By joining up with Gines Melendez's Spain squad for July's UEFA European U-19 Championship in Poland, striker Alberto Bueno knew he would be forsaking most of his summer holidays. However, any regrets the young striker may have felt disappeared after his brace in the final earned Spain their fourth continental title in the category and secured the player a share of the tournament top-scorer award with Turkey's Ilhan Parlak. All in all, not a bad summer's work.
After his heroics in Poland, Bueno received a further boost with the news that his club side Real Madrid Castilla (the Spanish giant's second team currently playing in the second division) wanted him to join the squad for pre-season training. The promotion marked another important step in the player's quest to one day line out for the Madrid first eleven. "I hope I can do enough to convince the coach to stick with me. I feel I have a chance of doing that as, up until now, I've done well and taken full advantage of the opportunity I was given with the national team," he tells FIFA.com with a confident air.
Alberto first showed his flair for the beautiful game on the playing fields of Moratalaz, the Madrid suburb where he was eventually spotted by one of the Merengues' talent scouts. After impressing in subsequent trials, Bueno established himself in the club's youth team. Today, he balances the demands of training with Real Madrid Castilla under Spanish legend Míchel and studying to complete his secondary school education.
Satisfied with his accomplishments to date, though still hungry for more, the striking sensation of the Spain youth team talked at length with FIFA.com.
Alberto, how did you feel after securing the European title
with your two goals against Scotland?
I felt great joy. I'm really happy about it and would like to thank everyone who encouraged and supported us. My family told me that Spain was abuzz with news of our achievements. When we arrived home, we got a great reception from the fans and the media. It's important to give publicity to what we did, because it's hard to reach the heights when you're young. That kind of support is always welcome, which is why we're so grateful to everyone who helped us.
Spain came across as a very industrious and reliable team
in Poland. Was that the perception in the squad during the
We were a very serious and compact side with a strong team-ethic. We were also a group of 18 and 19-year-olds, to which the more experienced players brought support and guidance, and the younger ones a touch of freshness, joy and audacity. I think our strength lies in our wholeness; we're not missing anything. In addition, we prepared extremely well in the 15-day training camp in Madrid before the finals in Poland. The coaching staff took great care of us, and in the end everything worked out just as we'd hoped.
Was the fact that the players knew each other for a long
Guys like Mario, Pique and Barragan, I only really got to know this year, as I'm a year younger than most of them. In contrast, I know Capel, Jeffrey, Mata and the other guys my age very well, as we've been playing together for a long time. The mixture of these two groups has worked well and, as you saw in the European qualifiers and finals themselves, we make a good team.
Youth coach Gines Melendez has been working with many of
you since U-16 level. How important is this knowledge he has of the
As well as coaching and instructing us, Gines has taken great care to educate and develop the players he has at his disposal. His great skill as a coach has been enhanced by the staff he has supporting him and the talented players in his squad.
The final against Scotland was a great occasion. What do
you remember most about that day?
Things were going well for me in the days leading up to the final. I'd had a couple of good games, though none that I was completely satisfied with. I was fully focused during the final and in the days before it. The decider against Scotland was completely different from the earlier group match between the teams, which we won 4-0, and they gave us a great game. I left the stadium very happy to have helped the team to victory with my two goals, the first of which I have particularly fond memories of.
It is said that your style of play is similar to that of
Raul. Has he been a role model for you?
People have been saying I move like Raul ever since I was a kid. Flattering as that is, I think I have my own way of playing and do certain things different to him. I want to keep working and hopefully follow a similar path to his, as that would be a good sign [of my progress].
Those of us in the youth academies at Madrid always follow those players who have managed to come though the ranks and make it with the first team. That's why for us Raul is a player to follow. Another striker I really like is Ronaldo. The way he moves and shoots make him the best front man in the world to my mind.
Is it even harder than usual to make it with a team as big
as Real Madrid?
For me, Real Madrid are obviously the best team in the world, with impressive players in every position. Those of us in the youth teams know how difficult it is to break into the senior side, which is why we have to make the absolute most of every opportunity that comes our way. Difficult though it is, we never give up hope of one day playing for the first team.
What are your personal goals at this stage in your
My goal is to convince the coach that I can play in this team. We have a long season ahead of us, and I hope to get a chance to show I'm capable of doing a very good job here.
I also hope to continue making progress with the national team. The [FIFA U-20] World Cup is still some way off, and so I prefer to take things step by step. I'd like to be part of all the training camps that take place over the next year so as to be able to earn my place at Canada 2007.
And finally, what is your goal for Canada 2007?
We need to prepare very well in the year ahead to ensure we arrive in Canada in the best possible condition. That means every member of the squad needs to work hard if we want to make sure we repeat the success we enjoyed here at the European championship. It'll be very tough as there'll be very good sides there, but with a lot of effort, we could do very well.