Pablo Sarabia
PARIS, FRANCE - SEPTEMBER 18: Pablo Sarabia of Paris Saint Germain during the UEFA Champions League match between Paris Saint Germain v Real Madrid at the Parc des Princes on September 18, 2019 in Paris France (Photo by Erwin Spek/Soccrates/Getty Images)

At the tender age of 18, in the Champions League group stage, Pablo Sarabia would make his one and only appearance for Real Madrid. He was a late substitute in a comprehensive 5-0 defeat of French side A.J. Auxerre. Nearly 10 years later, and now featuring for Paris Saint-Germain, Sarabia took part in a similarly fulsome shellacking. This time it was a 3-0 defeat of his boyhood club.

Pablo Sarabia Goes Full Circle as PSG Rout Real Madrid

A Long Journey to Real Madrid Rout

Born and raised on the outskirts of Madrid, Real snapped up Sarabia at the age of 12. The attacking midfielder rose through the system playing for Real’s ‘B’ side, and Castilla. Jose Mourinho gave him a brief call-up to the senior squad. By the 2010-11 season, Madrid sent Sarabia back down to a crowded development system.

Many of the players surrounding Sarabia in the Castilla at the time would go on to feature for Real in some way. This includes the likes of Joselu, Alvaro Morata, Nacho Fernandez, and Dani Carvajal. However, 2011 was in the height of Madrid’s Galactico phase. This is illustrated by that summer’s arrival of Angel Di Maria, Mesut Ozil, and Sami Khedira. They were brought in to supplement a side that already featured Cristiano Ronaldo, Kaka, and Karim Benzema.

As an 18-year-old midfielder, it was unlikely Sarabia would have much game time, and Real deemed the Spanish youth international expendable. Real agreed to loan Sarabia out to neighbouring Getafe C.F. for two years with a built-in buy-back clause.

The Formative Years

Real never exercised the buy-back clause. Instead, Sarabia ended up spending five years with Getafe. Estadio Alfonso Perez is a relative stone’s throw away from where he played youth football. And, it is home to a Getafe side that despite some successes would never be considered among the elite of Spanish football.

Nevertheless, it was here that Sarabia was able to develop his game. The midfielder’s first two seasons were spent primarily on the bench. He rarely featured for a scrappy Getafe squad that fought its way to two mid-table finishes. It took until his third season for his role to expand. Then Sarabia began to show his ability offensively, while at the same time displaying the tenacious, competitive style the Madrid-based club was known for.

Unfortunately, as Sarabia’s abilities were in ascent the club was in an overall decline. Getafe made a 15th place finish in 2014-15, then a tumble to 19th in the table. Getafe dropped down to the Segunda. Nevertheless, Sarabia had led the team in scoring and shown enough to earn himself a move to Sevilla FC.

Blossoming at Sevilla

Sarabia’s move to Sevilla in the summer of 2016 came with little fanfare. The club made the announcement via Twitter. The post featured a series of pictures taken upon his arrival at the Santa Justa train station. Sevilla had acquired the then-24-year-old for less than one million euros. He was joining a Sevilla side that was coming off the greatest period in its history.

The Andalusian side’s run of three straight Europa League victories had drawn global attentio. As a consequence, manager Unai Emery and sporting director Monchi were in high-demand. The result was a period of transition, as Emery moved to Paris Saint-Germain that summer, while a protracted contract dispute kept Monchi in southern Spain for one more year before he ultimately departed to AS Roma.

Despite the turmoil, Sarabia flourished. Surrounded by talented players in a more offensive system, it became clear that Sevilla had happened upon a significant talent. Over the next three seasons, Sarabia blossomed offensively. He notched 27 goals and 28 assists in all competitions.

However, it was not until the arrival of Pablo Machin in 2018-19 that the full breadth of Sarabia’s offensive talents became clear. In Machin’s enterprising 3-1-4-2 formation, Sarabia gets forward on the right flank. The combination of himself, Jesus Navas and Wissam Ben Yedder proved devastating. Primarily left-footed, Sarabia’s ability to link up with Navas, before cutting inside and creating with Ben Yedder, sliced open La Liga defences. This contributed to career highs in goals and assists – he registered 23 goals and 17 assists in all competitions. Sarabia would go on to be the only player in La Liga outside of Lionel Messi to hit double digits in both offensive categories.

The Move to the Top

At 27 years old, his contract expiring the following season and sitting on a paltry buy-out clause, it was clear Sarabia’s time in Sevilla was over. Paris Saint-Germain swooped in a happily paid the €18 million release clause. The midfielder took a step up to the French capital and one of the world’s biggest clubs.

Sarabia did not have to wait long for a match against the club that gave him professional start. The Spaniard played 89 minutes on Wednesday night, completed 31 passes, and was part of a front line that gave 13-time Champions League winners Real Madrid fits all evening.

It took a little while, but it is clear now that Sarabia gives the type of performances Real Madrid hoped he would almost 10 years ago. It’s just too bad he’s delivering them for Paris.

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