We have seen many potentially great players make their breakthrough into senior level Spanish football in recent years, from Koke and Isco to the likes of Denis Suárez, Paco Alcácer and Gerard Deulofeu. After his rise over the last 2 years, Ayoze Pérez has been added to that list. Clearly a talented young forward, Ayoze has risen to prominence at Tenerife and Newcastle United and is now a Spanish youth international. Could he become a senior international for Spain? The talent is definitely there. It’s in Ayoze’s hands – or feet – to put in the required hard work into realising his undoubted potential.
Who is Ayoze Pérez?
Ayoze Pérez Gutiérrez was born in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, a capital city of the Canary Islands, on the 23rd of July in 1993. Ayoze joined his local team Club Deportivo San Andrés as a 5-year-old in 1998 and spent 4 years there before taking his talents to the bigger platform of Unión Deportivo Cruz Santa in the north of the island. In 2004, aged 11, Ayoze took another step up the ladder as he joined the cantera of the island’s most established football club – Club Deportivo Tenerife.
Ayoze would spend all of his formative years in Tenerife’s youth system, culminating in his debut for Tenerife B in 2011. He would go on to make a total of 35 appearances and score 11 goals for Tenerife B in the Spanish 4th Division across the 2011/12 and 2012/13 seasons. In the midst of his 2-year spell with Tenerife B, Ayoze had impressed enough to feature at 1st-team level in 2012/13. He went on to make 16 appearances and score his 1st senior goal for Tenerife in 2012/13, with the team winning promotion to the Segunda División.
The 2013/14 campaign that Ayoze had would’ve been beyond his wildest dreams. Ayoze was named Player Of The Month in March – after 4 goals and 1 assist in 4 appearances – as well as April 2014. Tenerife ended that season in 11th place and 7 points off a promotion playoff spot, a good achievement in their 1st season back in La Segunda after a 2-year absence. Ayoze featured 34 times in La Segunda, scoring 16 goals and providing 7 assists as he shone as one of the revelations of that year’s Spanish 2nd Division. He scored 3 braces – against Hércules, Lugo and local rivals Las Palmas – and 1 hat-trick against Ponferradina. Ayoze’s contribution of 16 goals is even more impressive when one notes that Tenerife scored 46 league goals in total. Ayoze showed that he could perform on big occasions; Of his 16 goals and 7 assists, 3 goals and 5 assists were against teams that finished the season in the top 7 placings – the likes of Eibar, Deportivo La Coruña, Barça B and Córdoba.
After his amazing breakthrough season at 1st-team level, Ayoze Pérez was named the Segunda División’s Breakthrough Player and Best Attacking Midfielder of the 2013/14 season. Ayoze was also voted into the league’s 2013/14 Best XI. With plenty of clubs interested in acquiring his talents, FC Barcelona, Real Madrid and FC Porto to name a few, Ayoze Pérez left Spain for Newcastle-upon-Tyne in the Summer of 2014.
“There was interest from Barça and Real Madrid. It’s true the Newcastle bid was quite surprising because firstly there were other teams interested but they pushed very hard to get me. I’ve always loved the Premier League but the main reason I came was how the club valued me.” Ayoze Pérez on joining Newcastle United
Alongside the transfer deal, Ayoze’s brother Samuel was signed by local semi-professional outfit Blyth Spartans. It has proved to be a smart move as it ensured Ayoze was not isolated off the pitch in his first few months of adaptation to life in Newcastle – Samuel Pérez has since returned to Spain to pursue a professional career in the lower divisions. In fact, Ayoze has succeeded yet again and has shone in his debut season at St James’ Park. Ayoze Pérez has been one of the few bright spots in Newcastle United’s miserable 2014/15 campaign.
Style of Play, Strengths and Weaknesses
Ayoze is primarily a forward and has proven to be an adept finisher in front of goal. He is also versatile in being able to play in any attacking position, be it out wide, as an out-and-out striker or behind a centre forward.
“Ayoze is a really great individual talent who is working very hard. He hasn’t got quite the strength and power that you associate with the Premier League but that will come to him. He has a knack (in the penalty box). He has a lot to learn but you know that if something falls for him he will score. I was lucky to have a quick glass of wine with Sir Alex Ferguson and Ayoze caught Sir Alex’s eye.” Alan Pardew on Ayoze Pérez
Ayoze possesses a good level of football intelligence. This intelligence enables him to hurt the opposition with his pace and technical quality. Decision-making is key in football and the young forward has shown the nous of knowing when and how to use his pace and technical skill to maximum effect. Ayoze’s off-ball movement has been good but mistakes – for example, turning into a cul-de-sac when he drifts out wide – are there, as anyone would expect from a developing player. Inside the opposition box, Ayoze has shown the ability to make smart off-ball runs into spaces where his teammates can find him. This “knack” for scoring goals is evident in the goals he has scored this season, as smart movement allowed him to get into the right areas to get on the end of things.
Over the years, there have been a good number of young prospects who clearly had the technical skill and flair to be great players but just lacked the footballing intelligence required. Ayoze Pérez does not fall into that category. The ex-Tenerife forward has the intelligence to know when and where to pull out his bag of tricks to, for example, create that extra yard of space for a shot at goal. This has helped Ayoze successfully negotiate the step up from La Segunda to the Premier League.
Physically, Ayoze has a slight build. However, standing at 1.78m, he is taller than one would expect of another one of the seemingly “dime a dozen” young Spanish talents that have emerged in recent years. With a weight of 68kg, physical strength is clearly not one of his major qualities. He has gained some muscle mass over the course of this past 2014/15 season and will probably continue putting on more muscle over the next few years. Despite his lack of brute strength, Ayoze’s intelligence has at times allowed him to hold his own against bigger opponents.
Ayoze has a well-rounded technical skill set. He is comfortable with using either foot to strike a ball, be it making a pass/cross or taking a shot at goal. This comfort with both feet, coupled with his impressive close control, makes Ayoze a dangerous player on the dribble, as he is able to be a threat regardless of which way he goes instead of being easily neutralised whenever shown onto a “weaker foot”.
As part of the team, Ayoze’s football intelligence, versatility and technical skill has allowed him to use his pace to stretch opposition defences when he runs the channels, mainly the space between central defenders and fullbacks. He also has the work ethic to track back to help his teammates whenever the opposition have the ball. This ensures that he is not a passenger or a “luxury player” that his team has to carry.
“He’s a reference for every single young player coming through. Organised, disciplined and hardworking – it makes me proud because we see in him the hard work of many years.” Sesé Rivero, head of Tenerife’s cantera, on Ayoze Pérez
In front of goal, he has displayed calm and composure and has showcased a variety of finishes from his time at Tenerife as well as in Newcastle’s famous black & white. At Tenerife, he executed finishes such as blasting a ball in from an angle, placing the ball through the legs of a goalkeeper who rushed off his line and even curling the ball into the top corner of the far post from an angle on the inside left of the box after cutting in onto his right foot. At Newcastle, Ayoze has scored, amongst others, a header against Spurs, a poacher’s effort against Liverpool and, what I’d consider the best of the lot, a sublime backheel flick against West Brom. Another impressive goal of Ayoze’s, which went viral on the Internet, was an individual effort against Carlisle United in a friendly match (see video below) – picking up the ball on the right flank, Ayoze tricked his way past an opponent as he cut inward before his twisting and turning sent a 2nd opponent on his bottom. He then feigned to shoot to burst past a 3rd player before slotting the ball past the Carlisle goalkeeper.
From his time at Tenerife, Ayoze has proven that he has the ability to not only score goals but also to create chances and lay on assists for his teammates. At Newcastle, Ayoze has primarily been tasked with playing as an out-and-out centre forward. He has been impressive in that role. With regards to his position and role in a team, I would class Ayoze as a 9.5 type of forward – versatile as aforementioned and with a holistic skill set that allows him to both score and create goals.
What does the future hold?
With just 1 season of top flight experience, Ayoze would be best served staying at Newcastle United for the near future at least. He has firmly cemented his spot in the pecking order as a regular starter and, with his impressive performances this season, he should continue to feature regularly even if new signings are made in his position. His versatility of playing in any attacking position definitely helps him in this regard.
“It would be a mistake to start thinking about that now, it is too early. I’ve only been at Newcastle a few months and I am very happy. I continue to work as usual and I am in no rush.” Ayoze Pérez on his future in March 2015
In the long-term, the sky’s the limit for Ayoze. By all accounts of coaches and teammates, he is a humble person and also a hard worker. He is currently a Spanish U-21 international, after his sensational breakthrough at Tenerife and his debut season on Tyneside. If he puts in the hard work, he stands a good chance of potentially joining the likes of Paco Alcácer and Rodrigo Moreno as the next generation of La Roja forwards. We’ve seen time and again cases where a promising footballer makes a transfer at the wrong time and/or to the wrong club. It is crucial that Ayoze chooses his inevitable next move carefully, making the next step up to a bigger club at the right time.
Ayoze Pérez has his feet firmly on the ground but could soon have his name in the lights.
Written by Mark Ooi.
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