Profiling Real Madrid's Young Stars at the European Under-17 Championship

Karl Matchett@@karlmatchettFeatured ColumnistMay 18, 2017

MADRID, SPAIN - JANUARY 31: A Real madrid flag flutters displayed at a merchandaising stall at Estadio Santiago Bernabeu outdoors before the La Liga match between Real Madrid CF and Real Sociedad de Futbol  on January 31, 2015 in Madrid, Spain.  (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images)
Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images

While Real Madrid's senior stars continue full throttle in their search for success, with titles in La Liga and the UEFA Champions League both on the cards this month, the youth prospects at the club continue to showcase why there is ample reason for optimism in the future, too.

The U19 side progressed to the semi-finals in the UEFA Youth League this season, while three members of the B team, Castilla, have featured in first-team squads under Zinedine Zidane in 2016/17.

It's not just at club level there is progress, though, with several starlets showing their potential on the international stage: Spain's under-17 side have reached the final of the Under-17 European Championship, where they will face England for the third time since 2007, and where they will hope to improve on last year when La Roja ended as runners-up.

Here's a look at the quintet of Los Blancos teenagers, from the back of the pitch toward the front, who have helped Spain to the last hurdle and who will hope to emerge with winners' medals after the final on Friday, May 19.


Moha Ramos: Goalkeeper

First up it's a name who might already be familiar to those who keep a close eye on the day-to-day activities at Valdebebas, Real Madrid's training facility, in Mohamed Airam Ramos Wade—or Moha, as he's known.

The 17-year-old is the back-up goalkeeper for Spain at the U17 Euros but has played once, a 1-1 draw in the final group match against hosts Croatia.

Moha Ramos @moharamos25

Mañana jugamos el último partido de la fase de grupos❗ 🆚️Croacia 📺DMAX ⏰12:00 🗣#JuntosAPorTodas 🇪🇸 https://t.co/HhWNHoxvYy

His call-up has come as a result of impressing at youth level at Real Madrid, and it's not just the national team who have been watching: Marca reported Moha being called up to train with Real's first team by personal invitation of manager Zidane just before the turn of the year.

On the official Real website, Moha describes himself as having a big reach, thanks to his size and stature—he's 6'1"—and says he offers security to the team, while his bio (in Spanish) also suggests he excels aerially and has good technique.

Moha joined Madrid from Tenerife and has been at Real since 2014, this term being part of the Juvenil B side.


Victor Chust Garcia: Defender

Into the centre of the back line, Victor Chust Garcia has played a pivotal role for the national team thus far, playing all but one match during the run to the final and not receiving a single booking so far.

Brought in from Valencia in 2012, the now-17-year-old has progressed through the ranks at La Fabrica and plays around 50 matches a season for Los Blancos, as reported in an interview with him and coach Daniel Poyatos after the Weifang Cup last year, per Xinhua News.

The right-footed centre-back is described by the club website (in Spanish) as being "strong, forceful and aggressive in his defensive work," while Victor himself suggests being particularly adept in dealing with aerial threats is also in his skill set.

With Victor in the back four, Spain have been reasonably impressive since the opening minutes of the tournament in Croatia; two goals conceded in the first 11 minutes in the first game was a blip, not a sign of things to come, as they have since been far stronger.

Turkey didn't add to those early strikes, Italy only netted in injury time in the second match, France scored once early on in the quarters and Germany failed to net at all in the semis, with Chust playing every minute of those fixtures.


Antonio Blanco Conde: Midfielder

Another core component of the Spain side in Croatia, Antonio Blanco Conde has started four of the five games thus far, and he came on as a substitute in the other to excellent effect, scoring a last-minute equaliser.

The central midfielder wears the No. 6 on his back and plays like a veteran, despite being one of the younger members of the squad, still 16 years of age. In addition to his solitary strike in the finals, Blanco clocked up three assists in qualifying and scored another, in just 305 minutes.

He's a player who drives the midfield on, as noted on the club's website (in Spanish), a "player with a lot of quality who makes the rest of the team play well."

Vision, execution in the pass and the ability to unlock defences are all part of his game—big qualities in a creative midfielder—but Blanco says he "likes to play for his team-mates."

That selflessness is perhaps part of why he's such an important member of the side at the finals and why he has been able to progress at Real Madrid.

Since signing in 2013, he has risen through the Infantil and Cadete sides and is now in the Juvenil B team, with plenty to look forward to in the future, it seems.


Moha Moukhliss: Attacking midfielder

Next up is Spain's No. 8 and a name to have already reached the gossip columns: Mohamed Aiman Moukhliss Agmir, better known simply as Moha, like his goalkeeping team-mate.

Moha @mohita_6

Ya en Madrid después de una gran experiencia en Portugal! Esta semana vuelve la Liga! 🇪🇸🤙🏼😈💣⚽ https://t.co/ebzvRdVDYk

An exciting player to watch, Moha represents Spain despite having been contacted by the Moroccan FA due to his heritage, meaning he's able to play for either nation. As it is, it might not just be at international level where he has to make a decision on his future, with AS reporting interest in him from several Premier League sides as far back as the close-season before 2015/16 got under way (h/t the Express' Izzy Horsefield).

He's still at Madrid for now and has been since 2010, progressing through Alevin, Infantil and Cadete sides before joining the Juvenil B for 16/17.

As with Chust and Blanco, the 17-year-old is part of the first XI for Spain, starting four of the five matches so far and a likely starter for the final, with one assist to his name in the finals.

UEFA.com en español @UEFAcom_es

@SeFutbol La @SeFutbol se mete en la final de la #U17EURO tras vencer a Alemania en los penaltis. 👏 ¡Enhorabuena! 👏 https://t.co/k7xMERAUxv

Moha's pace is clearly an asset, but Real's website also highlights (in Spanish) his shooting, defensive work rate and ability to influence big games.


Cesar Gelabert Pina: Attacking midfielder

The fifth and final member of the squad from Real's youth sides, Cesar Gelabert Pina has been infrequently used by Spain so far: he came off the bench in the group-stage opener and started the final match against Croatia, but he has yet to appear in the knockout phase.

Cesar is another 16-year-old, and his inclusion may have been something of a surprise considering he hadn't featured at all in qualifying. His appearance off the bench against Turkey was his debut at this level.

Wearing the No. 18 shirt in the 18-man squad perhaps is an indication that he's a latecomer, but that's nothing new for him in a career with a sudden upward trajectory toward making the grade—he only signed for Real in 2015 from Hercules, a reasonably small third-tier side in the Valencia region.

He describes himself as a player who works hard for the team, which might be doing a disservice to his technical brilliance; the club website bio suggests (in Spanish) Cesar has enormous dribbling ability, is incisive in his play and brings verticality to the team.

What brought him to the attentions of Real? A reported 72 goals in four seasons might have something to do with it, per GeneracionHCF (in Spanish), a university-led project covering youth football at his former club.

While the No. 10 role is highlighted as his best position, Cesar has also played as striker, winger and central midfielder.

Perhaps that versatility is another reason why he has been able to come from nowhere to feature at the highest level for his age group; with one game to play and winners' medals at stake, there's every reason to imagine that any one of the five from Real Madrid could play a critical part in allowing Spain to come home triumphant.


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