The dirge created by fanless football stadiums has certainly led to fewer iconic or treasured moments for fans of all clubs. Those last-minute winners or golazos are not really the same without the explosion of euphoria bursting forth from the stands. Nor are these instances seared into the minds of fans as effectively when they are not there to breathe in the same electric air sparked by these moments. Not that Málaga fans would have had too many occasions to jubilate in goals so far this season, as, much like last season, the team remains one of the least prolific in the Segunda División.
However, amongst those precious goals scored, there have been some real gems for us Malaguistas to enjoy through our screens. There has been Luis Muñoz’s long-range screamer this past weekend and Yanis Rahmani’s fizzing shot against Oviedo a few weeks ago, amongst others, but there is one goal that stands out above all others in regards to memorable images.
An iconic Málaga moment was undoubtedly forged earlier this season and it is one that will be engraved into modern Málaga folklore: the sight of Ramón Enríquez’s winning goal against Castellón – or more accurately the celebration that followed it. From the acutest of angles, Ramon’s shot was the cutest of the outside of the foot curlers into the far corner (modestly, Ramón admitted he didn’t mean it post-match) but then there was the celebration. It’s hard to call what Ramón did ‘a celebration’, but for the fans watching from home, the sight of the 19-year-old midfielder collapsing to his knees and crying tears of joy instantly cemented Ramón’s place in the hearts of Malaguistas. The goal, and his overall performance, also cemented Ramón as one of the first names on the teamsheet too.
Ramón featured only a handful of times from the bench last season, but this season the former Málaga youth team player has been a revelation and virtually ever-present in the Málaga engine room. And if you are going to have a player at the heart of your midfield, it helps when that player’s heart beats for the club too. Ramón’s heart and soul are painted blanquiazules. Despite heralding from the small town of Órgiva in the neighbouring Granada province, young Ramón was recruited into the Málaga ranks aged 12 and soon converted into a Malaguista, having worked his way through Málaga’s academy teams. If representing the escudo of Málaga wasn’t enough to convert him into a Malaguista, Ramón told ElDesmarque in a recent interview that the real catalyst for his love for the club was the fans and the stadium; a love triggered during a 2013 game between Málaga and Celta. “I was a ball boy, and the fans were so close. I was marked to this day.” And he has certainly made a mark on this Málaga team and the Málaga fans this season. So the news of him signing a new contract at La Rosaleda until 2024, a deal triggered by an appearance clause in his contract, was greeted with joy from all corners of Málaga.
On our Málaga CF podcast, Guiricast, we have devoted large chunks of time talking in superlatives about young Ramón, as we have gushed over his mature displays from the heart of Málaga’s midfield. On trying to describe his playing style, I rather lazily fall back on the ‘he’s a typical Spanish midfielder’ cliche, as much I try to avoid such unimaginative player profiling. Of course, by ‘typical’ I mean those technical, ball-hogging, pass-dispersing midfielders who rose to prominence in Spanish football’s 2008-2012 golden age. I am not naïve enough to compare him with the greats of that era (maybe one day), I just merely point to it as a rough template. There is still a lot to improve with Ramón, but all the attributes are there to be harnessed and moulded to help him become a fine footballer.
Usually positioned as one of the two pivots in centre-midfield, Ramón is a player who does the basics well and helps keep the team ticking over nicely in the middle of the pitch (no Málaga player has made more passes this season). Quick-footed and quick-minded, he never shies away from the ball, with a marshalling nature that gives the air of a player wise before his years. Admittedly, that sharpness has slipped slightly in recent weeks, a slight decline undoubtedly prompted by a combination of niggly injuries and general burnout, as he has been asked a lot of for such a young player playing his first season as a true first-teamer. Only two Málaga players have played more minutes than Ramón this season, showing how highly thought of he is and how vital a cog he is in this Malaga team.
Outside of Málaga, Ramón’s reputation grows too with his potential recognised by Futbol Draft. Futbol Draft (a body made up of experts from the RFEF, La Liga, CSD, AFE and AEAF who promote and celebrate the academy teams across Spain) placed Ramón in the bronze category of their list of the best young Spanish footballers, which essentially ranks him in the top 33 of Spain’s current best homegrown players (according to the Futbol Draft criteria at least). It is of great credit to Málaga that they can produce such a player, but also a necessity at the moment, as relying on youth may be the order of the day at Málaga for a while yet, thanks to the economics of the club. Thankfully, the academy is churning out other first-teamers too, such as Luis Muñoz, Ismael Casas and centre-back Juande – Malaga’s unlikely leading scorer for the season as it stands.
The reality is that Málaga’s financial situation remains precarious to say the very least and of course, in the perpetual transfer merry-go-rounding of modern football, us fans all know that an extended contract does not exactly mean a pact written in blood and that the likes of Ramón, along with Málaga’s other young breakthroughs Juande and Luis Muñoz, will almost certainly be sold in the near future. The whispers are very quiet at the moment, but there are definitely whispers out there from other Spanish clubs discussing future moves for the precocious Ramón.
For now, Ramón is committed to the Málaga cause – a cause which is still largely about solidifying in the Segunda. He is a beacon of hope for better things to come and a sign that if Málaga have to rely on their academy for the foreseeable future, then maybe that is not such a bad thing after all.