There are a couple of players in Malaga’s academy that deserve your attention. Their names are Kuki and Javi Ontiveros.
Kuki. That’s the nickname of Jose Luis Zalazar Martinez, a Uruguayan who wears Spain’s jersey. That’s because his father brought him to Albacete, a club he represented during his playing days, at an early age. In 2012, Malaga snapped up the then 14-year-old youngster, and he has been with its youth squads ever since. Kuki is currently on loan at Cartagena in Spain’s Segunda Division B.
Despite not having appeared in a single match for Malaga’s senior squad, the 19-year-old has been scouted by the likes of Liverpool, Chelsea, Manchester City, Barcelona and Valencia. That’s mostly because of his performances for Spain’s ‘U’ teams, where he has shined. The interest from those clubs led Malaga to add a €7 million release clause in his latest contract.
There’s a lot to like about the left-footed phenom. Kuki is a blend of Isco and Paulo Dybala, with a dash of Antoine Griezmann. Technique and dribbling are his strongest assets, as you might have expected. He’s a dynamic player that can change the pace of the game, with the ability to make a difference at any given moment. He accelerates quickly and has a an accurate shot. One aspect of his game that needs improvement is his passing ability, but that’s something that can be fixed with an adequate amount of training. The Montevideo-born Spaniard is probably best suited for the role of a shadow striker, where he would be given the freedom to roam, find gaps of space and then take on defenders in one-on-one situations. That’s where he’s at his best.
Malaga has one more potential star on its roster. His name is Javier ‘Javi’ Ontiveros. He’s a product of Malaga’s youth academy and, at the age of 20, he has already appeared 34 times for Malaga’s senior team (mostly from the bench). He has been magnificent in Malaga’s B squad, though. His first La Liga goal was a last-minute winner against Deportivo in November 2016. Ontiveros’ development has stagnated somewhat, primarily because of the lack of first-team football. Malaga loaned him out to Valladolid this winter, hoping he’ll receive more playing time there.
The Andalusian is a right-footed winger who prefers to play on the left side. Like Kuki, he enjoys dribbling and taking on defenders one-on-one. He packs a powerful punch in his boot, making him dangerous from outside the box, both as a shooter and as a crosser. Javi is willing to put the time and effort in order to become a dedicated professional, which is a characteristic that can take him far in his career as a footballer.
Ontiveros is further ahead in his development than Kuki. He should start earning more playing time and making a name for himself for Malaga come next season. Kuki, however, is probably the more talented of the two. He’s a player with superstar potential. It’ll be very interesting to see how his career unravels. I, for one, will be monitoring his progress closely.