Talking Points | Sarabia brings Champions League experience to Molineux

The 30-year-old, who will get his first taste of Premier League football this season, will bring a wealth of experience to the West Midlands, having played at the highest level in Spain and France, and wolves.co.uk has expanded on four talking points from Sarabia’s career to date.

#1 Growing up with the Galacticos

Born in Madrid, Sarabia was destined to play for his hometown club. Having played for a local football club as a youngster, Real Madrid came calling when he was just 12, signing him up for their famous youth academy. The midfielder progressed through all of Real’s age categories and into the club’s B team, Real Madrid Castilla, where he played for the first time in January 2010. His debut for Castilla came in Segunda Divisions B, the third tier of Spanish football, in a league match against Alcorcon, coming off the bench for the final 32 minutes, replacing current Cadiz centre-back Luis Hernandez, in a 2-1 loss for the young Real side.

However, it didn’t find him long to settle into the side, scoring on just his second appearance on 17th January 2010, to help Castilla to a 5-2 win over Rayo Cantabria, adding his team’s second after now-Leeds United man Rodrigo opened the scoring. Following an impressive 12 months with the team, Sarabia was called up to the senior Real side for the first time in December 2010 for a UEFA Champions League fixture with Auxerre. Wearing the number 33 shirt, he replaced Cristiano Ronaldo for the final 28 minutes of the tie, as Real claimed a 4-0 win.

#2 Becoming a La Liga regular

That Champions League night at the Santiago Bernabeu was the only time Sarabia stepped out in the white and gold of Real Madrid. Having spent the rest of the 2010/11 season becoming a key man for Castilla, it was n’t long until La Liga clubs came calling for his services from him – and it was Getafe who were the recipients of the midfielder’s talents. Staying in Madrid, Sarabia’s move to Getafe came with an option that allowed Real to buy him back after two years if they so wished. Having not played top-flight football while at Real, his first experience of La Liga came off the bench. With 31 minutes of Getafe’s home clash with Levante remaining, and the game goalless, Sarabia was given his chance – and just two minutes later his team took the lead.

Sarabia’s five years at Getafe got off to a positive start, as he set up teammate Juan Valera to score the only goal of a memorable 1-0 home win over Barcelona, ​​while it was also against Barca that Sarabia opened his own La Liga account, as he came off the bench to score what ended up being a consolation strike in a 4-1 loss. Five years at Azulones, which saw Sarabia score 14 goals in 145 appearances, ended in disappointing fashion for the midfielder, as Getafe were relegated to the second tier. With his stock rising with each season, he quickly found himself back in the top-flight with Sevilla. A goal and two assists on his La Liga debut for the club immediately proved his worth to the team, and Sarabia continued to progress is career during three years in Andalusia. In that time, he increases his tally to 52 goals in all competitions.

#3 Making his return to European football

During his time at Sevilla, Sarabia also made a return to playing European football. After experiencing the Champions League on his only senior appearance for Real, his fourth appearance of the 2016/17 campaign saw him back in the competition as he played 64 minutes of Sevilla’s goalless draw away at Juventus. Despite not finding the net in the group stages, his headed opener helped the side to a 2-1 home win over Leicester City in the last 16 first leg, but a 2-0 loss in the East Midlands brought an end to their run. Sarabia experienced another run to the Champions League knockout stages the following season. After two draws with Liverpool in the group stages, they overcame Manchester United in the last 16 to make the quarter-finals. The first leg saw Sarabia find the net at home to Bayern Munich, but it was déjà vu, as his goal was again not enough to secure passage further into the competition. His final season in Spain ended in disappointment as Sevilla could only finish 6th in La Liga and were dumped out of the Europa League in the last 16 to Slavia Prague.

Just a month after Lopetegui took over at the club in the summer of 2019, Sarabia was sold to PSG. His first season in France saw the midfielder dispatch the winning penalty to secure his club the 2020 Coupe de la Ligue title against Lyon, while he also featured regularly off the bench to help the club into the Champions League final. Despite goals against former club Real Madrid as well as Galatasaray in the group stages, Sarabia was left on the bench for the final as Bayern came out on top with a 1-0 win. Further league and cup titles followed while he was in Paris, but with starts limited, he spent a hugely successful season-long loan spell at Sporting CP in Portugal, with whom he found the net 21 times in 25 matches, won the Portuguese League Cup , while reaching the 2021/22 Champions League last 16, which ended in defeat to Manchester City. Sarabia was back with PSG at the start of this season, and after three group stages appearances in the Champions League, he leaves the club having come just shy of making 100 appearances and scoring 22 goals.

#4 For club and country

A prolific international youth team player, Sarabia has featured at every level for Spain, from under-16s all the way to the senior side. His first cap for his country came in 2008 as he scored twice in three appearances for the under-16s. Throughout his early years with Spain, Sarabia also featured at the 2009 U17 FIFA World Cup in Nigeria. During that tournament, he played in every Spanish match, having scored and claimed an assist in his side’s opening win against the USA. However, their run ended in the semi-finals to the hosts. His first interaction with his new Wolves boss came during his time with the under-19s. With Lopetegui a coach under Gines Melendez, Sarabia was handed the captain’s armband ahead of the UEFA European U19 championships. Once again, he scored in his country’s opening fixture, to secure a 4-1 win over Belgium, before his second of the competition came in a thrashing of a Republic of Ireland side which included then-Wolves men Aaron McCarey and Anthony Forde . Spain went on to win the competition after a 3-2 win over Czech Republic in the final.

Having also represented the under-21s, Sarabia was handed his inaugural senior cap by Robert Moreno in August 2019 for a pair of Euro 2020 qualifying matches against Romania and the Faroe Islands, making his debut off the bench on 77 minutes in the former match as Spain secured a 2-1 win. He didn’t have to wait long to find the back of the net on the international stage, as he played 90 minutes of a 7-0 rubbing of Malta and scored Spain’s fourth goal of the evening. Although he was not called up again for another six months, he was included in Luis Enrique’s Euro 2020 squad, scoring twice in the competition, one in a 5-0 win over Slovakia, before adding another in their 5-3 extra time victory against Croatia in the last 16. Sarabia has since scored against Georgia, Greece, Switzerland and Czech Republic, as well as netting a brace in a friendly over Iceland, during the following year, earning him a call up to the 2022 World Cup, although his only appearance in Qatar came as late substitute in the last 16 defeat to Morocco.

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