Saúl Ñíguez is a Spanish professional footballer who plays as a central or defensive midfielder for the Spanish club Atlético Madrid. He initially developed his skills at Real Madrid for a couple of years before joining the Atlético youth team. Since his senior team debut in 2010, he has played over 250 matches for the club. He also spent a short stint at Rayo Vallecano as a loan player. Since joining the national youth team about a decade ago, he has been instrumental in the U19 team's 'UEFA European Championship' win and helped the U21 team finish the '2017 UEFA European Championship' in the second place. He was part of the senior Spanish team for the 2018 World Cup, but was not fielded during the tournament.
Childhood & Early Life
Saúl Ñíguez Esclápez was born on November 21, 1994, in Elche, Alicante, Valencian Community, Spain, to Jose Antonio Niguez and Pilar Esclapez. His father played as a striker for Elche CF for several years, and his two brothers, Aarón and Jonathan, were also footballers.
His father enrolled him at the Elche CF academy, from where he was acquired by Real Madrid academy in 2006. He faced bullying there, which prompted him to switch to their cross-city rivals, Atlético Madrid, in 2008.
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Saúl Ñíguez made his senior debut for the Atlético Madrid B team during the 2010-11 season and scored his first goal in a 3-1 away win against Extremadura UD on April 10, 2011. He joined the main squad of Atlético for pre-season training in summer of 2011 and scored two goals in a 19-1 friendly win over CD Arcángel in July that year.
He made his official debut with the Colchoneros on March 8, 2012, at the age of 17 years and 108 days; he played as substitute and came in the last six minutes in a UEFA Europa League game against Beşiktaş JK Six months later, on September 20, he again appeared as a substitute in their Europa League game against Hapoel Tel-Aviv FC.
Playing for the B team again in late September, 2012, he scored both goals in their 2-1 away derby win over Real Madrid C. He made his La Liga debut playing for two minutes in a 1-0 win on April 21, 2013, and had another appearance, also as a substitute, against Deportivo de La Coruña on May 4, 2013.
For the 2013-14 season, he was loaned to the Rayo Vallecano and scored two goals from 34 appearances. Upon his return to Atlético, he played in both the legs of the 2014 Supercopa de España, helping in their win over Real Madrid.
On February 7, 2015, he was fielded early at 10 minutes in a Madrid derby and scored a goal through a bicycle kick in a 4-0 win. During the 2015-16 season, he became a core midfielder for the team after Mario Suárez left and Tiago Mendes suffered an injury.
In Atlético's UEFA Champions League semi-final match against FC Bayern Munich on April 27, 2016, he played for 85 minutes in the first leg, scoring the only goal. In the following year's UEFA Champions League match against Leicester City in the last-eight stage, he scored a rare header to facilitate an aggregate win.
He signed a new nine-year contract with Atlético on July 1, 2017. On August 18, 2019, he started his 250th match for the club in a win over Getafe CF.
Starting his international career with the Spain U16 team in 2009, Saúl Ñíguez helped the U19 team win the '2012 UEFA European Championship' and was named to the 'Team of the Tournament'. He became the top scorer at the '2017 UEFA European Under-21 Championship' with nine goals, including a hat-trick against Italy in the semifinals.
In May 2015, he was called to senior national team for a friendly with Costa Rica and a UEFA Euro 2016 qualifying match against Belarus, even though he was not fielded in either occasion. He finally made his full debut on September 1, 2016, playing 15 minutes as a substitute in a friendly win in Belgium.
While then-manager Julen Lopetegui had selected him for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, he was not used by replacement coach Fernando Hierro. He subsequently scored his first goal for the country under new coach Luis Enrique in a win against England at the UEFA Nations League in September 2018.
Family & Personal Life
Saúl Ñíguez has been in a relationship with a woman named Yaiza for the past few years. He often shares pictures from their romantic outings on his Instagram profile.
Saúl Ñíguez, who became a crucial part of Atlético Madrid under manager Diego Simeone, is reputed for being able to play both Simeone-style and Barcelona-style.