Through The Ranks
Friday 5th February 2010
Fulham FC News
Catalonia has long produced some of the finest football players - not just of Spain, but the world.
The names and faces of Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta and Carlos Puyol adorn young fans’ bedroom walls across the globe, while the likes of Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets and Bojan Krkic look set to follow suit.
And Fulham have another young Catalonian hoping to walk a similar path – U18 starlet Cristian Marquez-Sanchez, who arrived at the Club over the summer having spent five seasons at RCD Espanyol.
And while the talented youngster cites Barcelona’s Xavi and Iniesta as two of his footballing heroes, there’s little question where his loyalties lie in one of Spain’s fiercest rivalries.
“Barcelona and Espanyol are the two teams of Catalonia,” explains Cristian. “It’s a big rivalry in that area, and while I do like some of Barca’s players, I’m an Espanyol fan through and through.
“Of course, I now have a love for Fulham, but Espanyol is the club of my family and I have grown up supporting them. They’re not as successful as Barcelona, but in recent seasons I’ve seen them win two Copa del Rey’s and reach the final of the UEFA Cup.”
On Wednesday night the 17-year-old was unveiled to fans on the Craven Cottage pitch having just signed his first professional contract, putting pen-to-paper on a deal that will run until June 2012.
While his education in the game started at one of Spanish football’s most successful club’s over the past six months or so, the likeable youngster has been fine tuning his game wearing the white of Fulham.
“Football in Spain and England is very different,” he reveals. “Back home it is a little more technical, whereas over here there is more of an emphasis on strength, keeping possession and tactics also.
“It is a lot more physical too, but I like that side of the game and it is something that I knew before I arrived. For me, I’ve had the best of both worlds and I think that has put me in a good position.
“I haven’t been a Fulham player for too long, but I already feel that I have developed – I think I’m more of a complete player now.”
Spotted by Whites’ scouts out in Spain, the talented right-back joined the club as a scholar after a successful trial, turning down advances from Premier League rivals Aston Villa.
“To be honest it wasn’t a difficult decision to leave home because I love English football,” explains Cristian. “It had been my dream for a while to play for a Premier League club and I’m lucky enough to have been given that opportunity.
“Of course, it was hard leaving my family behind, but it is a sacrifice young players sometimes have to make in football in the hope of furthering their career.
“There have been quite a few young Spanish players making the move to England and I have friends at Arsenal (Ignasi Miquel), Manchester City (Joan Angel Roman) and Wigan (Roman Golobart).
“We text each other and send messages on Facebook, and they all seem to be enjoying the experience too. Hopefully we can all go on and play each other in the first teams.”
The youngster highlights the impact in English football that a certain Cesc Fabregas has had – a player that arrived on these shores at a similar age and who has since become one of the league’s best players at Arsenal.
“Of course, Fabregas is the example of what can be achieved,” says Cristian. “He progressed from the Arsenal youth team to first team very quickly and is now not only their captain, but one of the best players in the Premier League.
“The younger players coming through, whatever nationality, look up to a player like him. I know that I would like to follow a similar path and breakthrough into the Fulham First Team.
“But Fabregas is not the only Spanish player to do well here and we are very proud of the impact Spanish players have had in the league over the last few seasons. The switch from La Liga is interesting and seems to work well. I don’t think it’s too difficult for us to adapt.”
Held in high regard in his homeland having captained his country at U16 level, Marquez-Sanchez is an attack-minded full-back that can also play in central defence and central midfield.
Fast, direct and with an abundance of energy, the youngster has impressed when lining up for Gary Brazil’s U18s and has also been involved in Billy McKinlay’s Development Squad.
“It was fantastic to play for my home club and the one that I supported growing up,” he says. “I learned a lot there because it is a good place for a young player. But I believe I can learn even more here and take my game to a higher level.
“Espanyol have produced a lot of good players down the years, but I just couldn’t turn down the chance to come to a club in the Premier League.
“A lot of people talk about which league is the best: La Liga or the Premier League. Some may be surprised by my choice, but I always say the Premier League. Whatever stadium you go to, the atmosphere in this country is fantastic and every game is exciting.
“For me this is where you want to be. This is the league where the best players want to test themselves.”
Fans that know their Spanish football would be correct in thinking that Espanyol was the club where one of our favourite former players, now lining up for tonight’s opponents Portsmouth, Steve Finnan, spent the 2008-09 season and the club whose captain, Daniel Jarque, died after suffering a cardiac arrest following a training session.
Jarque was also a player to have come through the Espanyol ranks, and his death in August 2008 sent shockwaves through Spanish football. It was a tragedy that had an impact at every level of the close-knit Barcelona-based club.
And it was the similarly homely feel of Fulham that Marquez-Sanchez cites as one of the main reasons for his move to SW6 and a factor he believes has allowed him to develop with relevant ease.
“Like Espanyol, Fulham is a very close club,” says Cristian. “It has a family feel and that stands it out from other clubs – I already feel at home here. The Academy and senior players use the same facilities so us younger ones feel close to what is going on and part of things.
“It’s been a big adjustment so I’ve just got my head down, worked hard and listened to my coaches. I want to improve as much as I can and work my way up through the ranks.
“To sign my first professional contract was an incredible moment for me and when I look back to the young kid that started out at Espanyol not too long ago I thought that day was a long way into the future."
Cristian Marquez-Sanchez Up Close
I haven’t got a nickname yet but I’m sure the boys or one of the coaches will think of something.
A strength of mine is my ability to get up and down the flank. I’m also good on the ball and strong in the tackle.
Although my weakness is possibly my left foot. I’m not too sure, so you would have to ask someone else!
People say that I play most like Daniel Alves of Barcelona. Well that’s what they said back in Spain.
The biggest influence on my career has been my father. He has supported me since I first started playing and has always tried to watch me play. He loves his football and is very proud of me.
My hidden talent is that I can flamenco dance! Don’t laugh because it gets the senoritas!
My favourite Fulham player is Andrew Johnson. He’s so quick and in front of goal he can be deadly.
Growing up my idols were Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta and Cesc Fabregas. All three are great players and important for Spain’s chances at the 2010 World Cup!
Five years from now I’ll be established in Roy Hodgson’s First Team and representing my country at senior level. Read more: http://www.fulhamfc.com/Club/News/NewsArticles/2010/February/throughtheranksSanchez.aspx#ixzz0ehhf54g1