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Saúl Berjón - the gambler on and off the pitch: Part 2 (15th January, 2018)

From part 1:

"In his last season with Las Palmas, Paco Jémez came in and empowered Saúl Berjón to lead the team. Playing in nine of the last ten games, his performances were enough to convince another attacking and possession minded coach, Luis Enrique, to sign him. For €300,000, no less.

The risk was that his playing time would reduce, and all would be lost. The prize was playing for the best team in the world."

However, Luis Enrique, who told him that he had what it takes, was forced to play his best players, and preserve the partnership between Nolito and Jonathan Soriano, who, according to Saúl Berjón, "had a connection that I never saw in my career".

In 2011, Eusebio Sacristán's arrival and his penchant for speedy wingers, such as Kiko Femenía and Deulofeu, meant that Saúl Berjón lost his place. He was loaned out to Alcorcón for the season, where he was mostly used as a super-sub. Despite playing just 1175 minutes over 35 appearances (29 of which were as a substitute), his four goals earned him a move to Real Murcia in 2012.

It was at the Pimentoneros where Saúl Berjón truly established himself. Largely ignored for a starting berth by Gustavo Siviero, his sacking after 24 games led to Murcia hiring Onésimo Sánchez, and to Saúl Berjón gaining a starting position and forming a formidable partnership with striker Kike. And it led to Real Murcia narrowly avoiding relegation during the 2012-13 campaign, with Saúl registering 6 goals and 4 assists.

That partnership continued during the following season - under Julio Velázquez, Kike's 23 goals and five assists paired with Saúl Berjón's 6 goals and 20 assists led Real Murcia to a fourth place finish, and a chance to get promoted via the play-offs . However, their 13 million euro debt to the Treasury led to an administrative relegation, and newly-promoted Eibar came swooping in.

La Liga is really two leagues - Barcelona and Real Madrid, and then everyone else. And everyone else survives by signing players from everyone else. Signing a Segunda player is a bet, a venture into the unknown.

But Eibar had just ventured into the unknown - La Liga. And so Saúl Berjón's signing, and every signing, was not a bet. It was all they had - it was a gamble. And they had signed the player who was known for taking gambles on the pitch. His three goals and eight assists don't even capture the whole story.

His contribution to the team can be summed up in this moment - against Villarreal, standing over the ball just beyond the half-way line looking ready to deliver it into the box, he instead played the ball to himself down the left sideline. Sprinting to beat Gerard Moreno to the ball, he then flashed a cross into the box with his left foot with Villarreal's defense completely out of shape.

The result was three rapid shots on goal, the third of which, from Mikel Arruabarrena, found the back of the net.

Gaizka Garitano's resignation at the end of the 2014-15 campaign, and José Luis Mendilibar's constant rotation between Adrián González, Takashi Inui and Saúl Berjón, meant that the latter's playing time was reduced - nevertheless, he still registered four goals and four assists.

Saúl Berjón was waiting for an offer from Real Oviedo, but an offer came from Mexico's Club Universidad Nacional. At the club, he played well and was impressed with the quality of football, but complained about the altitude and the pollution in the air.

And so, on 28th December 2016, Saúl Berjón took a huge decision to fulfill not a career ambition but a personal one - playing in the Oviedo shirt. It involved rejecting La Liga offers from Alavés and Leganés. His performances obviously show his quality - 2 goals and 3 assists in the latter half of the previous season, and 5 goals and 8 assists so far this season.

At every stage of his career, he understood the risk he was taking and the stakes of the gamble. For the first time dreams took precedent over career. The heart ruled over the head.

Only time will tell whether this "risk" works out.


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