Meet the ‘new Torres’ who spared Atletico Madrid’s blushes against Eibar
4 Atletico Madrid’s new hero Borja Garcés. 4 Just last week Garcés was playing in the third division against Unionistas FC at a ground that holds 4,000 people.More than ten times as many watched him save Atleti at the Wanda. He had only made it onto the bench against Eibar because back-up striker Nikola Kalinić, signed for €15m from AC Milan, is injured.Fans booed when Simeone withdrew midfielder Rodrigo for the forward in the 70th minute, a highly unusual reaction to their sacred coach.They weren’t booing come the final whistle. “Borja came on because the coach knows he’s a natural goalscorer, and that’s sacred in football,” Simeone beamed after the game. The calm with which the teen had scored in an unfamiliar, ultra high-pressure situation on Saturday suggests the manager’s evaluation is on the money.The player’s own post-match comments will have further endeared him to his coach: “It’s a bittersweet debut because I would have liked to win. I’m not happy”. It would have been easy to get carried away with the goal, but focusing on the bigger picture rather than individual glory is exactly what Cholo demands from his players. Borja Garcés takes on Paulo Oliveira. Borja Garcés is congratulated by Atletico Madrid manager Diego Simeone. Born across the Mediterranean in Spanish North African city Melilla, Garcés has been at Atlético since 2016, signed from C.F. Rusadir Melilla at the age of 16. A brilliant season in the Spanish youth championship as well as with the local autonomous community’s youth team caught Atleti’s eye, and after following him for a few games they decided to offer a trial before anyone else noticed. The striker passed, and was added to the ranks of the club’s Juvenil A (under-19) team.An interview in a local Melilla newspaper after signing for the Spanish giants paints the picture of a kid with a level head. “What’s important in football is day-to-day sacrifice and a lot of effort, and though you also have to have luck,everything can be achieved with hard work,” Garcés mused. “Making it to the first team would be the highest achievement,” he added, unknowingly foreshadowing that exact turn of events only two years later.Simeone has been aware of the 19-year-old’s ability for some time. Last season, goals from Garcés helped Atleti’s Juvenil A to win the domestic treble, and he was subsequently promoted to the B team for the current campaign.The Atlético boss even gave the striker a run-out with the first team while still an U19 player in May, when he took the field alongside club legend Fernando Torres in a friendly against Nigeria. Both scored: Garcés scored the winner, with one commentator initially confusing him for Torres. It wasn’t the last time the two players would be linked. “Borja Garcés, the new Niño making a case for a spot in Simeone’s team,” AS reacted to that winner in May. Saturday’s equalizer against Eibar sparked further comparisons: in 2001 a teenage Torres scored his first goal in the red and white shirt after coming off the bench against Albacete, while his last official goal for the club also came against Eibar. “Another Niño to keep a hold of,” mused Marca, fanning the flames. “The new ‘Niño’ prevents catastrophe against Eibar,” added Mundo Deportivo. 4 With three minutes left to play, Sergi Enrich snuck in to take advantage of Godin’s mistake in the box and prodded home what looked like the winner for Eibar. Four matches played, one win, one draw, and two defeats – not what was expected from the most expensive Atleti squad ever assembled.Then something remarkable happened.In the last minute of stoppage time, an Ángel Correa cross broke in the box to a skinny, unfamiliar body in a red and white shirt with the number 32 on the back. Control, look up, and thump – into the back of the net to salvage a draw with the final kick of the game.Borja Garcés wheeled away, arms in the air. Borja who? The 19-year-old academy player was making his league debut with the first team, and has already ensured that fans will remember his name. So too will Simeone. 4 Hailed as the ‘new Niño’, 19-year-old academy player Borja Garcés marked a dream debut by coming off the bench to save a draw for Atlético Madrid against Eibar. But the striker refuses to get carried away with the Fernando Torres comparisons.With 87 minutes on the clock at the Wanda Metropolitano on Saturday, Diego Simeone was staring into the abyss. Antoine Griezmann, Saúl, Diego Godin, and Diego Costa: all had shot on Eibar’s goal – eight times in total – but goalkeeper Marko Dmitrović was playing a blinder. Club legend Fernando Torres applauds Atletico Madrid fans. It’s far too early to make those comparisons of course, but Garcés certainly has talent. Aware of that, Atleti secured a new contract for him in the summer. Equally important is that he appears to have the right mentality. Asked aboutthe Niño chat in July, his response was sensible and suggests the hype won’t make an impression. “Hopefully I can achieve even a quarter of what Fernando Torres has managed in football,” he concluded.