Though possibly not as common as in the past, children following in their parents’ career footsteps remains a regular occurrence, whether it be carrying on a family business or pursuing the same profession. The latter was the route chosen by Ecuadorian midfielder Carlos Gruezo, who is here on Mexican soil preparing to meet Brazil on 29 June in the Round of 16 at the FIFA U-17 World Cup 2011.    

His father, former striker Carlos Gruezo senior, enjoyed a distinguished professional career spanning nearly 15 years, taking in spells at domestic clubs such as Barcelona, Espoli and Nacional, as well as a sojourn in Saudi Arabia. And though holding a healthy respect for his namesake’s achievements, 16-year-old Gruezo junior has no qualms about telling that “I hope to enjoy a better career than he did."

Hopefully I’ll have a lot more World Cups to come too. 

Ecuador's versatile Gruezo

Nor does the ambitious youngster, who plies his trade for homeland outfit Independiente Jose Teran, seem deterred that La Tricolor’s path to glory here in Mexico is blocked by Brazil. “Right now I’m fully focused on becoming a world champion. In the future I dream of playing for a European team like Barcelona or Real Madrid. That’s something I’ve wanted to do since I was a child.”

According to Ecuador U-17 coach Javier Rodriguez, the midfielder does have what it takes to go far in the game. “He might be younger than the rest of the lads but he has something that sets him apart: a mature attitude and a very strong personality. He’s got the ingredients you need for success: he’s aggressive, disciplined, intelligent and creative. Those things are what matter most in a player.”

Self-belief to the fore
Soft-spoken, yet frank and forceful with his choice of words, the player exudes a sense of self-belief and quiet determination. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that Rodriguez is happy to play Gruezo in the vital holding midfield role, despite him being just one of six Ecuador squad members born in 1995. “He’s got some things that you’re born with or you’re not, while there are other aspects of his game that he can still work on. So we’re talking about a lad who’s still growing as a player and a person,” said coach Rodriguez, who has deployed Jose Cevallos and creator-in-chief Junior Sornoza alongside Gruezo in midfield.

Composed but committed, the young enforcer is particularly adept at patrolling the area in front of the back four. Allied to his neat distribution, Gruezo is an influential figure in ensuring Ecuador are able to effectively and accurately bring the ball out from defensive areas. This notable all-round ability helps explain the player’s versatility, having played in a number of positions since first starting out in club football at age eight. Indeed, he is even named on Ecuador’s squad list here at Mexico 2011 as a forward.

“I’m currently using him as a holding midfielder in the centre, but he can play up front, as a winger or as a wide midfielder,” said coach Rodriguez, with Gruezo himself stating that “I really like playing as a box-to-box midfielder, with the freedom to move and get around the pitch”.

He certainly knows his way around the penalty area, as proved when scoring his side’s consolation in their 6-1 opening-day thrashing by Germany, though he will hope any subsequent goals help secure his team a more positive result. “That goal really meant a lot to me. It gave me more confidence for the rest of the competition ahead.”

And having now played and scored at a FIFA finals, Carlos junior’s plan to outdo his father appears to be well under way. “My dad played for Ecuador U-20s, but he was never fortunate enough to play at a World Cup. So, he told me that I’m already achieving what he couldn’t, just by getting this far," we went on. "That’s a really big deal for me, it makes me doubly motivated to know that I’m playing in a World Cup at the age of just 16, and that I’ve got a long future ahead of me. Hopefully I’ll have a lot more World Cups to come too.”