Tap and dribble. Instinct and genius. The ball stuck to the foot. These are the characteristics that have stood out from the great footballers from the Canary Islands who have triumphed in Spanish football. From fine midfielders like David Silva or Valerón to elegant center-backs like Tonono, there are several who have received the call of the national team, to which the last pearl out of the Atlantic, Pedri, has been added since this week.
With the 18-year-old Barcelona footballer, there are already 36 Canarian players who have passed through the national team. The most prominent names on the list are those of David Silva and Pedro, world and European champions, members of La Roja’s golden stage. None of them showed their talent either in Las Palmas or in Tenerife, the two most powerful teams on the islands. They packed their bags very young, but they did make their mark in the small clubs where they kicked a ball for the first time.
Pedro spent two years at CD Raqui San Isidro, a small team from the Tenerife town of Granadilla de Abona, before leaving for Barcelona at the age of 17. Nestor Frías, who was playing in the first squad at the time and is currently the club’s coordinator, remembers his emergence. “It was a surprise, he stood out above all for his attitude and effort,” he says. His departure was also unexpected. “He was not the player they came to see. Barça were following their teammate up front, Samuel, but in the end they took them both. Samuel came back with us the following year, but Pedro stayed there, ”he says.
The case of David Silva is even more surprising, since he was signed by Valencia when he was only 14 years old. The current Real Sociedad player spent only two years at UD San Fernando, in the Gran Canaria town of Maspalomas. Armando Ayus was a coach and manager at the time. “From the age of eight, you could see that he was going to go far, so he was a super scorer,” he highlights. “If you put on a video of Messi and Silva as children you see that they were the same, lefties, always with the ball hit.”
The magician from Arguineguín is considered one of the best Spanish players in history, a legend of Manchester City and of the team that won the Euro-World-Euro Cup. He is the sixth footballer who has worn the national team shirt the most times (125). Despite not being a forward, he is the fourth highest scorer in the history of La Roja with 35 goals, behind Torres (38), Raúl (44) and Villa (59). Pedro, for his part, made his debut with the 2010 World Cup team, where he surprised with a spectacular performance against Germany in the semifinals. The winger has worn the Red shirt 66 times, scoring 17 goals and winning the World Cup and Euro 2012.
But before Pedro and Silva, many other Canarians left their mark on the national team. The first to be summoned was José Padrón, nicknamed the Swedish, a native of Las Palmas, which premiered in 1929. It was followed two years later by Ángel Arocha, from Tenerife. With the outbreak of the Civil War, the first decided to go into exile in France to continue his career as a footballer there, while the other joined the national side and died in combat.
Juan Galarza is the director of historical projects for Tenerife and the author of several books on Canarian football. “There have been many cases of players who have succeeded, but very few have done so in teams here because the greats sign them quickly, as has happened with Pedri,” he says. The writer draws a parallel between the Barcelona midfielder and the case of Luis Molowny, a player from the 1950s. “Both are from Tenerife, with a lot of talent since they were young, but they left without ever having played for the island team” . Molowny played 11 seasons at Madrid, was international seven times and after his retirement, he managed to manage the national team for a short time before taking the white bench.
The golden age of Canarian football came at the end of the 60s, with the emergence of Las Palmas, which went from being in the Second Division to fighting for the league title and qualifying for European competitions. That team that reached the runner-up in 1968 was led by figures such as Tonono, Guedes, Germán Dévora or Francisco Castellano, who were selected while in Las Palmas. Tonono was for many years the Canarian with the most international appearances (22) and his fame transcended borders despite not leaving the UD. Beckenbauer, with whom he shared the position of libero, described him as one of the best defenders of his time.
That combination distilled an associative and colorful game, which has been engraved in the mentality of the canaries. Víctor Afonso has been linked to Las Palmas for more than 20 years, in which he has been a youth squad, player, captain, director of scouting and coach of the lower categories. “That team marked a style like Cruyff in Barcelona and afterwards everyone has tried to imitate him,” he says, adding that “the Canarian footballer is forged on the beaches, playing every other day, thanks to the good weather all year round.”
In his time as a footballer, Afonso shared a dressing room with Juan Carlos Valerón and Manuel Pablo, figures of the Superdepor from the early 2000s. Valerón was the one who broke Tonono’s record of appearances with the national team, playing 46 games, including the Euro Cups in 2000 and 2004, and the World Cup in 2002. Afonso remembers the Skinny as a player “of which one per generation comes out” and affirms that the closest he has seen in person is Jonathan Viera, the last Canary who had debuted with La Roja and whom he trained in the lower categories of Las Palmas together with Vitolo , also international. “Both have an immense quality and that spirit of the Canarian player who has fun with the ball regardless of everything.”
That is the fun that Pedri transfers to Canarian fans, whom they hope to enjoy for many years in the national team. All those asked in this report agree. “He is a diamond in the rough, he plays as if he did it on the beach, although he does it at the Camp Nou. But the best thing is that it is a very May sensible and humble ”.