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Keko can, and will, bounce back (1st October, 2017)

On the second match-day of the 2009-10 season, an 18-year-old warmed up to step onto the pitch of the Estadio Vicente Calderón for the last 27 minutes of the match. Racing Santander were playing for the win, despite a 1-1 scoreline being historic enough.

The most exciting canterano from the Atléti youth system, the hard-working right midfielder, was on. He was calm. And he did wait for what the coach would decide. Unfortunately, he would never played for the first team again.

He was farmed out - six-months to each of Valladolid, Cartagena and Girona - until in the summer of 2011 when his contract was up. He was never valued for his defensive industry - teams wanted him to create, to score. To lead.

He decided to try the shores of Italy, signing for Catania. But the scenario was no different - in three seasons he played just 26 times and even a loan move to second division side Grosseto didn’t help. Yet again, his hard work was never fully appreciated.

Last summer, Albacete signed Keko, because they knew what they were getting. They needed a partner in crime for winger Samuel Delgado and attacking midfielder Sergio Cidoncha. They needed industry to complement creativity. And Keko was their man.

He racked up a phenomenal 2600 minutes. And, nurtured by promising coach Luis César, he was successful at transferring his defensive work-rate into productivity in the final third. Not only was Keko working hard, he scored six times and assisted six more.

He even scored the brace, in a 3-2 win against Llagostera, to confirm Albacete’s survival in the second division.

Finally, Keko’s potential was rising. In 2015, he joined Eibar for free, and he fit perfectly with the hard-working ethos of José Luis Mendilibar. He was asked to do the defensive work to complement the creative talent of Saúl Berjón, and he has done it without complaint.

The 23-year-old, at his eighth club, in a few months ago had gone from fighting relegation to the amateur third tier to finally became a La Liga breakout.

He drives the team forward and thrives in the transitions - and creating them in the first place. His energy and constant harrowing gives teams like Barcelona a hard time.



And a 5 million euro "failed" move to Málaga in 2016, where he was and still is, is not going to stop him.

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He was short. Very short. At 5'3", the left winger sometimes played in an over-sized shirt.

The ball never left his feet. His feet were tiny but they had magic. A dizzying array of body feints, close control, direction changes and sheer speed, often resembling a roller-coaster, left opposition defenders outwitted. And yes - sometimes, he frustrated. Sometimes, he was irregular.

But when he turned up, the world was at his feet.

If Juan Quero plays against Real Madrid he'll be playing against the club that let him go. The club that didn't think he had it in him to become a La Liga player.

The club that was wrong. Very, very wrong - he went fr…