down in the 2nd minute, and they were reduced to 10 men in the 11th minute as Jordi Martin was sent off for kicking a ball towards an injured opponent. I was extremely disappointed by the proceedings and thought that this might be the first and last time I was going to watch the Juvenil-A side in action.

But I was proved wrong by a young Spaniard. In the 30th minute, a player, who looked relatively weaker and shorter and wore the number 22 on his back, lead a counter-attack on his own, speeding towards the box in the top gear, and unleashed a fantastic left-footed shot which ended in the bottom right corner. That goal revived Juvenil-A’s hopes of winning the match and they won the game 3-1 after goals from Carlos Dotor and Juanmi Latasa. And that 18-year-old who changed the tempo and result of the game with an inspirational goal was none other than Sergio Arribas, the player who has made four first-team appearances for Real Madrid this season.

Sergio Arribas shined for Real Madrid in the UEFA Youth League knockouts

Juvenil-A went on to win the Youth League in that season, defeating Inter Milan, Salzburg, and Benfica’s youth teams on the way, and Arribas performed superbly in every knockout game. He won two penalties and assisted Marvin Park’s opener and Morante’s goal vs Inter Milan in the quarter-final with two excellent crosses.

He had a fine game vs. Salzburg in the semis and had a superb game vs Benfica in the final, where he assisted Pablo’s opener, caused the own goal with a testing shot and created a lot of chances. While I was prepared for Blanco and Gutierrez primarily, Arribas impressed me the most in that UEFA Youth League campaign. He was arguably the Real Madrid U19 team’s best player of the knockout stages.

Real Madrid, Sergio Arribas, Raul  (Photo by Jonathan Moscrop/Getty Images)
Real Madrid, Sergio Arribas, Raul  (Photo by Jonathan Moscrop/Getty Images) /

Two other people were impressed very much by Arribas’ performances, and they were Raul Gonzalez and Zinedine Zidane. Raul immediately promoted Sergio from Juvenil-A to Castilla, while Zidane called him up to train with the first-team in the pre-season. It was certainly the next step in his career as a footballer for Arribas, but it didn’t take him long to perform well. He got a chance to play against Getafe in a pre-season fixture with the first-team, and he scored a second-half goal to make it 6-0 for Madrid.

The Segunda B was about to begin in October, and Arribas had some time to settle down. But Real Madrid’s La Liga campaign kicked off on 20th September and Zidane faced an injury crisis as Asensio, Lucas Vazquez, Eden Hazard, and Isco were unavailable for the league opener against Sociedad. Zidane called up Marvin Park and Arribas for the game, and he gave a chance to both of them in that 0-0 draw.

Sergio Arribas was named a prodigy to watch by UEFA

Arribas came on for Vinicius Jr in added time, but he managed to impress the viewers in those two minutes. His positive and energetic approach towards the game surprised everyone, who were kinda upset with the dull affair. Though he got to play just two minutes, he got to make his first-team debut even before his debut in Segunda B as a Castilla player. He played the Youth League final on 25th August, and made his first-team debut within a month, on 20th September. 

He didn’t get a first-team chance until December, but he earned few more call-ups on the road, despite not getting any minutes in most of them. But he kept performing well in the Segunda B and became Raul’s first-choice player from the first match itself.

He has three goals and four assists for Castilla this season and he has been one of their most consistent players. He was relatively unknown before the Youth League campaign but after that competition, he became one of the most hyped La Fabrica products. The 19-year-old, who joined Real Madrid at the age of 10 in 2012, made it to the list of top 50 prodigies released by UEFA and was ranked third by UEFA, ahead of many popular names. 

He also got to make his UCL debut against Borussia Monchengladbach in December, and his latest chance came against Getafe in LaLiga, in which he had a great game and was instrumental in the buildup to Mendy’s goal. He looked cool and composed with the ball, and always picked the right passes. And his ability to operate in tight spaces might have definitely caught Zidane’s eye, who prefers press resistant players a lot.

Sergio Arribas is an exciting talent for Real Madrid

Arribas is an exciting talent, and so far he has made good use of every opportunity he got. Despite his short stature, he has been very successful against some physical sides in Segunda B. He primarily plays a number 10 or an RW and has played as a winger in the first-team chances he got. His ability to escape through the press with some neat touches and the ability to find the right option under pressure has been the most impressive.

He is very quick, and his work-rate has been superb, which is again something that Zidane would love. He is a fantastic dribbler and has a great left-foot. His passing accuracy and shooting accuracy have been very good, and he’s a great set-piece taker as well. He is a great crosser as well, and he could thread those exciting through balls. Overall, he’s a perfect No. 10 for any team. He does make those rookie mistakes at times, but he has shown great maturity so far. But he has to work on his shape and fitness if he wants to make it count on the big stage.

Real Madrid have an exciting talent in their ranks, and he is a fearless player who doesn’t hesitate to take on defenders and cut inside to shoot, a trait that is missing in the Real Madrid forwards. With Odegaard leaving on loan and Isco about to leave in the summer, this is the perfect time for Zinedine Zidane to try to integrate such a talented player like Arribas into the first-team.

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Castilla youngsters have always found it difficult to impress Zinedine Zidane, but Arribas has done that hard part with ease. He has got some opportunities of late, but if given greater opportunities, Real Madrid might have a future star on the cards. So far Arribas hasn’t put a foot wrong, and he needs to continue doing so to get more opportunities.