During Phillipe Montanier's unconvincing tenure with Real Sociedad, the French Coach has made many mysterious decisions. Few though, are more puzzling than his constant ostracising of Ruben Pardo.
On the surface it may seem that Pardo is just another young player who should wait for his chance, and is probably not ready to play a considerable part in first team activities. That opinion would could probably only be put forward by someone that hasn't seen the young midfielder however.
Firstly, Pardo is an incredibly gifted individual. He plays with a similar approach to former La Real midfielder Xabi Alonso in terms of his vision and understanding of the game. As well as the vision, Pardo harnesses fine technique, and that special ability to link phases of play together. He's effortless with it too, what may look like a difficult task is taken in his graceful stride.
Last season a door was shut in his face when the Txuri-urdin agreed the loan of MacDonald Mariga. The Kenyan was a disaster, showing indecision in the games he played and never settling.
The calls for Pardo to come in at this point were growing, at a club so heavily built upon cantera products it was frustrating to see one of their own side-lined. Pardo continued to feature for the 'B' team, only being handed limited cameos with the first team. These of course, were glorious. Still in his teens, he showed the wise head of a veteran.
La Real's mediocre campaign in 2011-2012 only increased frustration in the stands. Montanier was regularly heckled at Anoeta, not just for neglecting Pardo but for other mishaps along the way – poor tactics, playing into opponent’s hands, strange substitutions and nonsensical remarks in post-match press conferences.
This season was meant to be a clean slate, as Montanier was handed a reprieve by the board. 2012-2013 was also meant to be the season Pardo rose to prominence. Again though, the Frenchman has hindered the progress of a player Real Madrid so desperately wanted just two years ago. Pardo's opportunities have been few and far between, and in a repeat of last season when he does play, he shines. An incredible individual display against Rayo Vallecano showcased the talent of the deep-lying midfielder; substituted to a huge ovation after coming up with two assists and dictating the tempo of the game
Bizarrely for the next game, with Pardo's confidence high, the player was moved to the bench and handed the last 15 minutes. It was essentially another Montanier mystery, and a slap in the face of the youngster. La Real are by no means blessed with a huge depth of midfield talent anyway, but even when injuries hit this season Pardo has still been made to watch on.
This week in some quarters, it was suggested that Pardo was so frustrated he might even seek a loan elsewhere. That this story has even arisen regarding one of Spain's most gifted young midfielders, an area of the field so pivotal, is remarkable.
Montanier's time at the club is dwindling and there are many waiting with axes to grind. At the front of the queue, will no doubt be Pardo.