Too Many Foreigners
The pressure to produce results thus prompts Spanish clubs to turn their backs on generation after generation of gifted young Spanish footballers by investing in foreign players. Julen Guerrero, a former cult figure at Athletic Bilbao, one of the few clubs in Spain who nurture young players due to their policy of only using Basque players, subscribes to the latter theory. “There’s more than enough quality, so what’s the problem? Too many foreigners? That could be one of the reasons, as most teams always look for players abroad before turning to local talent. At most teams it is the foreign players who have the most influence and responsibility and who dictate matters on the pitch, the same ones that knock us out of big tournaments,” says Guerrero, who was a member of the Spanish team that lost to Italy in the quarter-finals of the 1994 World Cup in the USA.
Real Madrid legend Miguel Gonzalez, better known as “Michel”, who made his name with the club in the 1980s and is now in charge of the club’s youth system, feels the same way. “The ability of foreign players to instantly strengthen squads is considered more important than giving a chance to local players, which greatly weakens the structure of our national team. Nobody invests in local or domestic talent; clubs look for ready-made players to meet the demand for immediate success,” says Michel.
Spanish U-20 coach Gines Melendez believes that Spanish players progress until they are 19 but then stagnate due to a lack of opportunities. “The players come to a halt at the age of 19 because in many cases their positions at Spanish clubs are occupied by foreign players. We must have more faith in Spanish players and either let them play or find them a club where they will get a chance,” says Melendez.
Pablo Blanco, director of grassroots football at Sevilla, is another who believes that the influx of foreign players is detrimental to the national side. “The U-16, U-17 and U-19 sides are highly successful because they play at the same level as members of the other national sides. But later on their progress at top clubs is blocked by foreign players. The most important positions are taken by foreigners except at clubs like Valencia, who have opted for a majority of home¬grown players,” he says. “This season we have brought Diego Capel through the ranks and Barcelona have done the same with Bojan Krkic, but that doesn’t happen at most clubs, even though they have players in their academies who have proved themselves on the international stage at youth level.”