Falcao, Soldado, Thiago, Negredo, Navas, Llorente, Higuain- the number of talented players who have decided to play football outside Spain this year is indeed quite shocking. But every new season not only brings with it the departure of old faces but it also heralds in a new generation of youngsters who hold out a fresh set of promises to the spectators and football clubs alike. Though the talent drain from Spain is indeed concerning, the La Liga is brimming with quality youngsters who are waiting to stake their claim on the league.
So who are the youngsters to watch out for in the La Liga this season?
Neymar is definitely going to be the most talked about youngster this season, securing a high profile move from Santos to boost Barcelona’s squad. Isco is another such young player, having played a crucial part in Malaga’s Champions League campaign last year and earning a reputation for himself while playing for the Spanish Under-21 national team. His arrival at Real Madrid holds a lot of promise for the youngster and it remains to be seen if he can live up to the expectations people have of him at the club. Raphael Varane on the other hand has already cemented his place in Real Madrid’s starting eleven after a brilliant performance in the second half of the club’s campaign last season, his efforts in the El Classicos particularly making the headlines.
Here’s a quick look at other youngsters who are equally talented and will be playing a vital role in the Spanish La Liga this season.
Antoine Griezmann made his debut back in the year 2009 in a Copa del Rey match against Rayo Vallecano. The 22 year old winger from France has since then cemented his place in the starting eleven for Real Sociedad and has been instrumental in the club’s new found success. Having qualified for the Champions League this year, the club will be banking on the youngster to deliver, more so after Illarramendi’s departure to Real Madrid. Initially rejected by many scouts for his stature, the left winger has silenced his critics with his mesmerizing style of football that has earned him plaudit all over Europe which in turn has attracted the attention of several English clubs. Despite interest from Manchester United and Arsenal, the youngster has decided to stick with Real Sociedad which provides the player with enough playing time. He will be seen competing with the best teams in Europe this year in the Champions League which will be a big test for the Frenchman who will be looked upon to perform if Real Sociedad are to do well in the tournament. His quick acceleration, blistering pace, ball control and dribbling skills make the left winger a dangerous force on the flanks as he constantly creates opportunities for the team, linking up well with the strikers and the midfielders. He can also be deployed as a striker giving the team plenty of attacking options. Antoine Griezmann is definitely one of the brightest young players to watch out for in the La Liga this season.
Daniel Carvajal is a part of an ambitious project started by Real Madrid this season as they look to build their squad around young Spaniards who have proven their mettle on the big stage. And Carvajal fits this bill on all counts. The 21 year old right back, a product of Real Madrid’s youth system, moved to Germany last season where he made 31 appearances for Bayer Leverkusen and had a huge impact on the team as well as the league. The youngster is showing all signs of becoming one of the best right-backs in the world. He is lethal while going forward, is quick on his feet, gets past players with ease and plays the ball forward linking up well with the wingers. He is equally decisive while defending and does not hesitate to go in for a tackle. His impressive performance last year made Real Madrid sit up and take notice as they exercised their buyout clause to bring the youngster back to Santiago Bernabeu. It’ll be interesting to see how Ancellotti manages Carvajal this season with Arbeloa still in the squad. Though the seasoned right back has proved his merit over several years, he lacks creativity while going forward, something that Carvajal rejoices in. It will be exciting to see how he copes up with the pressure of playing for Real Madrid this season and is definitely a youngster watch out for in the La Liga.
The 22 year old defender from Biscay is definitely one of the hottest properties in the La Liga right now. Real Sociedad’s centre back is an old-school defender and his game is based on his physical strength and his ability to read the game well and is therefore being tipped to be the next Carlos Puyol. His physical prowess enables him to dominate strikers, giving them very little breathing room and trapping them in confined spaces. The centre back is one of the most sought after defender in the league and has been linked with a move to Barcelona. He is extremely powerful in the air and does well in set-pieces. He has just the right amount of malice and nastiness which helps him stay on top of every game. Though the defender is not the fastest player around, he has a good first pass and plays the ball out of the defence well. Real Sociedad have realized the importance of the player and have got him to sign on the dotted line which effectively ties him up with the club till 2017. Rumour has it that the contract has a buyout clause of €30 million, which means that if any club does come calling for the centre back, he will not be leaving Real Sociedad for a bargain. Inigo Martinez is definitely a player to watch out for as he is sure to get better with age and the experience that comes along with it.
Rising up through the ranks of Atletico Madrid’s youth system, Koke has already established himself as a first team player at the club. He made his debut against Barcelona in the year 2009 and is now earning plaudits all over Spain and is being touted as the future Spanish national team playmaker. The young midfielder has been utilized well under the keen eye of Deigo Simeone who used him in a variety of roles in the midfield, giving the player enough exposure and experience to grow himself as a player. He has developed himself from a deep-lying midfielder to someone who has a keen eye in front of the goal and often played just behind Falcao last season, providing key passes that split up the defence. Koke has spent three years at Athletico Madrid and has nurtured himself into one of the most promising youngsters in the country. He is a typical Spanish midfielder with a good ball control, great vision, spectacular passing skills and the ability to conjure something out of thin air in front of the box. There has been a lot of speculation regarding Koke’s future with many English sides showing interest but for now, the young midfielder is set to play for Atletico Madrid in Spain.
Thibaut Courtois has attracted a lot of attention in the past two years while keeping the post for Atletico Madrid. Originally a Chelsea player, the keeper is in his third year on loan at Atletico which has seen him blossom into one of the best goal keepers in Spain. At the age of 21, the Belgian international boasts of having kept the highest number of clean sheets in La Liga last season. The English club made the right decision by loaning out the youngster thus ensuring that he got enough playing time to develop himself into an experienced keeper. The Belgian stands tall at 6’6 and is being looked upon to succeed Peter Cech between the posts at Stamford Bridge after his retirement. Though the 21 year old has pretty big shoes to fill at Chelsea, he has already won a lot of trophies for the Spanish side, the Europa League, UEFA Super Cup and the Copa del Rey being the most important ones. He has proven himself on the big stage and has shown that he is ready to take over the reins from Peter Cech. But for the mean time, the youngster is set to man the posts for Atletico Madrid and is a talent to watch out for this season.
Giving company to these young footballers in the Spanish league are the likes of Montoya, Sergio Canales, Morata, Illarramendi, Nacho, Iker Muniain and other such talented players. Smart money would be on the La Liga remaining the prime hotbed for young footballers and it should continue to provide spectators all over the world with the highest quality of football in the season to come.