World Cup Year: On the Fringe of La Roja

La Roja

The second part of our double feature looks at a handful of Spaniards who will be determined to make a mark this season. But what makes these stars the ones to watch in 2013-14? And just how will they go about playing their way into the most successful international team in recent history?

Isco

There is no better way to get the attention of your national coach than to win an under-21 competition—in which you are named Player of the Tournament—before announcing a big-money move to the most successful club on the planet.

Whilst there is no questioning the talent of 21-year-old Isco, some concerns do surround his recent transfer to Real Madrid. Skeptics have dubbed it as a “Perez signing,” brought in to appease Madridistas who want a young, Spanish core at the heart of their Galacticos-filled team. As a result, followers of the national side are concerned that Spain’s brightest youngster will now waste World Cup year warming the bench at the Bernabeu.

However, Isco has lived up to his billing on the pitch. The €27m man from Malaga has scored three goals in three games since moving to the capital and looks to be relishing in playing alongside the world’s best.

With Mesut Ozil leaving for Arsenal on transfer deadline day, the opportunity to play the number 10 role for Los Blancos will appeal to the creative youngster, who scored nine goals last term playing in a similar position for Malaga.

Indeed, it has been an eventful summer for 21-year-old Isco. Here’s hoping the boy from Banalmadena can carry his under-21 form into the senior team in time for Rio.

Cesc Fabregas

Whilst ever-present during Spain’s recent golden era, Fabregas has been resigned to the role of bit-part player in all three victorious campaigns. In previous years, the task of breaking up the legendary partnership of ‘Xaviesta’ has been too tall an order for their fellow Catalonian. However, this season seems different.

At Barcelona, Fabregas was one of the few individuals who performed better under Tito Vilanova than his all-conquering predecessor, Pep Guardiola. Now, new boss Gerardo Martino has taken a shine to the former Arsenal man, preferring him already over Iniesta on numerous occasions this season.

The departure of Thiago Alcantara to Bayern Munich, as well as his decision to decline a move of his own to Manchester United, will also improve Cesc’s World Cup hopes.

Fabregas is currently leading the assists chart in La Liga. If he continues to supply the ammunition for Messi and co, he’s certain to establish himself as a La Roja regular.

David Villa

Villa picked up the golden boot in Spain’s first Euro triumph back in 2008. He was also joint top scorer in the 2010 World Cup. A phenomenal return of 43 goals in 65 appearances for La Seleccion could have been even more impressive had he not been forced to miss Euro 2012 with a broken leg.

That resulted in sub-standard long-term performances at the club level, which eventually led to Villa’s €5m switch to the Vicente Calderon in July.

Villa will now follow in the footsteps of Torres, Aguero, Forlan and Falcao as La Rojiblancos’ talisman for the forthcoming season. At a club where the striker is king, Villa and Atletico Madrid seem the perfect fit.

“I am going to try and give Atletico Madrid the very best David Villa.” said the 32-year-old following his unveiling in front of 20,000 fans at the Vicente Calderon. “I am fully motivated and will work my socks off in every training session.”

Anyone doubting whether the old-timer has still got it can look to this summer’s Confederations Cup performances. En route to the final Villa scored three goals in three appearances and set up another two.

Benat

With La Liga being a hot bed of technically-gifted Spanish midfielders for Del Bosque to choose from, it is Athletic Bilbao’s new boy Benat who has caught the eye of the national coach.

The 25-year-old was key to Real Betis overachieving last season and now has three caps for La Roja.

Benat’s industrious work ethic will complement the equally creative style of his new midfield partner and competitor for a place in La Seleccion, Ander Herrera.

A former youth team player for Bilbao, Benat should settle in quickly at San Mames. His new teammates should also provide a higher standard of football than he has been used to, as the Basques hope to replicate the form that earned them European football two years ago.

Competition is rife with Illarramendi, Canales, Isco, Hererra, Koke and Munaian all playing for a ticket to Rio next summer, but Benat is certainly one to watch in World Cup Year.

This article is the second part in the series dedicated to World Cup hopefuls in La Liga.  See the first part here.  




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