BY RYAN PLANT
Last season, JosÃ©Â CallejÃ³n cemented himself as one of the most dangerous players in Italyâ€™s Serie A at Napoli. He scored 17 goals as part of one of European footballâ€™s most prolific attacks; Maurizio Sarriâ€™s side scored an impressive 94 league goals.
Right-winger CallejÃ³n also chipped in with 13 assists in his 49 outings in all competitions last term as Napoli, spearheaded by Dries Mertens in attack, finished the league season in third place. The little Belgian scored 34 goals, attracting the interest of Europeâ€™s elite, and the riches of the Chinese Super League, in the process.
CallejÃ³n began his career at Real Madrid; he was the clubâ€™s reserve team top goal scorer for the 2007-08 season, but with first team chances at the Santiago BernabÃ©u limited, he joined fellow La Liga outfit Espanyol the following summer.Embed from Getty Images
After making close to a century of appearances for the Catalans, he re-joined Jose Mourinhoâ€™s Real in 2011. He was often restricted to substitute appearances as he played second fiddle behind Cristiano Ronaldo, but still scored an impressive 20 goals in 77 games. Former Napoli manager Rafael BenÃtez saw potential in CallejÃ³n and signed him in 2013; he has since won the 2013-14 Coppa Italia (finishing as the competitionâ€™s top scorer) and the 2014 Supercoppa Italiana.
CallejÃ³n is not the first, and probably will not be the last, Real Madrid academy graduate to win trophies away from the Spanish capital. Juan Mata and Alvaro Negredo have both won the English Premier League title having struggled for first-team opportunities at the BernabÃ©u â€“ it is often forgotten that they once wore the famous white shirt.
But for every success story, there is an out of mind player that was once touted as the clubâ€™s next superstar. Javier Portillo scored 150 goals for Realâ€™s youth sides in seven years, but during the â€˜GalÃ¡cticosâ€™ period, was never given a real chance in the first team. Franciso Pavon was earmarked as a club stalwart for years to come after his emergence in the early 2000s, but was soon shown the exit door and left for Real Zaragoza. He retired as a free agent at the age of 33, after embarrassingly becoming eligible for unemployment benefits.
CallejÃ³n will be no stranger to the ruthless nature of Realâ€™s transfer dealings. Not because of his own departure to Napoli, but because of the treatment of his often forgotten and anonymous identical twin brother, Juanmi.
The CallejÃ³n brothers spent their early years as professionals at Madrid, side by side. In the same transfer window as Joseâ€™s move to Espanyol, Juanmi moved to Real Mallorca, who were also in La Liga. However, as Jose made a name for himself in Spainâ€™s top flight, the same could not be said of his twin; Juanmi made just one appearance for Mallorca before being loaned to Albacete in the Segunda Division.
An uninspiring spell in the second tier preceded an equally unimpressive three years spent playing for CÃ³rdoba, HÃ©rcules and Levadiakos of Greece. In 2013, after playing just ten games in the Greek Super League, Juanmi left Europe and moved to Bolivia’sÂ Club BolÃvar. In the four years he spent in South America, he amassed more league appearances (142) than he achieved in total at his previous six clubs.
Boasting the same athletic, tall frame, with the same distinctive gelled hairstyle, it is amazing how different the careers of the CallejÃ³n twins have panned out. Jose has played for Spain, and is a serious contender to be in Julen Lopeteguiâ€™s national squad for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
At the same time as Joseâ€™s Napoli were in the middle of an impressive 14-game unbeaten streak in January 2017, which included a 7-1 demolition of Bologna, Juanmi was finalising a deal for yet another transfer. He struggled to regain his place back in BolÃvarâ€™s starting XI after being sent off for fighting in a match against Club Real PotosÃ.
He moved to Al-Ettifaq, who had just earned promotion to the Saudi Arabian Pro League; he appeared only 13 times for his new side in the second part of last season, scoring just one goal. The clubâ€™s 2016/17 top scorer was striker Hazaa Al-Hazaa, who scored just six goals â€“ a stark contrast to the success of Mertens who starred in the same role playing alongside Jose for Napoli.
Three managers oversaw the last campaign at the Prince Mohamed bin Fahd Stadium. Juan Garrido, who signed Juanmi, left after a six-game winless run that included five defeats having replaced Djamel Belkacem. Eelco Schattorie arrived late in the season and did not fare much better, leading Ettifaq to just one win out of seven. The club narrowly avoided a relegation play-off by one point, and finished the season with just 27 points from 26 games; Juanmiâ€™s position in Saudi Arabia was a far cry from that of his twin brotherâ€™s back in Europe. Having turned 30, a move back to one of Europeâ€™s top leagues now seems unlikely.
Ettifaqâ€™s lowest home attendance last season was a meagre 506, for a match against Al-Shabab in May. By contrast, 56,695 fans crammed into the San Paolo to watch Napoliâ€™s UEFA Champions League tie against Real Madrid, which saw Jose face his former club. It is amazing to see how different the careers of two identical twin brothers, who graduated from Realâ€™s academy before moving to two La Liga clubs in the same transfer window, have turned out.
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