By scoring a long-range goal in Real Madrid’s victory over Napoli, he earned plaudits from his coach, teammates and fans.
Labelled by club legend Alfredo Di Stéfano as La Fábrica, Real Madrid’s academy has produced numerous prodigious players who went on to thrive in European football over the years. And, one of the latest graduates, Nicolás ‘Nico’ Paz, is already catching the eye.
He introduced himself to the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu crowd back in early November when he debuted with the first team in their 3-0 win over SC Braga in the Champions League.
Three weeks later, he came off the bench with the score at 2-2 as part of Carlo Ancelotti’s bid to freshen up the team in the second half of a game against Napoli in the same competition. With six minutes left on the clock, Paz received the ball in Napoli’s half, dribbled past his opponent and unleashed a low strike, with the ball ending into the back of the net. He celebrated like someone whose dream had just come true, probably because it had.
Even though Aurélien Tchouaméni, Eduardo Camavinga and Luka Modrić were all out injured, the Real Madrid wonderkid didn’t hesitate to step up and demonstrate why La Fábrica is considered one of the finest academies worldwide.
“It’s a special night for him and he is a player for the future of Real Madrid,” Ancelotti said at the press conference following Real Madrid’s 4-2 win over the Italian side. “He has all the quality that a Real Madrid player needs to have. He came up big for the team at a moment when we needed it.”
Born in Santa Cruz de Tenerife on September 8, 2004, the midfielder, who can also play on the wings, is the son of former Argentina international Pablo Ariel Paz, who featured for several Spanish teams including CD Tenerife and Real Valladolid. Nico took his first footballing steps at CD San Juan before joining the CD Tenerife academy, where his father coached the Juvenil side.
Real Madrid spotted his talent when he was 14 and convinced him to move to the Spanish capital. At La Fábrica, Paz shined with his performances and climbed through the ranks to the point of being an undisputed starter for Castilla under Raúl.
Standing at 1.86 tall, the youngster is a skilful attacking midfielder who can feature in a variety of different positions up front. The left-footed prodigy can dribble past opponents, create space and unlock defences thanks to his great movement and his eye for goal, as he proved against Napoli. “I’m delighted, this is a dream for me,” an emotional Paz said after that game. “For a moment I couldn’t believe it. I’m so happy to be able to help the team. I had the courage. I was in automatic mode, I didn’t even know what I was doing. I hit it and I was amazed, to tell you the truth.”
Paz has yet to debut with Argentina, but he was called up by Lionel Scaloni for the March 2022 international break. Given that his father played more than a dozen times for La Albiceleste, including at the 1998 World Cup, this was a special moment for Paz and his family.
He similarly toured with the Real Madrid first-team squad, when Los Blancos visited the United States in pre-season. That was a sign of things to come, as Paz then made his LALIGA EA SPORTS debut on November 11 against Valencia CF. “We have one of the best academies, if not the best,” Paz added. “We’re here to help. This is also a message to the other academy players: it is possible to get to the next level.”
Paz has already earned plaudits from fans and his coach, while his teammates also recognise that he could be a generational talent. Able to learn alongside Real Madrid veterans such as Toni Kroos and Luka Modrić, the 19-year-old prodigy boasts the skillset to establish himself as a mainstay in Los Blancos’ starting line-up in the future.