2015 Iscar Cup preview

iscarcup-2015The 2015 Iscar Cup gets underway in the small town of Iscar near Valladolid on Thursday April 2 and features 20 teams from Spain, Portugal and Italy.

It is the fifth time that this tournament for players in the Categoría Benjamín (Under-10s) has been held, and it is now regarded as one of the most important in Europe for players in this age group.

As well as showcasing some of the best young football talent in Europe, the tournament also pays homage to Pedro Sánchez Merlo, a highly-celebrated and multi-talented lawyer, journalist and author from the town in Castile and León.

Last year, the final was contested between Valencia C.F. and A.C. Milan, with the Spanish team prevailing by three goals to nil.

Reigning champions

Valencia C.F.

Photo: cdiscar.wordpress.com

Photo: cdiscar.wordpress.com

The venue

The tournament will be held on natural and artificial surfaces at the Nuevo Estadio S. Miguel de Íscar and the Estadio San Juan de Pedrajas de San Esteban.


The teams

Group A: At. Madrid, Cordoba C.F., Real Valladolid, U.D. La Cruz Villanovense, Bosco Arevalo

Group B: Real Madrid, Oporto, Villarreal, Celta De Vigo, C.D. Los Gatos De Íscar

Group C: F.C. Barcelona, Sporting De Lisboa, Deportivo De La Coruña, Rayo Vallecano, Burgos Promesas

Group D: A.C. Milan, Valencia C.F., Getafe C.F., U.D. Almería, C.D. Unión Zona Norte


The tournament will be held on April 2 and 3 during Semana Santa (Easter week). The first games will kick-off on Thursday at 10.00am and a total of eight matches including the semi-finals and final will be broadcast by Spanish television station TDP. The final will be held at 19:45pm on Friday night.

Official website

5 young players to watch in the Spanish Segunda División

Following on from the article about Real Zaragoza loan striker Borja Bastón last week, it seemed like a good time to take a look at a few more of Liga Adelante’s most talented youngsters. With bright prospects like Manu Garcia being snapped up by the likes of Manchester City, it is no surprise that two more products of Gijon’s Cantera de Mareo make the short list.

Name: Sergio Araujo

Age: 23

Born: Buenos Aires, Argentina

Team: Las Palmas (on loan from Boca Juniors)

Position: Forward

Sergio AraujoThis season has been a breakthrough period for the young Argentinean striker. His third straight year on loan has been spent playing for Las Palmas of Gran Canaria in Spain’s second tier, and it has proved to be his most productive yet. A regular in the youth categories for his country, Araujo looks set to secure a permanent move to Spain this summer with Real Sociedad the current favourites to land his services. Despite, the interest of David Moyes, there may be more options available to the 23-year-old by the time the transfer window opens.

Name: Pablo Pérez

Age: 21

Born: Gijon, Spain

Team: Sporting Gijon

Position: Midfield


With perhaps one of Spain’s most promising young midfielders on their books, Sporting Gijon wasted no time in handing a new long-term contract to local lad Pablo Pérez. Since making his first team debut in May, the 21-year-old has more than lived up to a reputation gained during his time in the youth set-up. By November he had done enough to earn a new five year contract, with a €20m buy-out clause added should a move to Primera Liga team ever materialise. His impressive ability as a midfielder is complemented by his natural goal-scoring prowess.

Name: Cristiano Piccini

Age: 22

Born: Florence, Italy

Team: Real Betis (on loan from Fiorentina)

Position: Right-back

PicciniAfter just one first team appearance for his home town club Fiorentina in 2010, Cristiano Piccini moved to Italian lower league side Carrarese in what would be the first of a succession of loan spells. He eventually arrived in Spain last August and soon forced his way into the Real Betis first team with some impressive performances in the right-back role. His momentum was hindered somewhat by an injury in January but he is set to return imminently and could play a pivotal role in Betis’ promotion push. At 22 years old, the player certainly looks ready to establish himself at the top level – whether that will be in Italy or Spain remains to be seen.

Name: Marco Asensio

Age: 19

Born: Palma, Spain

Team: Real Mallorca (on loan from Real Madrid)

Position: Midfield

asensioAfter making his first team debut for his hometown club at the age of 17, Mallorca winger Marco Asensio forced himself onto the radar of Spain’s biggest clubs. It was Real Madrid that eventually secured his services for a six-year period in December 2014, in a deal that allowed him to stay in Palma until the end of the current campaign. Still only 19, the player has already made nearly 50 appearances for the Balearic Island club.

Name: Carlos Castro

Age: 19

Born: Ujo, Spain

Team: Sporting Gijon

Position: Forward

castroA prolific striker at youth level and another product of La Cantera de Mareo, the Asturian-born striker quickly progressed through the ranks at Sporting Gijon and is now a first team regular. This season he has netted a total of seven goals from just seven starts and 13 substitute appearances – a healthy return for a 19-year-old in his first full season at senior team level. His name has already been linked with some of Europe’s heavyweight clubs including Arsenal and Benfica.

Borja Bastón – on target for the big time?

Real Zaragoza have had a tough couple of years, but after being relegated to the Segunda division in 2013 and navigating their way through some complex financial difficulties, they finally seem to be turning a corner.

Much of their improvement this season can be attributed to new Serbian Coach Ranko Popović, who since taking over in November 2014 has helped to lift the team back into the play-off places. Although promotion back to La Liga has yet to be achieved, his appointment looks to have been a calculated gamble that has so far paid off.

Another shrewd piece of recruitment that appears to have paid dividends is the loan signing of Atletico Madrid striker Borja Bastón. The Madrid-born player has already bagged 19 league goals this season and is on course to overtake Avelino Chaves as the highest scoring Segunda league player in the clubs history. In the 1954-55 season, the Galician striker managed a total of 21 league goals and added a further 2 in the play-offs. The most goals ever scored by a Zaragoza player in La Liga is 25, a total achieved in 1962 by Pichichi-winning Peruvian Juan Seminario.

Not only is Bastón challenging for the Segunda Pichichi trophy but he is also doing it with remarkable efficiency. Los Blanquillos may not have created the most chances in the league this season but in Bastón, they have a player that buries more than two out of every three shots on goal. His goals to shots ratio of around 70% is the kind of return that sharp-eyed scouts will no doubt have picked up on.

Having spent nearly five years on loan during which time there has been a steady curve of improvement in his game, the 6ft 3in striker will now be looking for a more settled existence. While many players, such as Borja Viguera (now at Athletic Bilbao), do not find their feet in the Segunda league until they hit their prime, Bastón is still young and can improve even more. His next move could be the decisive one in his promising career.

So what does the future hold for the 22-year-old? Will he get his chance at Atletico now that they are locking horns with Europe’s elite or will he have to look elsewhere for top level football? If Popović’s team do manage to achieve promotion, the club will no doubt try to secure his services for another season, but with talk of scouts from elsewhere in Europe monitoring the player’s situation, they may well be priced out of the market.

Watch this space.

New Kids on the Block – Jaén Spoil Barça Party

Before the 2015 Copa de Espana futsal tournament kicked-off on Thursday, Jaén Paraíso Interior had already made history by becoming the first Andalucian team to compete in the event. Despite that achievement, very few people predicted that they would go on to lift the trophy – but that is exactly what they did in front of a packed Quijote Arena in Ciudad Real on Sunday night.

The team of underdogs led by Dani Rodriguez were 6 seconds from going out at the semi-final stage until a Dani Martín equaliser took their game against Burela Pescados Rubén to extra-time. They eventually won via a penalty shootout and booked their place in the final against league leaders and tournament favourites FC Barcelona.

Barcelona had been in irresistible form throughout the tournament and were expected to brush aside the newcomers. It was questioned whether the Andalucian team would have anything left to give after their quarter and semi-final exploits. That question was soon answered.

An electric atmosphere awaited the players as they entered the arena and the nervous tension could be felt right from the kick-off. The early exchanges were frantic but it was the non-fancied team in yellow that struck first with a goal from Solano after just one minute.

An intense game of real quality developed and although the Catalan team had much of the possession, their opponents were able to fend off their advances with some committed play and a bit of help from the goal post.

Barcelona’s frustration started to show and they eventually conceded a second before pulling one back before half-time. The pattern of play continued in the second half with the team from the south of Spain soaking up the pressure and attempting to strike on the counter-attack.

Buendía made it 3-1 after 29 minutes and the Blaugrana started to get even more desperate. Saad was brought on to play as an outfield goalkeeper and after 32 minutes, the gamble looked to have paid off when he narrowed the gap to 3-2.

However, leaving their goal exposed eventually proved fatal for the league leaders as they conceded 3 goals in 2 minutes. Now trailing 2-6, they faced an uphill task and with just a few minutes remaining on the clock, the dream was beginning to look real for the jienense.

The favourites managed to pull two goals back in the final minute via top scorer Wilde but it was too little too late and the debutants were crowned champions.

Futsal Crazy – 2015 Copa de España kicks-off in Ciudad Real

JaenInter4116483336Spain’s most prestigious futbol sala tournament, the Copa de España, gets underway at the Quijote Arena in Ciudad Real on Thursday March 12 and all the action is live on TDP terrestrial TV in Spain.

The 26th edition of the tournament features eight of Spain’s top teams and lasts for four days with the final being held on Sunday night. As usual, large crowds are expected for this showpiece event.

The event kicks off at 19.00pm with last season’s runner up El Pozo Murcia taking on newcomers Jaén Paraíso Interior. The team from Jaén will be the first Andalucian representative to play at the tournament in its 25 year history.

Reigning champions Inter Movistar will face Burela Pescados in the late kick-off at 21.15pm. Inter, who lifted the 2014 crown in Logroño, will have last year’s player of the tournament Ricardinho at their disposal, while Burela player Jafari Behroz will create history by being the first Iranian to play in the event. The team from Lugo are also making their tournament debut.

The early kick-off on Friday will see Magna Navarra battle it out with Palma Futsal for a place in the semi-finals. Later, on the same evening, in-form FC Barcelona, who sit on top of the Primera Division, will face Aspil Vidal Ribera of Tudela with the last of the four semi-final places up for grabs.

Futbol Sala – Copa de España Schedule

Quarter-finals – Thursday 12 March:

19:00pm – El Pozo Murcia vs. Jaén Paraíso

21:15pm – Inter Movistar vs. Burela Pescados

Quarter-finals – Friday 13 March:

19:00pmMagna Navarra vs. Palma Futsal

21:15pm – FC Barcelona vs. Aspil Vidal Ribera of Tudela

Semi-finals – Saturday 14 March:

First Semi-final: 17:30pm

Second Semi-final: 19:45pm

Final – Sunday 15 March:

Final – 20:00pm



Taxman brings down the axe on Albacete Balompie

albaHaving previously explored the financial plights of several Spanish clubs including CD Lugo, CD Mirandes, UD Carboneras Sporting Villanueva, Polideportivo Ejido and most recently SD Eibar; we now find ourselves once again discussing a Spanish team on the brink of extinction. This time it is Albacete Balompie of the Segunda Division.

Many of the new budget control measures and business administration criteria implemented by the Spanish League (LFP) from 2010 to 2012, were designed to protect clubs from digging themselves into financial black holes while remaining competitive on the field. A host of measures including salary caps and capital requirements have certainly made the Segunda Division a more level playing field and prompted a culture of more responsible financial management. However, some clubs have found the transition process more difficult than others and Albacete is one club that is still facing a battle to put their financial troubles behind them.

After previously flirting with disaster and fending off creditors during a spell in Segunda B, the club known as Queso Mecánico (Clockwork Cheese) was taken over in 2013 by an investment Group led by renowned business troubleshooter José Miguel Garrido. As well as recieving investment from the group, the club also received more than €1m from Jose Antonio Iniesta, the father of Barcelona’s star midfielder Andres.

While the club has been able to satisfy creditors, fulfill LFP requirements, pay their staff and remain competitive in the Segunda Division, they still have an outstanding matter with the tax office to the tune of €1.3m. This is the one cloud hanging over a club that is now well-run and has been preparing for a brighter future. Having reached a position where the club can prove its viability as a business going forward, the board had hoped to agree a new payment schedule with the tax office. They presented a financial plan that would allow their debt obligations to be met while continuing to operate within their means. Unfortunately, the Spanish tax office does not share the same desire to negotiate.

The tax department has certainly shown that is willing to restructure the debts of other struggling corporations in Spain but when it comes to lower league football; they play by a different set of rules. A national tax deferral system introduced in 2009 to help Spanish companies has since been dissolved and as a result, they have now issued a demand for immediate payment of the money owed. Meeting this payment will put the future of the Castilla-La Mancha club in danger, and while the tax office does have the provision to further defer tax payments in circumstances such as these, they seem to be unwilling to compromise in this case.

The situation was complicated even further when TV rights money owed to the club were seized by the local council on the orders of the treasury. The amount seized is more than 2.5 times the debt owed and will prevent the club from meeting its operating costs and force liquidation.

This is a club that has been fully audited and acknowledged by the LFP as a financially sound business. They have already cleared more than €1.5m of debt and have proved their willingness and ability to clear the outstanding amount as quickly as possible. They have not requested that any debt be written-off, and under Spanish law they should be entitled to a deferment if their business is being put at risk.

As of today, Albacete will be in liquidation.

Whatever team you follow please retweet #YoEstoyConElAlba to show your support.

Let’s talk about SD Eibar


The promotion of Basque Country minnows SD Eibar to the top flight of Spanish football is one of the great sporting stories of the year. However, the achievements of the club, and 38-year-old Coach Gaizka Garitano, have been slightly overshadowed by the recent news that they may face demotion back to the third tier of Spanish football if they do not raise €1.7m by August 6.

A campaign has been launched – backed by high profile former player Xabi Alonso – and many journalists, including the Guardians’ Sid Lowe, have been highlighting their plight and urging football fans around the globe to purchase shares in the club to help raise the necessary capital.

There have been claims that they are being punished for being a small well-run club with no debt, so let’s take a deeper look at the situation and ask a couple of questions:

Why do they have to pay this amount of money?

How did they end up in this situation?

Could they have avoided it?

Will they be able to resolve it?

As you have probably read by now, they have to pay the money because of a rule that was introduced by the LFP (Spanish FA) 15 years ago. The rule states that every team in the Segunda Liga has to have capital equal to 25% of the average expenses of all the teams in the Second Division – excluding the two clubs with the biggest outgoings and the two clubs with the smallest outgoings.

It has been well publicized that Eibar have the smallest budget in the league, so in theory they should also have the lowest wage bill – but this is not the case. In fact, there are at least seven teams in the league that have lower wage bills than the €2.7m spent by the Basque side including Hercules, Alaves, Numancia, Recreativo, Real Jaen and SD Ponferradina, with Alcorcon, Girona and Tenerife all operating at a similar level. Overall, Eibar’s wage to turnover ratio of 70.5% is the second highest in the league.

The fact that they have no debt to service means that they can afford to pay these wages but they are not the only low budget team in the league without debt. Of the 11 teams with budgets of €5m or less, seven of them have very little or zero debt.

So how did Eibar end up in this situation? After all, they knew it was coming. This rule has been in place since 1999 and every team is aware of the consequences of non-compliance. Why did they not budget for it?

Their budget of just under €4m is the lowest in the league by €50,000, just below Cordoba. If they also had the lowest wage bill (currently Hercules at €1.5), they would have had an extra €1.2m in the bank and would have been close to fulfilling the capital requirement. Unfortunately, that strategy would have probably got them relegated straight back to Segunda B.

Much of their wage bill has been taken up by the loan fees of players from the top flight such as Berchiche, Eizmendi, Jota, Morales, Rivas and Garcia, and these deals have certainly helped them in their quest for promotion. The decision to keep a high wage bill seems to be a calculated gamble that has paid off with the ultimate prize.

Last summer, both Lugo and Mirandes had to find similar amounts of money because of another technicality – as covered in our previous article here. Both clubs had similar budgets to Eibar but because they did not achieve promotion to La Liga, they did not enjoy the same media coverage. The year before, a similar fate befell Alcorcon and Guadalajara, with the latter eventually being demoted for alleged financial irregularities (pending appeal – decision due June 10).

The positive news is that SD Eibar should easily raise the capital before the deadline. The coverage of this case has thrust them into the spotlight and fans around the world are snapping up the chance to buy a piece of Spanish football history. Sponsors will also be attracted by the prospect of La Liga coverage and once the money is raised, SD Eibar will be able to look forward to all the financial benefits that top flight football delivers.

The irony of the situation is that the new LFP rules now make the Segunda league a much more even playing field as the bigger teams are actually forced to reduce their outgoings and wage bills to avoid debt accumulation. While this gives teams like Eibar a fighting chance, it also means that there are strict guidelines for all clubs, with no exceptions.

The club’s accountants would have been aware of this impending financial sting – and could have reduced their outgoings – but instead they took the decision to try and consolidate their Segunda status first, just as Lugo and Mirandes did last year. They were always going to have to find the €1.7m – even without promotion – but the €20m revenue they will earn next year will certainly soften the blow.

After August 6, SD Eibar will take their rightful place in La Liga and they will have a whole new set of fans cheering them on.

Eskozia la brava!

Buy shares in SD Eibar

Six of the best in La Segunda

soccer artAs we reach the half way point in the season it’s a good time to look at some of the players that have impressed in the Segunda Division this season. Of course, this is not a definitive list, and there are plenty of other players that done well this year. Jona has looked good for Jaen while Borja Viguera has been scoring for fun at Alaves, despite finishing the year at the bottom of the table; German Lux has been solid in goal for Depor while Francisco Molinero has been impressive at right back for Murcia; Mirandes still seem to revolve around Aritz Mujika – when he is fit – and Lekic has been the perfect foil for Scepovic at Sporting. One thing is sure; it is proving to be one of the tightest seasons ever with just five points between the play-off positions and the relegation zone as we approach the winter break. So let’s start with a look at the season’s top scorer so far.

Player: Stefan Šćepović

Age: 23

Club: Sporting de Gijon (on loan from Partizan)

Position: Striker


After an impressive youth career in Serbia, the young striker caught the eye of several European teams but he eventually signed a professional contract with OFK Beograd from Belgrade. His career faltered slightly after a goal drought that resulted in several loan spells and a forgettable period at Club Brugge in Belgium. He eventually regained his scoring form at Hapoel Acre in Israel and earned a move back to his homeland with Partizan where he also gained experience in the Europa League. Now aged just 23, Šćepović is hitting the best form of his career so far on loan at Sporting Gijon, where he plays alongside fellow countryman Dejan Lekic. He is currently the top scorer in the Segunda league and his form has once again caught the eye of several clubs, paving the way for a significant move this summer.

Player: Enzo Rennella

Age: 25

Club: CD Lugo (on loan from Real Betis)

Position: Striker/Midfielder

RennellaRennella was born in France but made his mark after signing for Swiss club Lugano. His form caught the eye of scouts from Genoa and he signed a long-term contract with the Italian side. He was immediately loaned back to Lugano and spent the next four years on loan at several clubs. Despite being labelled as a striker, Rennella has been noted for his ability to play in several positions and has often been used in a deeper midfield role as a link-up player. He has good game intelligence as well as an eye for goal and his performances for Cordoba in the 2012-13 season earned him a contract with Spanish side Real Betis. He has spent this season on loan with Lugo and has enjoyed his best spell of form to date. An injury has left him out of action since the end of November, and it is no coincidence that Lugo’s form has dropped dramatically since his absence. He is expected to return in the New Year and will be the key to re-igniting Lugo’s play-off ambitions.

Player: Fernando Pacheco

Age: 21

Club: Real Madrid Castilla

Position: Goalkeeper

pachecoPacheco was born in Badajoz in the Spanish region of Extremadura and signed for Real Madrid at the age of 14. He worked his way up through the ranks and made his first senior appearance for the C-team in 2011 and was quickly called-up to appear for the B-team the same year. By last summer he had sealed his place as first choice keeper for Castilla and despite their terrible start to this year’s Segunda campaign, Pacheco has continued to receive high praise for his consistent performances. As a result, he has also made several appearances for Spain’s U21 team and has been tipped as a future Spanish No1.

Player: Yuri Berchiche

Age: 23

Club: SD Eibar (On loan from Real Sociedad)

Position: Left back

yuriBorn in the Basque Country, Yuri impressed during his youth career at Real Sociedad and was somewhat predictably poached by their arch rivals Athletic Bilbao at the age of 17. The player had been on the radar of many European scouts, and Athletic eventually struck a deal for the player to move to England with Tottenham Hotspur, where he continued his development at their academy. A couple of loan spells followed before he was released and returned to the Basque Country to play for Real Union. It was during his time in the Segunda B league that he really began to flourish and eventually completed his football circle and returned to Real Sociedad. He has spent this season on loan at SD Eibar and has been one of the players of the season with his impressive performances at left back.

Player: Ulises Dávila

Age: 22

Club: Cordoba (on loan from Chelsea)

Position: Midfielder

davilaDávila first caught the eye of international scouts during his 2006 triumph with Guadalajara in the Mexican Youth Championships. By the 2008/09 season he had impressed enough to earn a starting place in the Guadalajara senior team aged just 18. He also appeared in the Copa Libertadores and was a regular member of the Mexican U20 team that came third in the 2011 U20 World Cup in Colombia. He was linked with several European clubs before he became the first ever Mexican player to sign for Chelsea in 2011. Still only 20, he was loaned to Dutch side Vitesse and featured regularly for their reserve team. His Spanish odyssey began the following season with an impressive loan spell at Sabadell in the Segunda Division. Ironically his first league goal came against the Spanish side, Guadalajara. In the summer he agreed a loan move to Cordoba on transfer deadline day and has enjoyed the best ever form of his career. Still only 22, he has already been called up to the Mexican senior team and could enjoy a bright future is he continues to develop at his current rate.

Player: Vicente Gomez

Age: 25

Club: Las Palmas

Position: Defensive midfielder

vicente gomezVicente Gómez was born in Las Palmas on the Spanish island of Gran Canaria and began his career for local team AD Huracán. His role in their promotion to the Tercera Division in 2008 earned him a move to Las Palmas where he made 28 appearances for the B team before being promoted to the senior squad. Since then he has remained a regular fixture in the Las Palmas first team and last season he helped them reach the play-offs where they eventually lost to Almeria. In the summer, Las Palmas lost their star player Vitolo to Sevilla but Vicente Gómez has helped the side to remain in the hunt for promotion with his assured performances alongside fellow midfielder Apoño.