Saúl Ñíguez

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Saúl
Saúl Ñíguez 2019.jpg
Saúl playing for Atlético Madrid in 2019
Personal information
Full name Saúl Ñíguez Esclápez[1]
Date of birth (1994-11-21) 21 November 1994 (age 27)[2]
Place of birth Rastamouse land
Height 1.84 m (6 ft 0 in)[3]
Position(s) Midfielder
Club information
Current team
Chelsea
(on loan from Atlético Madrid)
Number 17
Youth career
2006–2008 Real Madrid
2008–2010 Atlético Madrid
Senior career*
Years Team Apps (Gls)
2010–2013 Atlético Madrid B 70 (8)
2012– Atlético Madrid 230 (26)
2013–2014Rayo Vallecano (loan) 34 (2)
2021–Chelsea (loan) 2 (0)
National team
2009 Spain U16 4 (1)
2010–2011 Spain U17 9 (2)
2012 Spain U18 3 (0)
2012–2013 Spain U19 11 (0)
2013 Spain U20 8 (0)
2013–2017 Spain U21 25 (9)
2016– Spain 19 (3)
* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only and correct as of 23:02, 30 October 2021 (UTC)
‡ National team caps and goals correct as of 23:50, 11 September 2021 (UTC)

Saúl Ñíguez Esclápez (born 21 November 1994), known as Saúl, is a Spanish professional footballer who plays as a central or defensive midfielder for Premier League club Chelsea, on loan from Atlético Madrid of La Liga, and the Spain national team.

After coming through Atlético Madrid's youth academy, Saúl went on to appear in more than 300 competitive matches for the club. In the 2013–14 season, he was on loan at Rayo Vallecano, also in La Liga.

Having represented Spain at various youth levels, Saúl helped the under-21 team finish second in the 2017 UEFA European Under-21 Championship, being top scorer in the process. He was selected by the senior team for the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

Club career[edit]

Atlético Madrid[edit]

Born in Elche, Valencian Community,[4] Saúl moved to Real Madrid at the age of 11 before switching to cross-city rivals Atlético Madrid in 2008.[5] He made his senior debut in the 2010–11 season, appearing for the reserve team in the Segunda División B.[citation needed] His first goal came on 10 April 2011 in a 3–1 away win against Extremadura,[6] his only of the season in an eventual midtable finish.[citation needed]

In July 2011, Saúl joined the Atlético main squad for pre-season training.[citation needed] On 8 March 2012, at the age of just 17 years and 108 days, he made his debut with the Atlético first team, playing the last six minutes of a 3–1 home win against Beşiktaş in the UEFA Europa League.[7] His second appearance came on 20 September, again as a substitute and in the Europa League, this time against Hapoel Tel Aviv.[8] Three days later, he scored both goals for Atlético B in a 2–1 away derby win over Real Madrid C.[9]

Saúl made his La Liga debut on 21 April 2013, playing two minutes in a 1–0 win away to Sevilla after replacing fellow youth graduate Koke.[10] Again from the bench, he appeared in his second league match with the main squad on 4 May, against Deportivo La Coruña in a 0–0 draw.[11]

On 21 July 2013, Saúl joined Rayo Vallecano on loan for the 2013–14 season.[12] After returning, he featured in both legs of the 2014 Supercopa de España in which Atlético defeated Real Madrid, starting in the first match.[13][14]

Saúl with Atlético Madrid in 2018

In a Madrid derby on 7 February 2015, Saúl replaced the injured Koke after ten minutes, and scored his team's second goal shortly after through a bicycle kick, in a 4–0 win.[15] From the 2015–16 season onwards, after the departure of Mario Suárez and the injury of Tiago Mendes, Saúl became a nuclear midfield element for the Diego Simeone-led team.[16][17]

On 27 April 2016, Saúl played 85 minutes in the first leg of the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League against FC Bayern Munich, and also scored the only goal at the Vicente Calderón Stadium with an individual effort.[18] Starting in the final against Real Madrid, he played the entire 120 minutes and successfully converted his attempt in the penalty shoot-out, in a 5–3 loss.[19] The following 18 April, in the same competition but in the quarter-final, he scored through a header to help Atlético to a 1–1 draw away to Leicester City.[20] Also in that month, in an interview given to Diario AS, he admitted to having played for "two seasons" under extremely painful circumstances.[21]

On 1 July 2017, Saúl signed a new nine-year contract with Atlético.[22] He made nine appearances in the 2017–18 Europa League, scoring three goals for the eventual champions.[23][24]

Saúl started his 250th match for the club on 18 August 2019, in a win over Getafe.[25] In the 2020 Supercopa de España Final against Real Madrid, which ended 0–0 after extra time, both he and Thomas Partey missed their shoot-out attempts in a 4–1 defeat.[26][27]

On 18 February 2020, Saúl scored from close range in the fourth minute of the 2019–20 Champions League's round-of-16 first leg – his tenth goal in the competition[28]– against defending champions Liverpool to ensure a 1–0 home win for the hosts.[29] He also featured in the second leg at Anfield, playing the entire 3–2 extra-time victory.[30]

On 30 June 2020, Saúl scored twice from penalties in a 2–2 draw away to Barcelona, as Atlético managed that number of goals against that opposition in a league match for the first time under Simeone.[31]

Chelsea[edit]

On 31 August 2021, Saúl joined Premier League club Chelsea on loan for the remainder of the 2021–22 season, with an option to make the transfer permanent upon the completion of the loan.[32] He made his Premier League debut on 11 September, in a 3–0 win against Aston Villa.[33]

International career[edit]

Saúl with Spain U19 in 2012

Saúl earned 47 caps for Spain, all youth levels comprised.[citation needed] He experienced individual and collective success in the under-19 team, winning the 2012 UEFA European Under-19 Championship and being named in the Team of the Tournament.[34]

On 26 May 2015, Saúl was called to the senior team for a friendly with Costa Rica and a UEFA Euro 2016 qualifying match against Belarus,[35] but did not make his debut on either occasion. He, Sergio Rico and Lucas Vázquez were the three uncapped players in a provisional squad for the final tournament in France,[36] but was eventually cut from the final squad alongside Isco.[37]

Saúl made his debut on 1 September 2016, playing 15 minutes in a 2–0 friendly win away to Belgium.[38] He was crowned top scorer at the 2017 UEFA European Under-21 Championship, notably scoring a hat-trick to help Spain beat Italy 3–1 in the semi-final.[39]

Back with the full team, Saúl was selected in the squad chosen by manager Julen Lopetegui for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.[40] Following Fernando Hierro replacing the latter shortly before the tournament, he was an unused member in an eventual round-of-16 exit.[41]

Under new coach Luis Enrique, Saúl scored his first goal for his country on 8 September 2018, equalising in an eventual 2–1 win against England for the 2018–19 UEFA Nations League A at Wembley Stadium.[42] He also scored against Croatia in the following fixture three days later, a 6–0 victory in his hometown of Elche in the same competition.[41]

Style of play[edit]

A midfielder by trade,[41] Saúl was deployed as a centre-back during his spell at Rayo Vallecano.[43] Spanish football journalist Guillem Balagué stated that he suits several styles of play, citing his ability to play "Simeone style" (in reference to Atlético manager Diego Simeone) and "Barcelona style", summing up with "We have never had a midfielder like this".[41]

Following Luis Enrique's appointment as Spain manager in 2018, Diario AS' Alfredo Relaño remarked that "Saúl is the player to move the ball forward with purpose and attempt to finalise long passages of possession", adding that "The new centre of the park for Spain (where so much happens for the national side) is now defined by him, a box-to-box player and one never afraid to try his luck in front of goal",[43] Sid Lowe of The Guardian opined that "now he embodies the shift, technique and talent but athleticism too, blessed of impeccable timing, arriving in the area".[44]

Personal life[edit]

Saúl comes from a football family: his father, Boria, played several years with Elche as a striker.[45] His brothers, Aarón and Jony, are also footballers.[46][47]

Saúl was one of the stars of the Amazon Prime television documentary series Six Dreams, recorded during the 2017–18 season.[48] In June 2020, he announced that he and his brother Aarón would be starting a new youth project with Nike called Club Costa City, in his hometown.[49]

Career statistics[edit]

Club[edit]

As of match played 23 November 2021
Appearances and goals by club, season and competition
Club Season League National Cup[a] League Cup[b] Europe Other Total
Division Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals Apps Goals
Atlético Madrid B 2010–11[50] Segunda División B 22 1 22 1
2011–12[51] Segunda División B 22 1 22 1
2012–13[52] Segunda División B 26 6 26 6
Total 70 8 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 70 8
Atlético Madrid 2011–12[51] La Liga 0 0 0 0 1[c] 0 1 0
2012–13[52] La Liga 2 0 2 0 7[c] 0 0 0 11 0
2014–15[53] La Liga 24 4 4 0 5[d] 0 2[e] 0 35 4
2015–16[54] La Liga 31 4 4 2 13[d] 3 48 9
2016–17[55] La Liga 33 4 8 1 12[d] 4 53 9
2017–18[56] La Liga 36 2 5 0 15[f] 4 56 6
2018–19[57] La Liga 33 4 3 0 8[d] 1 1[g] 1 45 6
2019–20[58] La Liga 35 6 1 0 9[d] 1 2[e] 0 47 7
2020–21[59] La Liga 33 2 2 0 6[d] 0 41 2
2021–22[60] La Liga 3 0 3 0
Total 230 26 29 3 0 0 76 13 5 1 340 43
Rayo Vallecano (loan) 2013–14[61] La Liga 34 2 3 0 37 2
Chelsea (loan) 2021–22[62] Premier League 2 0 0 0 2 0 2[d] 0 0 0 6 0
Career total 336 36 32 3 2 0 78 13 5 1 453 53
  1. ^ Includes Copa del Rey, FA Cup
  2. ^ Includes EFL Cup
  3. ^ a b Appearance(s) in UEFA Europa League
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Appearance(s) in UEFA Champions League
  5. ^ a b Appearances in Supercopa de España
  6. ^ Six appearances and one goal in UEFA Champions League, nine appearances and three goals in UEFA Europa League
  7. ^ Appearance in UEFA Super Cup

International[edit]

As of match played 18 November 2019[63]
Appearances and goals by national team and year
National team Year Apps Goals
Spain 2016 1 0
2017 6 0
2018 8 2
2019 4 1
Total 19 3
As of match played 18 November 2019
Spain score listed first, score column indicates score after each Saúl goal[63]
List of international goals scored by Saúl
No. Date Venue Cap Opponent Score Result Competition Ref
1 8 September 2018 Wembley Stadium, London, England 11  England 1–1 2–1 2018–19 UEFA Nations League A [64]
2 11 September 2018 Estadio Manuel Martínez Valero, Elche, Spain 12  Croatia 1–0 6–0 2018–19 UEFA Nations League A [65]
3 12 October 2019 Ullevaal Stadion, Oslo, Norway 18  Norway 1–0 1–1 UEFA Euro 2020 qualifying [66]

Honours[edit]

Atlético Madrid

Spain U17

Spain U19

Spain U21

Individual

  • UEFA European Under-19 Championship Team of the Tournament: 2012[34]
  • UEFA European Under-21 Championship Golden Boot: 2017[72]
  • UEFA European Under-21 Championship Team of the Tournament: 2017[73]
  • UEFA Europa League Squad of the Season: 2017–18[74]

References[edit]

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  2. ^ "Saúl Ñíguez: Overview". Premier League. Retrieved 12 September 2021.
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  5. ^ Castelao, Eduardo J. (26 February 2016). "Saúl, sobre su paso por el Madrid: "Me castigaban, me robaban comida, botas..."" [Saúl, on his Madrid spell: "I got punished, I had food stolen, boots..."]. El Mundo (in Spanish). Retrieved 18 April 2020.
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  8. ^ "Hapoel Tel Aviv 0–3 Atletico Madrid: Diego Simeone's men begin defence of title with an easy victory over Israeli side". Goal. 20 September 2012. Retrieved 24 September 2012.
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  47. ^ Fra, Amalia (21 December 2016). "Los hermanos Ñíguez, unidos y luchando contra la esclerosis" [The Ñíguez brothers, united and fighting against sclerosis]. Diario AS (in Spanish). Retrieved 19 May 2017.
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    "Acta del Partido celebrado el 22 de agosto de 2014, en Madrid" [Minutes of the Match held on 22 August 2014, in Madrid] (in Spanish). Royal Spanish Football Federation. Retrieved 12 September 2021.
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  72. ^ "Saúl Ñíguez wins U21 EURO adidas Golden Boot". UEFA. 30 June 2017. Retrieved 30 June 2017.
  73. ^ "Official Under-21 Team of the Tournament". UEFA. 1 July 2017. Retrieved 1 July 2017.
  74. ^ "UEFA Europa League Squad of the 2017/18 Season". UEFA. 17 May 2018. Retrieved 18 May 2018.

External links[edit]