World Cup Dream
Real Mallorca striker Victor Casadesus won the European U-19 Championship with Spain in 2004. Three years later he is one of the few from that crop of youngsters who now play in the Spanish first division. “We claim to have the best league in the world, and that may be true, but it also means that a lot of players come from abroad. I think that clubs should be obliged to have a minimum of academy graduates in their team,” he told the press in Majorca after Spain’s triumph in 2004.
The lack of opportunities for young Spanish players in their own country has prompted many of them to move to England at an early age rather than waste time waiting for a chance at their clubs, where they run the risk of being loaned to other Spanish clubs and sitting on the bench.
As a result, the Spanish squad that reached the 6nal of the FIFA U-17 World Cup Korea 2007 featured two players from English clubs: midfielder Fran Merida, who left Barcelona’s academy to go to Arsenal, and forward Sergio Tejera, who moved from Espanyol to Chelsea. This season they have been followed by 16-year-old Daniel Pacheco, who switched from Barcelona to Liverpool. In leaving Barcelona, Merida and Pacheco followed in the footsteps of Cesc Fabregas (Arsenal) and Gerard Pique (Manchester United), who also moved for fear that their careers would stagnate due to a lack of opportunities. “I have left a lot of friends behind, but I am happy because it was for the best. The situation at Barcelona was very difficult,” said Pacheco when his transfer to Liverpool was made official.
Perhaps this golden generation of Merida, Tejera and Pacheco will one day help fulfil Spain’s dream of a World Cup triumph to match those of Brazil, Argentina, Italy, France and England.