I would add to what Graham has to say below--our roster now includes Marin, Gerard, Juan Carlos, Mario Gaspar, Bruno and Moi Gomez, all of whom came up through our youth ranks. We also have Manu Trigueros, Jaume Costa and Hernan Perez, all of whom played with our B team for at least a year before making the jump, though their youth careers happened elsewhere.
Big clubs could learn a lot from Villarreal
Not for the first or last time this season, there was a heck of a game at the Madrigal this weekend. Rayo romped to a 2-0 away lead before Villarreal comprehensively overhauled them and sent them home with a very sore 4-2 defeat.
It was a big enough performance in any case but particularly notable given that it came after drawing away to Borussia Moenchengladbach in the Europa League, a result that bucked the trend of Athletic Club and Atletico Madrid dropping really valuable home points as the "UEFA virus" claimed two more victims.
It's hard to cope with the emotional and physical impact of a high-pressure European tie -- the travel, the media, the hype, the three-game week. It's part of the reason that the pedigree European teams repeatedly come out on top, they are used to the demands.
But a couple of other things stood out to me about the victory.
In the summer, Villarreal spent 5.5 million euros on buying "Lucky" Luciano Vietto, a 20-year-old Argentinian young buck who was given his debut aged just 17 under Diego Simeone back in 2011, from Racing Club de Avellaneda. This weekend he came on and scored two diamond goals, which were worth the 3-2 and 4-2 parts of the result -- early dividends for a player who should still be undergoing his adaptation.
Villarreal are an exemplary club in many ways. Fans can watch the entire season at El Madrigal for the price of one big match ticket at the Camp Nou, Bernabeu, Old Trafford or the Emirates. They recently invited a 13-year-old cancer patient to play for them -- and score -- in a friendly against Celtic. They also took 10,000 fans to Barça B in the crucial promotion game a year and a half ago -- in short, they're a club that bucks many trends.
What I also appreciate, very much, is that in the near future, it won't be the likes of Vietto who'll be sustaining the Yellow Submarine but their own, locally harvested, youth products. The motif for this is their left-back, Adrián Marín -- home-bred and already a first-team starter at 17 years old.
Club president Fernando Roig recently underlined that the club is committed to investing 10 million euros per season in youth development -- a sum that could oh so easily be punted into the transfer market or wages in order to try and ensure that Villarreal stay in La Primera or push for European competition in the short term. In terms of budget percentage, I'd say that's like Barcelona or Madrid investing 50 million euros per season in youth -- which they don't.
More than that, Villarreal have so many young kids, admittedly of all ability levels, training with them every week (around 800) that they are currently constructing a second training ground, but when it's open and functioning, they'll continue to use their current facility, too.
Villarreal is in a relatively small community with high unemployment, and the club is a beacon of pride, hope and optimism. Their level of involvement in the community is commendable, so when and if their visionary investment in youth development pays dividends, it'll be one of the most uplifting stories in Spanish football.