In a new series for English Players Abroad, ‘The Ones That Got Away’ will focus on players with dual-nationalities, those who have the option of playing internationally for both England and another nation. They must also being playing their club football outside of the UK.
Article one will profile Yorkshire-born Valencia midfielder Mikey Fernandez. The 18-year-old has broken into both Valencia’s B team, known as the Mestalla, this season and also the Spain U19 squad.
At the age of three, his family made the move to Madrid – his father’s homeland – and this would serve as the first chapter in his Spanish football adventure.
At the age of six, a young Mikey began playing football and three years later, he joined city giants Real Madrid, enrolling in the club’s youth set-up.
Although, the move to Los Galácticos clashed with another family uprooting, this time the coastal town of Benidorm was the destination.
A couple of years with local side Benidorm CF were followed by a move to larger provincial side Alicante, turning down Barcelona’s famed La Masia academy in the process.
Mikey’s talent was obvious from an early age, making it difficult for him to settle at an academy. Another move further up the footballing pyramid saw him join Villarreal at the age of 13 before leaving for two seasons with Hércules CF.
After nearly a decade of movement, which saw Mikey feature for five different club youth setups, the young midfielder finally found a club he could call home in the summer of 2012. At 16, he was a Valencia player, initially joining the Juvenil B side – effectively the club’s under 16 team.
It was at Los Che, that Mikey would really prosper. He progressed through the club’s youth teams, playing for the under-18 side for the first time in the winter of 2013.
His impressive progress at Valencia did not go unnoticed on the international scene. Management at the English FA had been watching the youngster’s progress and invited him and his father to visit St. George’s Park in January last year. He accepted the invitation, training with England’s under 18 side after acquiring his mother’s help with his English language skills.
The visit seemed to be successful, with Mikey quoted in an article for local Valenica paper ‘Super Deporte’ saying he felt a sense of pride following his first ever involvement in a national team.
However, despite a seemingly positive experience at St. George’s Park, Mikey did not feature for England’s U19 side three months later when they returned to competitive action. Instead, in May last year, the Valencia midfielder starred for Spain’s U19 side as they played a friendly against Real Madrid C.
It would seem a call-up to the country where he had spent the entire of his footballing upbringing was too good for Mikey to resist, although he did not let his new found international success distract him. He secured club success as his Valencia Juvenil A side came top of their division, group 7 of the tournament known as the División de Honor Juvenil.
It seemed the young midfielder could do no wrong, and his career continued from success to success as he debuted for Valencia Mestalla as a 87th minute substitute in September last year, featuring in Spain’s third tier for the first time.
Since then, he has gone on to make a further eight substitute appearances, scoring his first ever senior goal last month in a 3-1 loss away to league leaders Gimnàstic.
Further international honours have also be achieved, as Mikey featured for Spain’s U19s squad once more, this time in a friendly against Qatar in January.
Described as a box-to-box midfielder and likened to legendary Valencia enforcer David Albelda, the English FA certainly did well to uncover Mikey but their failure came in not comvincing the promising youngster to commit to the Three Lions.
Only the future will tell us how great of a mistake that will turn out to be.