Scouting Sandro Ramirez, The New Barça’s Wunderkind

Canary Islands footballers are always labelled as the Brazilians of Spain: David Silva and Juan Carlos Valeron give a well example of tricky footballers full of creativity and stunning technique. Oddly, both are from the same town, Arguineguín, a fishing village situated in the South Coast of Grand Canary.

Barcelona’s winger Pedro Rodriguez comes from the island of Tenerife but nobody from Las Palmas – the capital city of Grand Canary –  has made the big step. At least not yet. Real Madrid’s 21-year-old forward Jesé Rodriguez featured in 18 games and scored five times last season before being ruled out by a knee injury that sees him sidelined to this day. He and Standard Liege’s Jonathan Vieria – another local product –  are progressing well but the youngster that has caught the attention this season is another: Barcelona forward Sandro Ramirez Castillo.

Last Sunday, 19-year-old Sandro enjoyed a perfect La Liga debut at El Madrigal. It took just 13 minutes to tuck home an assist from Leo Messi and score the winning goal for Barcelona. Maybe that could be just the first of a long list…

Career History

Born in Las Palmas in 1995, Sandro joined Barça at age of 14 after starting his football career with Barrio Atlantico and UD Las Palmas, the main club of the island now playing in Segunda Division, the Spanish second tier, but with 31 seasons in La Liga. Once in Catalonia Sandro started to do what he has always been doing better: scoring. His average with the young culés was impressive and he kept netting even when called into the various Spanish national youth teams.

Someone could argue that his records were just a reflection of the strength of the squads he played: skillful youngsters such as Sergi Samper, Alejandro Grimaldo and Jean Marie Dongou were part of the promising class of ’95 that even included the actual Arsenal duo Hector Bellerin and Jon Toral. That group of age shone in domestic and international tournaments like Nike Cup and Next Gen Series and Barça eventually won the Uefa Youth League in April 2014.

But in Nyon there were neither Sandro nor most of his fellow mates. Despite still eligible for the competition they had been already promoted to Barça B and contributed to achieve an memorable third place in Segunda Division. As the rules don’t allow a “B” side to play in the same category of the “A” side, Barça B didn’t take part to the playoffs but the massive achievement remains anyway.

Sandro carried on scoring even in the senior tournament (he netted seven times last campaign) and once called in action by Luis Enrique during the pre-season he found the net in the match against HJK Helsinki and Club Leon, the latter played at Camp Nou in front 72000 onlookers and valid for the Joan Gamper Trophy.

Style of Play and Strengths

Sandro is predominantly right-footed who plays as centre forward, although recently he has varied his position and style to suit better the team. When paired with Dongou, it was the Cameroonian who occupied the middle while Sandro was converted as an attacking winger, but his knack for goal has not disappeared. Therefore you can always find him easily in the box, cutting inside from a wide position rather than staying wide to leave the space for others. He reads well attacking plays, putting himself in the right place at right time. That’s exactly what he did against Villareal.

In terms of style, he is very similar to David Villa because he has two of the main qualities of El Guaje: commitment and killer instinct in the box. Perhaps Villa has been the best partner of Messi so far : he adapted well to the style of the Argentinian, leaving Messi the central role and playing wide, offering both width and scoring ability at the same time. Sandro could also offer pace,  strong shot and, as aforementioned, he has nose for opportunity.

Weaknesses

Goal aside, Sandro must adapt quickly to the rhythms of La Liga. Even his employment may be different, depending of the situation. At Villareal, Barça were catching a positive result so Sandro was put into the skirmish without too many defensive responsibilities and his focus was mainly to break down a tired defense.

However, if he starts as a winger he will have to track back the opposing full-back. Facing a player with the ability to go up and down the pitch requires more than a simple running, it needs a certain understanding of the game and of your side.

Furthermore it’s not clear which role suit Sandro the best. Okay, he could play on the wing but he was born striker and it’s in the box where he could be lethal. Being universal is without doubt a great strength but often a player needs to focus in a specific aspect of the game, where he could make the most of it. A definition of his proper role will therefore crucial for his future.

Verdict

At Barça, youngsters have always gotten the opportunity to prove themselves in the first team, though not everybody has been able to maintain the level shown in the Academy and despite successful debuts they couldn’t make the real big step. Bojan Krkic, Giovanni Dos Santos, Jeffren Suarez (who even scored in a Clasico), Isaac Cuenca and Cristian Tello would be few examples of how difficult could be to emerge in a team where the attacking trio is made by Messi, Neymar and Suarez and earlier by Messi, Villa, Pedro or Messi, Eto’o and Henry.

Thiago Alcantara is another who preferred to move abroad, finding the door shut by Xavi, Cesc Fabregas and Iniesta, though Barça may regret having left him to join Bayern Munich. A youngster usually has to wait and capitalize every minutes the coach would concede him and there is also a competition from other fellow team-members. Munir El Haddadi, another teenager, has started both La Liga games, scoring against Elche at Camp Nou and the 19-year-old has been recently called up by Vicente Del Bosque to form Spain’s squad that will face Macedonia in their first 2016 Euro qualifier match . Meanwhile, Sandro joined Under-21’s side.

Still 19, Sandro’s future may belong another season to Barça B but he could stay with Luis Enrique’s team with a “part-time” employment at least until the ban of Suarez will be expired. Of course, he wouldn’t be a first choice but if he keeps scoring…you never know. However, playing regularly in the second tier would certainly enhance his progress and make him ready for a big step next summer, either into the first team or on loan, as Gerard Delofeu – another La Masia’s wonderkid –  has been doing for two seasons, first with Everton and now with Sevilla.

Written by Dinesh V

Co-founder of Soccersouls. Living a start-up life 24/7
Follow @dineshintwit

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