Robert Moreno giving young players the platform to shine at Granada

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02.11.2021, Fussball UEFA Championsleague 2021/2022: Vorrunde, 4.Spieltag, FC Bayern München - Benfica Lissabon, in der Allianz-Arena München. Adidas Spielball *** 02 11 2021, Football UEFA Champions League 2021 2022 preliminary round, Matchday 4, FC Bayern Munich Benfica Lisbon, at Allianz Arena Munich Adidas match ball.

Life was never going to be easy once Diego Martinez walked away from Granada, following three spectacular seasons of unprecedented success for the modest Andalusian club, which even included a run to the UEFA Europa League quarter-finals last season. When he was installed as the new manager at the start of the 2021-22 season, former Spain boss Robert Moreno already knew that he faced a huge challenge, filled with high expectations.

Moreno had initially spoken of another push for Europe, convinced he could continue the legacy his popular predecessor had left behind. Nevertheless, reality had other ideas and the team endured an awful start to the campaign. The new boss had attempted to implement an entirely different style, based around passing and possession that clearly didn’t suit this team, rather than the direct and physical approach for which Granada had become known.

Granada failed to win any of their opening seven LaLiga games, before beating Sevilla brought some relief to a manager who was now under fire, both in terms of disappointing results and a personality that rubbed fans the wrong way. Seemingly clear that if performances and results didn’t improve swiftly, his tenure at the club would be short-lived, Moreno began adapting his tactics to better suit the players, switching to a 4-4-2 shape. Certain fans and Granada writers like myself were soon forced to eat their own words.

Results began to improve significantly, almost as if a switch had been flicked, despite notable injury absentees including centre-back Domingos Duarte, who was replaced by emerging talent from the B team. While some unscrupulous observers hinted that 20-year-old Raul Torrente looked like ‘Bambi on ice’ when he debuted in the starting eleven, that first outing in Bilbao was the start of an unbeaten run in LaLiga that would last seven games.

Torrente was always highly rated by the B team coaching staff, and aside from the initial nerves, his levels of performance were highly impressive. During that unbeaten run, the young defender never looked out of place, solid and assured at the back as Granada beat Atletico Madrid and held Barcelona at Nuevo Los Carmenes. Having earned Moreno’s full confidence, Torrente will certainly be one to watch as he continues to develop.

Another young homegrown prospect is 20-year-old midfielder Isma Ruiz, who made his first LaLiga start in a baptism of fire during the 2-1 win against Atletico Madrid. Alongside the always impressive Luis Milla, the B team talent showed excellent composure, almost as if he were already an experienced first team regular. More minutes on the pitch will certainly help Ruiz to evolve, given that Moreno now considers him part of the first team squad.

Thanks to the busy activity of sporting director Pep Boada, who previously spent 17 years at Barcelona, the January transfer window brought opportunities for Moreno to shuffle the pack. Despite having enjoyed plenty of opportunities, Monchu was offloaded to Real Valladolid on loan with an option to buy, joining Abram on the exit ramp of poor signings from the previous summer. Granada also cashed in on Darwin Machis, who departed for Charlotte FC in the MLS.

Barcelona winger Alex Collado was brought in on loan, finally getting the opportunity to prove himself in LaLiga, while the flurry of transfer for Granada in January continued. Further width was added with the arrival of Myrto Uzuni from Ferencvaros, then Dani Raba on a free transfer, after his contract was rescinded at Villarreal. But the most notable moves were for young prospects, as Moreno and Granada look to continue building for the future.

22-year-old Njegos Petrovic was a bargain capture from Red Star Belgrade, with the Serbian midfielder considered to have a bright future ahead. Granada then swooped for one of the most exciting South American prospects around, landing 19-year-old Uruguayan striker Matias Arezo from River Plate Montevideo, moving quickly ahead of apparently strong interest from Atletico Madrid. All five January signings featured in the narrow 1-0 defeat at Real Madrid, indicating that Moreno is eager to get them adapted quickly and playing regularly for his team.

39-year-old veteran Jorge Molina will inevitably act as the counterbalance, dependable as ever and skewing the average age of this current Granada squad, yet it seems Moreno is also keen to put his faith in the growing list of youthful talents at his disposal. Looking through the odds at some of the best football betting sites, amidst detailed reviews for safety and security provided by Arabian Betting, the future of Granada in LaLiga is anything but certain.

Granada remain amongst the sides considered to be in the thick of a relegation battle, even if they do have a slight safety cushion of points above the bottom three. This presents an interesting risk/reward scenario for Moreno, as experience in the fight for survival will undoubtedly be vital towards that aim, although youthful enthusiasm can also provide an important edge for this team.

Whatever fate has in store for Granada through to the end of the 2021-22 season, watching how these young talents adapt and evolve will certainly make for interesting viewing. Likewise, it could offer a clear indication of how this modest club is planning for the future, taking a positive long view ahead and planning accordingly. It could also be the direction which changes opinions about Moreno, who now seems ideally placed to guide these exciting young talents.