Cantera, literally meaning "
quarry" in Spanish, is a term used in Spainto refer to youth academies organized by sports clubs. It is also used to refer to the geographical area that clubs recruit players from. The term is widely used in football but is also applied to other sports such as basketball. This article is about the football "canteras". The best canteras belong to Athletic Bilbao, Real Sociedad, Real Madrid, FC Barcelona, Valencia CF, RCD Espanyol, Sporting de Gijónand UD Las Palmas. Fact|date=August 2008
The Basque Canteras
Athletic Bilbaohave employed a cantera policy. One of the main beneficiaries of the policy has been the national team. Athletic has provided numerous players for it, second only to Real Madrid.
During the early 1920s the Basque Country was a breeding ground of great Spanish players. The influx of immigrants from all over
Spainresulted in the region producing dozens of quality players. In 1920 Spain made their international debut and entered a team in the Olympic Games. Of the 21 players in the squad, 14 were Basques. Among them were Pichichi, José María Belauste, Txomin Acedoand Félix Sesúmaga.
Throughout their history
Athletic Bilbaohave continued to produce many notable Spanish players. Among them were Zarra, the all-time top goalscorer in La Liga, José Ángel Iribar, who made a record 466 La Ligaappearances and was a member of the Spain team when they won the European Championship in 1964and Andoni Zubizarretathe most capped Spanish international to date. Other notable graduates of the Athletic cantera include Bata, Agustín Gaínza, Panizo, Goikoetxea I, Julio Salinas, Julen Guerreroand Rafael Alkorta.
Athletic were not the only club to have a cantera policy. Fellow Basque club,
Real Sociedadoperated a similar policy until 1989. Neither were Athletic the only Basque club that provided players for the 1920 squad. Real Sociedad, Real Uniónand Arenas Club de Getxoalso provided players. In 1928 these three clubs and Athletic Bilbaobecame founding members of La Liga, demonstrating further the strength in depth of the Basque canteras at the time. The saying "Con cantera y afición, no hace falta importación", translated as "With home-grown teams and supporters, there is no need for imports" made sense during these early days.
The ability of the Basque Country to produce great players was made clear during the early 1980s when
Real Sociedadand Athletic Bilbaowon four La Ligatitles in a row between 1981 and 1984. The Real team included, among others, Roberto López Ufarte, José Mari Bakero, Luis Arconadaand Jesús María Zamora.
FC Barcelona B and Real Madrid Castilla
FC Barcelonaand Real Madridare well known for regularly recruiting foreign players, both have a very respectable record for producing local players. Along with Athletic Bilbao, both clubs have notable reserve teams, predominantly made up of local players. Numerous senior players have graduated through the ranks of FC Barcelona B. These have included Francisco José Carrasco, Ramón María Calderé, Guillermo Amor, Albert Ferrer, Josep Guardiola, Sergi, Xavi, Cesc Fabregas, Carles Puyol, Víctor Valdés, Andrés Iniesta, Bojan Krkic, Lionel Messiand Giovani dos Santos, though it should be noted many of these were recruited from overseas before signing professional terms, so are not 'home-grown' in the traditional sense, if in the technical sense.
Real Madridwon the European Cup with a team of eleven Spanish players and a Spanish coach. It was the first time a home-born team had won the competition. Many great home grown players have since passed through the ranks of Real Madrid Castilla, among them Emilio Butragueño, Manolo Sanchís, Martín Vazquéz, Míchel and Miguel Pardeza. More recent graduates have included Raúl, Guti and Iker Casillas. The club has also produced some notable managers including Vicente Del Bosqueand Rafael Benítez.
As well as producing players from their own regions both clubs have also recruited young players from throughout
Spainand internationally. Recent examples include Lionel Messiand Samuel Eto'o.
The Dream Team
Ever since the early days of
football in Spainone issue for "cantera" clubs is the poaching or recruiting of their players by other clubs. After the cantera has trained a player, another club will step in with a tempting offer and take them away. The potential of the Basque Country as a recruiting ground for players was recognised by the likes of FC Barcelona, Atlético Madrid, and Real Madridearly on. FC Barcelona, in particular, has a long history of signing players from the region going back to Félix Sesúmaga. Others have included Jesús Garay, Jesus María Pereda, José Ramón Alexanko, Javier Urruticoecheaand in more recent times, Santiago Ezquerro. During the 1980s and 1990s FC Barcelonacherry picked the best Basque players, among them Bakero, Txiki Beguiristain, Zubizarreta, Julio Salinasand Goikoetxea II, allowing Johan Cruyffto build the legendary "Dream Team" around them.
Atlético Madridteams of the 1960s also included a notable Basque presence in the form of Miguel Jonesand José Eulogio Gárate, both recruited from SD Indautxu, and Javier Irureta, signed from Real Unión. Real Madridhas also regularly looked north for players such as Rafael Alkorta, Mikel Lasa, Aitor Karankaand Iván Campo. Athletic Bilbao, however, have also been regularly accused of poaching. The Athletic policy of recruiting only Basque-players has seen them frequently recruit from the canteras of other Basque clubs. The legendary Athletic Bilbaoplayer of the 1930s, Gorostiza, was actually signed from Arenas Club de Getxo. In 1995 Athletic signed Joseba Etxeberriafrom Real Sociedad, causing considerable bad feeling between the two clubs.
Cantera Vs Imports
During the 1990s the poaching of players took on a new dimension.
FC Barcelonaand Real Madridin particular have regularly produced quality players unable to establish themselves with their home club. Some critics have argued that this is has partly arisen because these clubs continue to use "imports" at the expense of "cantera" players. As a result many graduates of the canteras seek their fortune elsewhere and are willing to be poached. Initially "cantera" players only moved to other Spanish clubs. However in more recent times, English Premiership clubs have begun to recognize the potential of the Spanish canteras. In 2003 Arsenal persuaded Cesc Fàbregasto leave FC Barcelona B. Another emerging FC Barcelona Bplayer, Gerard Piqué, subsequently signed for Manchester United, though has since moved back to FC Barcelona. Since then Rafael Benítez, himself a product of the cantera, has recruited Luis García, Pepe Reina, Xabi Alonsoand Fernando Torresfor Liverpool and Mikel Artetahas established himself at Everton. García, Reina and Arteta all began their career at FC Barcelona B, Alonso started out at Real Sociedadand Torres grew up in the Atletico Madridsystem. However, Rafeal Benitez has signed players that had already established themselves in Spain and had helped improve the fortunes of their respective clubs. Whilst Pique and Fabregas were "poached" from a very young age and had not even been proven in their home country.
*es icon [http://canales.elcorreodigital.com/especiales/eleccionesathletic/noticias/not270501a.html Voluntad de tradición] , an article on the Athletic Bilbao "cantera policy"
* [http://www.ezilon.com/information/article_11653.shtml The lost boys of Barcelona] , by Ronald Atkin
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