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Scouting from the stands: Camello flashes serious potential in Rayo’s thrashing of Cádiz

Granted, the visitors played with nine men for most of the second half. But Atlético’s on-loan forward showed he could mature into a high-quality player.

Rayo Vallecano v Cadiz CF - LaLiga Santander Photo by Diego Souto/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

On Saturday afternoon, I went to Campo de Fútbol de Vallecas to watch Rayo Vallecano de Madrid and Cádiz CF. My rationale? I’m (finally) visiting Spain for the first time, I had never attended a Spanish top flight match, and I’m staying in an AirBNB less than 10 minutes’ walking time from the stadium.

So I walked over and found my seat all the way toward the end of a row in the Tribuna Alta Lateral, in the stand closest to Avenida de la Albufera facing a couple residential buildings that overlook the stadium. It was really neat to look over and see multiple people crack open their windows and just watch parts of the match from across the street.

Ten-man Rayo eventually ran out 5-1 winners against nine-man Cádiz on a beautiful afternoon, finally opening the floodgates moments before halftime. I was seated in the away section, surrounded by a throng of excitable but frustrated Cádiz fans (who probably already sense their team will be playing in Segunda next year).

I had been looking forward to catching a Rayo game because I know Andoni Iraola’s team plays good football — they had just snatched a point off Atlético Madrid at the Cívitas Metropolitano, after all. But once I saw the starting lineups, I immediately keyed in on forward Sergio Camello, an Atleti academy graduate playing on loan at Vallecas this season.

The 21-year-old didn’t disappoint.

Camello played the whole match, scored the hosts’ fourth goal and set up their fifth. He shrugged off some initial struggles and, even against an opponent down two players, showed he has the potential to be a reliable forward for a long time.

To say “Rayo dominated this game” would be an understatement.

In the first half, Iraola’s men rang up 14 shots to 1 for Cádiz. The final margin was 28-3 (apologies to any Atlanta Falcons fans reading). Cádiz right-back Iza was sent off in the 42nd minute for a bad challenge in the penalty area on Álvaro García — the underrated Isi Palazón converted the subsequent penalty, and García himself blasted in Rayo’s second just before the half-time whistle.

Making matters worse for the Andalusian visitors, industrious midfielder Rubén Alcaraz was shown a second yellow card just after the hour. Center-back Florian Lejeune’s sweetly-hit free kick made the score 3-0 shortly after.

On 79 minutes, Camello grabbed his second goal of the season and Rayo’s fourth of the contest. Isi played a one-two with Randy Nteka and slipped the ball through Cádiz’s motionless back line, when Camello’s patience paid off. The Madrid native took two touches and calmly slotted the ball past Conan Ledesma with his right foot.

But the day was far from over. Defender Iván Balliu deflected the ball into his own net (much to the delight of the Cádiz fans around me) and Nteka was sent off (which I didn’t actually see because of the aforementioned Cádiz fans) before Camello linked up with Lejeune for Rayo’s fifth.

From a corner, Camello deftly (and perhaps fortunately) headed the ball down toward the back post for the unmarked Lejeune, who tapped home to restore the four-goal advantage. Camello’s 89th-minute assist was his second of the season, and the final result moved the mighty Rayo within three points of the top six.

The two goal contributions should also please Diego Simeone and Atlético de Madrid’s leaders, in addition to Rayo’s supporters.

Early on, Camello (5’9’’) had a challenge navigating around Cádiz’s bigger central defenders Luís Hernández and Víctor Chust (both six feet tall). He had a quiet first half, with 11 touches, zero shot attempts, and one shot assist among his six completed passes (from six attempted).

Overall, he touched the ball just 21 times in 90 minutes, but ended up with three key passes and three shot attempts to his name, scoring with his sole shot on target.

Camello, who bagged 15 goals at second-division Mirandés a season ago, isn’t the tallest or strongest forward. But Iraola, one of the league’s top coaches over the past two seasons, seems to understand how to maximize Camello’s body positioning and intelligent movement (he strayed offside only once on Saturday). Isi and Álvaro are the players around whom the coach has built his team, so Camello gets to run the channels and lie in wait for one of those players to deliver him the ball.

Of course, that prospect is easier when the opponent is playing with nine men instead of 11. Still, it’s not difficult to see a guy as agile and instinctive as Camello fashioning a productive career in LaLiga. And his parent club might need him as soon as 2023/24.

Rayo Vallecano v Cadiz CF - LaLiga Santander Photo by Diego Souto/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images

Álvaro Morata has enjoyed a good start to the season, but Spain’s nine needs young, capable competition at the Metropolitano. Matheus Cunha does not seem to possess the killer touch of someone like fellow Brazilian and former Rojiblanco Diego Costa, while João Félix’s future at the club has been thrown into doubt, to say the least. More supporting strikers aren’t needed either, with Ángel Correa and Antoine Griezmann both on contracts to 2026.

All this to say: Camello — whose Atlético contract also runs four more years — might have a place in Simeone’s squad next season. He could bring some friends with him, too, in the form of fellow loanees Rodrigo Riquelme (three goals at Girona) and Samuel Lino, who has been tearing it up at Valencia.

If all goes well, and Camello keeps his place when Raúl de Tomás rejoins Rayo in January, how nice would it be to incorporate that much young talent into Atlético’s first team at once and properly set up the next generation?