Álvaro Djaló (Madrid, 1999) made his debut in the Portuguese First Division on 12 February, just nine months ago. And he did it at the age of 23, an age that in this football that goes at full speed, with 17-year-olds treading the grass of the elite, is hardly considered "young". But Djaló has gone from zero to a hundred like his football: fast, vertical, impulsive. Suddenly he is the star of Sporting Braga, a Champions League team, he scored a goal against Real Madrid in the first leg of the group stage, he has been renewed until 2027, he has been given a release clause of 20 million euros, Athletic Club and Luis de la Fuente want him, the national coach, has him on his list of favourites to go to the next Spain call-up. His story is like him: a bolt of lightning.

His parents exchanged Guinea-Bissau for Spain before he was born and he came into the world in Vallecas, which he barely remembers because when he was very young his family moved to Bilbao. In San Miguel de Basauri, on the outskirts of the big city, he grew up in life and football. His gang of friends is still there and visits them every summer, although now, installed in Europe's top football competition, it will be more and more difficult for him. The last holidays will have been the last of some tranquility if Álvaro confirms during the rest of the season what he has promised at the beginning.

He has nine goals and three assists in 19 games and has become undisputed for Artur Jorge, the man to whom he owes his explosion in Braga. Until fate brought him together, nothing was clear in Djaló's football career. He trained at Unión Deportiva San Miguel de Basauri and Sociedad Deportiva Begoña, but at the age of 17 and after offering and being rejected by Athletic, he decided to start from scratch in Portugal. He didn't go through any important academy until he landed, almost on the rebound, at Sporting, and he hasn't been on the radar of the national team's youth teams either. In Lezama they didn't want him, they say, because he was too short. A similar reason to the one he was given at Benfica. And now, it's a matter of fate, at San Mamés they are pining for him.

Athletic's interest

Djaló is the cousin of Malcom Abdulai Ares Djaló, a red-and-white academy graduate who is already one of Ernesto Valverde's first team, and sounds like a luxury reinforcement for a Bilbao team that could lose Nico Williams in the short term, desired by the big clubs on the continent. Djaló's release clause is €20 million, something that would fit into Athletic's intentions, and the player has already made clear his desire to wear the shirt of the team of his life. "All my friends are from Athletic," he said. Despite being born in Madrid and not having come through Lezama's youth academy, his case would fit into Athletic's philosophy.

The Basque club assures that "players who have been made in the academy itself and those trained in clubs in the Basque Country, which encompasses the following territorial demarcations: Bizkaia, Gipuzkoa, Araba, Nafarroa, Lapurdi, Zuberoa and Nafarroa Behera, can play in its ranks", so there would be no problem with Djaló, who has lived in Basauri for more than a decade.

His explosion, crowned with the goal against Madrid a couple of weeks ago, has not gone unnoticed at the Ciudad del Fútbol in Las Rozas, where Luis de la Fuente has written his name on the list of options he has for the call-ups prior to the next European Championship. The coach is attentive to all the profiles of fast, dribbling and vertical footballers, characteristics that he sometimes misses in his line-ups. In Norway, for example, Ansu and Ferran started on the wings and Pedraza ended up being a substitute from the bench. Hence the quick call to Bryan Zaragoza, the Granada winger. Djaló, who could also play for Guinea-Bissau, has decided to play for Spain if he is asked to: "I am aware that my family is from Guinea-Bissau, but I have never been to Guinea-Bissau, I don't know anything about them. I have to go there, but at the moment I want to play for the Spanish national team," the footballer said in a recent interview. Today, against Madrid, another test.

  • Real Madrid
  • Carlo Ancelotti