Guarding the home: This is how Sociedad became the candidate for the championship

Based almost exclusively on players who grew up in the academy, owns the same team as club legend Xavi Alonso, focuses on developing local talent and less on external recruitment. After a wonderful season opener in the Spanish league and 40 years of drought – the Basques dream of a sensation

Sometimes, the most glittering treasure of all is right under your nose. Real Sociedad, who are looking at the entire Spanish league from above, have realized that they have to rely on the descendants of their daughter team, Sociedad B, which plays in the sub-league – a winning move that has made it the surprise of the season so far. This is the secret of the success of the Basque team, which wants to replicate the success from the beginning of the millennium and this time also to win the championship.

“When you see this kid scoring that goal at Anuata Stadium (Sociedad’s home ground), you feel like jumping on the pitch and hugging him,” said Xavi Alonso, former team star and now daughter team coach. The boy Alonso is talking about is home player Yolan Lubata (21), who scored the winning goal against Mallorca in the 90th minute in mid-October – and bounced Sociedad to the top of the table.

It has been almost 20 years since Alonso was at the heart of the same team that stunned Spain and finally finished as runner-up in the 2002/3 season. Even then it was based on home players and Alonso was of course among them. Now he is raising the next generation. In the 2018/19 season Lubta still played in the club’s third team, climbed the ladder and only this season became the car player in the senior team. His first goal of the season was a 4: 2 loss to Barcelona, ​​but as mentioned his climactic moment came against Mallorca when he shook the residents of the home stadium in San Sebastian.

“He is a very open guy, with a pure heart,” Alonso said of the young striker. “Two weeks before he missed a good opportunity, so he went down to the sub-team again and missed again. I calmed him down and told him ‘don’ t worry, you’ll get the chance. ‘ “.

“The second league is a means – not an end”
When Alonso talks about the “project” he means that Real Sociedad’s senior team consists mostly of homemade players – eight of them were in the squad against Mallorca for example. Xabi Alonso is of course the diamond in the crown and enjoys a glorious playing career at teams such as Liverpool, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich.

All this magic, raising the future generation of the club, takes place in Guipuzcoa, one of the small provinces in Spain where about 720,000 inhabitants live. “The goal is to build a subsidiary that will be made up of at least 80 percent of players born in the province and 20 percent of the rest of the Basque Country. “Synthetic courts and a gym, above which there is a sign that says ‘push up’,” explains the academy’s director, Loki Iriarte.

As you can see, it works: no less than 26 local players are on the broad staff of the senior team, with the average age also considered one of the youngest in the league and hovering around 25. Some of them made their first team debut this season, which does not make it easier for Alonso to fight with the team The sub on staying in the sub-league. At the same time, he understands that his main role is to provide players for the senior team.
“The development team is our precious stone because it is the last point where you can still shape players and prepare them for the real thing. The second league is a means for us and not the goal,” said Roberto Olaba, the sporting director of the Basque club. “This is the penultimate stage after all the work done in the training complex at Zubiata. It’s like a production line, and we’re almost at the point where the product is put in a box, packed and delivered to the consignee,” Alonso added.

The recipe for success
A young player arrives at Real Sociedad’s academy at the age of 13, late compared to many clubs. The sporting aspect is combined with the studies and the club undertakes to keep each player for at least two years in the academy and depending on the achievements and abilities decide how to proceed with him. The main focus is on development and less on recruiting players – that is, focusing on quality and less on quantity. “Our view is patience and perseverance,” Iriarte says. “Very few players are cut, and we have that commitment to them. We signed them so that if there is a mistake it is ours, not the players’. They can not pay for this mistake. We are patient with the players and give them everything they need to succeed in the process. “There is always a temptation to look for players from other places, but it is important for us to trust our home players who were born here.”

Olaba chose to accept the way the actors in the Basque Academy go through the culinary world: “To prepare a dish you need ingredients and water, but patience is also required.” According to him, the fact that the process begins at a relatively late age is a risk, but at the same time he is also sure that many of them will maintain stability and continuity and reach the finish line – integration into the adult group. That is exactly what Real Sociedad’s third team, which is at the top of the fourth league, is meant for. “We needed this team so as not to lose players along the way. Some of them were not ready for the senior level so it took more time in the process they went through,” Iriarte explained.

By Editor

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