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This week the iFDA soccer school UK staff visited La Liga side Rayo Vallecano, in the Spanish capital of Madrid. The visit included watching first team sessions and preparation for last weekend’s game versus Celta Vigo with unlimited access of their first team facility.

Rayo Vallecano is a club based in the shadow of the city’s two biggest clubs, Real and Athletico Madrid. Despite this, Rayo have not only found themselves four points from the European places but do so in a unique and pioneering philosophy. They have one of the lowest budgets in La Liga, yet continue to bring players through their youth system. iFDA staff were fortunate enough to put their academy and first team processes under the microscope bringing a wealth of experience back to England.

In short, Paco Jemez (first team manager) laid out his philosophy:


–          Play from the back and through the thirds at every opportunity and looks to dominate possession for long periods (very evident in both training and games with structure, principles and drills)

–          System is a fluid, flexible modern day commonplace 4-3-3 with all the common, traits (centre halves split, full backs high and wide, midfield three rotate, two wingers coming in off the lines, false nine who drops in and rotates with 10, play between the lines etc.)

–    uk soccer school      “We have no matched numbers anywhere, we always try to create an overload. For example if we isolate 3v3 in middle of pitch (which often happened in training) then centre forward must drop in to create 4v3”

–          Must be good playing quickly out of tight areas

–          Looks to penetrate through the lines as opposed to ball circulation and patience

–          Huge emphasis on technical retention and aspects which contribute (sessions still work to IMPROVE all types of passing, receiving, combinations, awareness, movements) often done in unopposed manner with specific movements…


–          Extremely aggressive high press continually

–          Very high defensive line and very specific aggressive triggers

–          Centre forwards do not work on triggers or have any interest in a low block or defending deep; aim is to ALWAYS have pressure on the ball

–          Press in fours/fives with relevant distances between/within units but do not mind any of defenders coming out to press players in between the lines as long as they prevent turns in 1v1 situations

–          Defenders have licence to press players getting between the lines thus potentially leaving gaps and space

–          This extremely intense defensive strategy MUST thereby require outstanding fitness levels in many different physical areas (note: consider how and when to create this but also to how to maintain through a season)


–          The first team train at the same facility as the academy thus creating an ‘all for one’ environment.

–          The pitches progress up in stages built on different platforms; begin with the under 9’s at the bottom and lowest and progress 10 feet with each age with the under 18’s being the top pitch. This encourages both ambition to progress, recognition, reward in addition to the metaphorical values.

For more information on our soccer school UK courses, contact us.