As the 21 year-old Omar Mascarell Gonzalez made his first tentative steps on English soil, he was greeted in the beating sunshine by a beaming Sam Rush- who declared “It’s always like this in Derby”.
The sun is certainly shining on Derby County on the eve of the new season, with positivity pervading the supporters to an unprecedented extent and the whole operation taking on a character of radiance and optimism.
Bitter blows in the shape of a heartbreaking play-off final defeat and the subsequent agony over the loss of George Thorne have only served to bring the club together and to galvanise the squad into a steely, determined unit.
The signing of midfield man Mascarell, 21, looks set to capture the imagination of the fans and amplify the positive vibes around the football club.
Born on Tenerife, Mascarell describes himself as a “humble, hard-working player” and is best known for his technical attributes. Chief amongst these are his comfort in possession and quality of passing, coupled with an instinctive understanding of the holding midfield role.
He can’t be described as a prolific goalscorer, but did score a sumptuous dipping volley against Alcorcon whilst playing for Castilla, Real’s B-team.
These qualities have certainly impressed Carlo Ancelotti during Real’s pre-season tour to the US. The Italian had planned to increasingly involve the youngster in first-team duties during the upcoming season, and Castilla boss Zinedine Zidane also had Omar in his sights for his 2014/15 campaign.
In a move that seems a testament to his self-analysis, Mascarell was uncertain about being on the fringes of the first-team squad and preferred instead to seek a loan move elsewhere.
He joined the Spanish giants in 2010, from his parent club Laguna in Tenerife. He has made 76 appearances for Real Madrid Castilla in the second tier, and was subsequently handed his full debut by Jose Mourinho on the final day of the season against Osasuna in 2013.
Internationally, Mascarell Gonzalez was called up by Equatorial Guinea in 2012- he has origins there through his father- but decided not to switch nationality having represented Spain in age group football previously.
Although there is a real thread of maturity in Mascarell’s decision making on and off the field, adapting to a different style of play in the Championship is certain to be his biggest challenge yet.
Notwithstanding that, there is a natural alliance with both the system employed by the Rams and the style of play inculcated by Steve McClaren and his coaching team.
Standing at 5 feet 11 inches, the Spaniard somewhat lacks the totemic presence of Thorne. There are different ways of playing every position, however, and his reading of the game seems to make him a perfect fit.
Derby loaned striker Alberto Bueno from Real Madrid in 2010-11. A handsomely gifted forward, Bueno was effective only sporadically and appeared to find it difficult to develop consistency and to cope with unfamiliar weather conditions. Away games seemed like a real ordeal.
Mascarell won’t be asking for any quarter to be given, though. He has come to the East Midlands to play and looks certain to increase competition in an already jam-packed midfield.
In an already refulgent Derby set-up, Omar Mascarell Gonzalez could be another welcome ray of Iberian sunshine.