Real Sociedad are one of the most impressive clubs in European football. The Basque side are well-known for their attractive playing style, reliance on youth and close ties to the local community. In a sense, they’re a utopian ideal. A football club that’s both local and global at the very same time.
La Real are currently sixth in La Liga, embroiled in a competitive battle to finish in the top four with Real Betis, Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, Villarreal and Rayo Vallecano. They face Betis in the quarter-final of the Copa del Rey next Thursday and can also look forward to a Europa League playoff with Leipzig next month.
But the first team is only the tip of the iceberg. La Real’s true glory comes in the way the first team relates to their academy, as detailed superbly in LaLigaTV’s Talking Football episode, which airs this evening at 20:00 GMT. The episode examines the unique philosophy of the club and details how they engage with their community while building one of the finest academies in Spain.
That makes for some atmosphere. “There are times during special games, with the fans there, where you have a second of distraction where you realise, how neat this is,” La Real’s star midfielder Mikel Merino said. “You’re generally so absorbed in what you’re doing.”
Merino didn’t come through La Real’s academy, but nearby Osasuna’s. He revealed his impressions of the club from afar. “I never had the privilege of playing for Real Sociedad as a [young] professional, but being from nearby, growing up in Pamplona, just 100km from San Sebastian, has given me reference and I know, Real’s image is similar to what I experienced with Osasuna. Real Sociedad have such a great ideology and they really value local players. I always had a positive image from the outside.”
Merino went on to define what he believes La Real’s players are. “They’re hardworking, humble and always ready to give everything for the team. Always with a very good heart. The type of teammate you will go into any fight or any battle with, because they’ll be with you every step of the way.”
Watch Guillem Balagué’s Talking Football special featuring Real Sociedad exclusively on LaLigaTV, live at 8pm GMT on 27 January or on-demand via Premier Sports and Amazon Prime Video Channels.