8th May 2017. By Edward Stratmann.
Although injuries have somewhat curtailed his first season at Malaga, Sandro Ramirez's debut campaign has still been an overwhelmingly positive one.
Having signed on a free transfer in the summer from Barcelona, the club he joined as a 14-year-old from Las Palmas, where he struggled to find regular minutes due to the fierce competition for places at Barca, he's been a revelation for the Boquerones.
"Last year was a little more challenging. I worked hard for the minutes I had. But when you have the best strikers in the world it's hard to make a dent," Sandro recalled.
"The only way was to find a way out and I do not regret anything, I'm very happy with the step I've taken and I'm very happy here."
The man who's scored roughly a third of Malaga's goals has certainly been vital in his side's recent upturn in form that's coincided with Michel taking over the managerial reigns in March. After a period of adjustment to the new coach, Malaga are now thriving under the former Marseille boss, winning six of their past seven matches.
Sandro's been especially exceptional in their sensational run of form, as he's bagged seven goals and one assist in his last seven, including a memorable strike in his side's monumental 2-0 win over former club, Barca.
He's also scored important goals vs Valencia, Sevilla, Celta Vigo and the winner against Sporting Gijon. Now up to 14 La Liga goals, the 21-year-old sits in eighth place in the Pichichi race, impressively ahead of the likes of Gareth Bale, Karim Benzema, Kevin Gameiro, Carlos Vela, Willian Jose, Cedric Bakambu and most notably Neymar.
Sandro's work has extended far beyond purely finding the back of the net, however, with his well rounded skillset seeing him hurt teams in a multiplicity of ways. Blessed with an amazing blend of physical and technical gifts, Sandro's parlayed power and finesse brilliantly.
He assists his side's possession phases marvelously well by using his intuitive movement, sublime ball control and fantastic array of flicks and first time passes to either hold the ball up or find teammates. Courtesy of his background in Barca's La Masia youth academy, where he honed his technical skills so meticulously, it's hardly surprising he's so effective in this regard.
To make matters worse for his adversaries, he possesses blistering pace, hulking strength and an enviable leap, which all combine to see him be a weapon on the counter, when making runs into depth and competing in aerial duels.
Sandro's dogged work rate and outpouring of effort on the defensive end unquestionably serves to further amplify his worth. Watching him shine so brightly must make Barcelona feel a palpable sense of regret about letting him leave for free, which would only be heightened by how badly his replacement, Paco Alcacer, who cost a staggering €30 million, has struggled.
As a result of his productivity and overall contribution, the likes of Sevilla, Villarreal, Tottenham, Southampton and Liverpool are all reportedly interested in exploiting his minimal £5 million release clause to snap him up ahead of next season.
Malaga manager, Michel, is desperate to keep the talented youngster at La Rosaleda, however, as he even somewhat jokingly suggested that he'd sacrifice some of his salary to keep him at the club. "He's a special player, he comes from a special club, he knows what the competition about, he's proving he's a difference maker for this club," Michel stated.
"Not only for the goals, but also for everything he gives the team, how he moves between the lines. He is a player that I would like to give up part of my contract to stay here."
Meanwhile, it would appear Sandro's very open to staying, for he's thoroughly enjoying working under Michel's stewardship, saying: "From the first day he told me that I was a fundamental player for him and that is what a footballer needs, to have that trust of the coach and his teammates."
Obtaining regular minutes has undoubtedly been crucial in him hitting his stride at Malaga, so Sandro will be vary wary of moving to a bigger club that would once again jeopardise his playing time. In Malaga, he's not only one of their undisputed star men, but his vast talents are fully appreciated and utilised.
With the joy of hindsight and with the 2018 World Cup to think about, remaining at Malaga for at least another season would probably be his best bet for his short term future.
More football articles by Edward at Licence to Roam.
Is Sandro Ramirez Football's Next Star Player?
8th May 2017. By Edward Stratmann.