I want you to grasp the weight of the cover photo of this article. In our truly outstanding image library that we use here at VUSA (thank you so much SBNation and Getty) we have over 60,000 image results when we search “Villarreal”. We have zero when we search ‘Fer Niño” or “Fernando Niño”. Zero. That’s how out of the blue this kid exploded.
We recently did an article on possible striker replacements for Karl Toko Ekambi. The only mention of Fer Niño was buried in the comment section where I said:
I wrote an entire article about strikers and this kid was an afterthought as someone who may get moved up tot he B team so that we could promote someone else to the first team. This kid then gets into a flippin La Liga game and scores the game winning goal in brilliant technical fashion. In the process, he became the youngest debut goalscorer in Villarreal history, taking a record from Giuseppe Rossi himself. Boy did I whiff on that one. But I’m not the only one. The website ‘Transfermarkt’ which grades player transfer value for leagues all over the world doesn’t even have an image or a player value for . He went from being a totally unknown entity to a hero whose name is in the club record books.
Now look, I don’t want to crown the kid after one goal. (Actually I do, I really do.) It’s not fair to put huge expectations on a 19 year old like that. He can be a wonderful player long-term and still not realize that potential for another two or three years. He could have a strong professional career in La Liga and never do what Rossi did. He should feel no pressure whatsoever after coming up big for his club when they needed him.
That said, the emotional and practical benefits of what he has done this week should not be understated. It was a massive three points and it was an incredible moment that captured why we love the sport. It was a man of the match intervention in his first ever La Liga outing.
What he has done is, in this moment where we need depth at striker, grasp with both hands the opportunity to be that guy for the rest of the campaign. He’s earned the right to have his career development sped up, possibly finding a loan next season where he can get consistent minutes and continue to grow. He’s shown us the beauty of homegrown talent and rewarded his club for putting trust in their own academy system when a game and in some ways a season were at a crucial juncture. His performance against Alavés is what makes football so great, and in that he embodied everything good about Villarreal CF.
Niño, you have the love, appreciation, and support of our entire club and its supporters behind you. Thank you for your immediate decisive performance, and may your debut goal be the first of hundreds to come.
UPDATE: Got a picture of our boy!