When Alberto Bueno scored a poker – the Spanish term for four goals in a single game – earlier in the season, few spared a thought for the team on the receiving end, Levante. Well now Rayo Vallecano know what it feels like to see a forward wheeling away in triumph again and again and again and, yes, again. Santi Mina’s four goals put Rayo to the sword in emphatic fashion and confirmed the teenager as a player to watch.
Mina needed a little longer then Bueno, taking some 34 minutes to claim his foursome, compared to the 14 minutes for the Rayo man. But Mina, not 20 until December, can expect his career to take a similar trajectory. Bueno has been strongly linked with the likes of Porto off the back of his scoring form and though a move is too soon for Mina, he is likely to see more regular action under Coach Eduardo Berizzo.
The Vigo native’s career extends to barely 50 senior appearances and 18 of them have come this season. Clearly none have been as profitable as against Rayo, when Mina earned 90 EuroFantasyLeague points, and became the youngest player to score four in a game in Spain’s top flight. There is a risk that his outstanding display raises expectations to an unreasonable level and handling what comes next a challenge for Mina, Berizzo and the rest of the Celta hierarchy, and it won’t help that facts such as Lionel Messi was 22 when he scored his first poker and Cristiano Ronaldo was 25 are already doing the rounds.
Mina has had to deal with expectation before, though, and it is an unavoidable consequence of his precocious talent. His February 2013 senior debut saw him become the third-youngest Celta player in history and came after 27 goals in 17 games at youth level. Under a long-term deal at Balaidos, Mina has previously attracted the attention of Manchester City and Barcelona, if reports are to be believed, but Celta’s commitment to youth could see the club stand firm even as the list of suitors grows and grows.
The player himself has professed his intention to learn his trade before seeking pastures new – despite the presence of super-agent Jorge Mendes as his representative. In August 2014 Mina spoke to Faro de Vigo. “People talk a lot and many things are said. I’m focused on Celta,” he insisted. “I have my feet on the ground. I go step-by-step, learning from around the world, collecting the advice people give me. Having Jorge as my representative means nothing special.”
Yet it can’t be denied that Mendes’ clients are in demand around Europe, the Portuguese with close links to a number of big clubs and prominent figures. And then there’s the Luis Enrique connection, the current Barca Coach having blooded Mina during his year with Celta. But all that is for the future. For now Mina is Celta’s to enjoy – and Rayo’s to curse.