Saúl Ñíguez Esclápez (Spanish pronunciation: [saˈul ˈɲiɣeθ]; born 21 November 1994), known simply as Saúl, is a Spanish professional footballer who plays for Atlético Madrid as a central or defensive midfielder.
Born in Elche, Alicante, Valencian Community, Saúl moved to Madrid in 2008 at not yet 14, after starting in the youth team of neighbouring Real Madrid. He made his senior debuts in the 2010–11 season, appearing with the Colchoneros' reserves in the third division, and his first goal came in a 3–1 away win against Extremadura UD on 10 April 2011, his only of the campaign in an eventual midtable finish.
In the summer of 2011, Saúl joined the Atlético main squad for pre-season training. On 10 July, he netted twice in a 19–1 friendly win with CD Arcángel.
On 8 March 2012, at the age of just 17 years and 108 days, Saúl made his official debut with Atleti's first team, playing the last six minutes in a UEFA Europa League game against Beşiktaş JK (3–1 home win, 6–1 on aggregate). His second appearance came on 20 September, again as a substitute and in the Europa League, against Hapoel Tel-Aviv FC; three days later he scored both goals for Atlético B, in a 2–1 away derby win over Real Madrid C.
Saúl made his La Liga debut on 21 April 2013, playing two minutes in a 1–0 success at Sevilla FC after replacing fellow youth graduate Koke. Again from the bench, he appeared in his second league match with the main squad on 4 May, against Deportivo de La Coruña (0–0).
On 21 July 2013, Saúl signed with Rayo Vallecano in a season-long loan deal. After returning, he featured in both legs of the 2014 Supercopa de España in which Atlético defeated Real Madrid, starting in the first match.
In a Madrid derby on 7 February 2015, Saúl replaced the injured Koke after ten minutes, and scored his team's second goal shortly after through a bicycle kick, in an eventual 4–0 win. From the 2015–16 season onwards, after the departure of Mario Suárez and the injury of Tiago Mendes, he became a nuclear midfield element for the Diego Simeone-led team.
On 27 April 2016, Saúl played 85 minutes in the first leg of the semi-finals of the UEFA Champions League against FC Bayern Munich, and also scored the only goal at the Vicente Calderón Stadium after an individual effort.
Saúl gained 47 caps for Spain all youth levels comprised. On 26 May 2015, he was called to the full side for a friendly with Costa Rica and a UEFA Euro 2016 qualifying match against Belarus, but did not make his debut on either occasion; he, Sergio Rico and Lucas Vázquez were the three uncapped players in a provisional squad for the final tournament in France, but he was eventually cut alongside Isco.
Saúl comes from a football family: his father, José Antonio, played several years with Elche CF – including the 1984–85 season in the top division – as a striker. Saúl's brothers Aarón and Jonathan are also footballers.
- As of 7 January 2017
|Atlético Madrid B||2010–11||22||1||—||22||1|
|Rayo Vallecano (loan)||2013–14||34||2||3||0||—||37||2|
- Atlético Madrid
- Copa del Rey: 2012–13
- Supercopa de España: 2014
- UEFA Champions League: Runner-up 2015–16
- Spain U19
- UEFA European Under-19 Championship: 2012
- ^ "Saúl – Trophies". Soccerway. Retrieved 29 April 2016.