15. Javier Ontiveros, Malaga
Malaga has waited nine years for a local boy from Marbella to make it into the first team (the last was fullback Jose Mari). And it needed to show patience with Ontiveros, who left the Betis youth academy under a cloud but was quickly snapped up by Malaga academy head Manel Casanova as one of his first singings. Ontiveros’s aunt took him to training every day, and the club was impressed with his attitude.
Ontiveros is right-footed but prefers to play on the left side. He made quite an impact in his third appearance of the season, scoring a 90th-minute winner to seal a comeback from 3-1 down in a 4-3 victory over Deportivo. Ontiveros has already played under three different coaches at Malaga: Javi Gracia, Juande Ramos and Michel. All have mainly used him as a substitute, though in recent weeks he has started for the mid-table La Liga side. Although he lacks a little pace, Ontiveros has an excellent cross and superb shot from distance. He’s happy to cut inside, and has a sharp eye for a pass. Sources at Malaga say he has not put a foot wrong since signing his professional contract. He is also a regular for Spain’s Under-19s, and his commitment is such that on days off, he goes to watch Malaga’s youth team play.
What they're saying:
“He is taking big steps to becoming a top professional. He is giving us what we’re looking for.”
– Michel, Malaga coach