Many children across the globe grow up with the ambition of someday playing football on the very highest stage. For Celta Vigo’s newest midfield maestro Fran Beltrán, however, this was not initially the case.
“I could not stand it. When my father put football on TV, I took the controller and turned off the television”. These were the words of Beltrán during his rapid recent growth at Rayo Vallecano, where he emerged as the club’s brightest academy graduate in many a year.
Football was never the first thing on Beltrán’s mind during his particularly early days but this did not prevent his natural talents from shining through. At the age of only eight, he was recruited by the youth academy of Getafe and a career in the game began to distinguish itself as a genuine possibility.
Beltrán has always been a person of impressive wisdom and maturity. Reflecting on his younger days at Getafe, the Spaniard has reiterated the importance that he placed upon his education outside of football, setting him up for a bright future from the outset.
As Beltrán approached his teenage years, however, he took the plunge and secured his first move away from Getafe as he penned a scholarship with Rayo Vallecano, a club which he soon developed a strong affinity for. After meeting representatives from Rayo alongside his parents, the destination soon became perfect for footballing development in the eyes of Beltrán, with a pathway to senior football in sight.
By just 16-years-old, Beltrán had made his debut for Rayo Vallecano B and was shortly after recognised on the international stage, with Spain calling the midfielder up to their Under-17 squad.
From a tender age, Beltrán had been lauded for his ability to take challenges into his stride without being fazed. So, when Rayo cult hero Roberto Trashorras opted to call time on his tenure at the club after seven seasons, a new midfield general was required. Beltrán stepped up in Trashorras’ absence and took to the challenges of senior football like a duck to water, quickly establishing himself as a talismanic figure for his club.
Beltrán was clearly one of Rayo’s most gifted talents and in the 2016/17 and 2017/18 seasons, it’d be hard to argue against hailing him as the club’s most impressive performer. The youngster’s spirited displays in central midfield inevitably piqued the interest of several La Liga clubs over this two-year period and Celta Vigo acted quickly to complete what could prove to be one of the signings of this year’s summer transfer window.
Antonio Mohamed’s side triggered Beltrán’s release clause, which was priced at a meagre fee of €8m. The maturity and technical quality that have shaped Beltrán’s stylistic credentials evidently alerted Celta, who continued their trend of recruiting exciting but inexperienced talents as they landed Rayo’s talisman.
In pre-season, Beltrán featured more than regularly for Celta and was quick to establish a partnership with the consistently impressive Stanislav Lobotka, who has been courted by top European clubs this summer. The partnership, sculpted in the very heart of Mohamed’s 4-2-3-1 setup, promised to produce intriguing results, given the mixture of passing range, energy and composure in possession.
Concerns had initially been raised regarding Beltrán’s capacity to immediately make the leap from Segunda División football to La Liga especially given his less than imposing physical stature. Nevertheless, two league games have passed and Beltrán looks at home in the top-flight of Spanish football.
In fixtures against Espanyol and Levante, the 19-year-old was in typically impressive form. He put his exceptional use of space into practice, enabling central defenders to advance beyond him along with affording his partner in crime Lobotka to play with greater freedom in the middle and final thirds.
Beltrán is happy to orchestrate the play from deep areas, initiating attacks for the talented creative options in front of him. Conversely, he is also extremely gifted off the ball; his marking of vacated space through anticipation is intelligent and Beltrán judges pressing triggers almost instinctively.
During his breakthrough period at Rayo, there were often questions raised over which position in central midfield would be best attributed to Beltrán’s qualities. Having previously claimed to have adopted the role of a media punta, the Spanish midfielder now operates most efficiently as a mobile number six, capable of sweeping up between the defensive and midfield lines and progressing passing sequences.
On more than one occasion since his rise to prominence, Beltrán has been quizzed on his footballing idols. As he continued to demonstrate exceptional passing ability and vision while at Rayo, it came as no surprise to hear that PSG star Marco Verratti is a someone who Beltrán views as a comparable footballer to himself: “He is a player with whom I feel very identified by my qualities and, whenever I can, I like to see him play.”
Beltrán is similarly sized to his self-admitted idol Verratti but for what he lacks in physical stature, he makes up for in awareness and tireless work ethic. Games rarely pass the energetic midfielder by and as a consequence of his ability to shift the ball in an efficient and clever manner, his small frame has not proved to be a hindrance in La Liga so far.
A quintessential, young Spanish midfielder but with an added dimension of energy and intent married with his technical skills, Beltrán appears to be destined for great things. The next step for now must be the establishment of his place in the Celta team, but there is no limit to what the Seseña-born midfielder can achieve.
The beautiful game which Beltrán once “could not stand” has now captured his heart and the future of Celta Vigo appears to be in safe hands with their new metronomic midfielder.
By: Luke Osman
Foto: Atlántico Diario