El Centrocampista

RED FURY! – Introducing Spain’s next generation.

The Spanish national team are European and World champions at senior level and their under 21s and under 19s are kings of Europe – not bad for a nation that used to be the footballing world’s pereniel under-achievers.

As we speak, the under20 squad are favourites to lift the world crown after breezing through the group stage in Colombia.

This amazing conveyor belt of young talent looks set to keep the country at the top of the international game for years to come, which is an ominous thing indeed for the rest of the world.

But who are the players that make up these exciting squads? In the first of a new series looking at each group of players, we look at the under21 set-up and introduce the players that are next in line to take over from Carles Puyol, Xavi Hernandez and Fernando Torres.

By Sam Hughes

The under 21 side is coached by Luis Milla, and delight in playing the short pass and move game known as ‘tiki-taka’.

The delicate skill, control and sheer confidence exuding from the young players is a delight to watch, and it has now made the football world realise – if they hadn’t already –  that Spain may well be sweeping all before them for many years to come.

It has to be said though, for all their supreme talent they still have a way to go in terms of being ready for the national side.

There was a tendency, during the European Championships,  to betray their footballing superiority by playing self-indulgently and becoming complacent in front of goal.

This was highlighted in the astonishingly one-sided 1-1 draw with England and also going 1-0 down to Belarus in the Semi Final until a late equaliser saved them.

The arrogance in terms of a final product needs to be eradicated before they hit the big time.

It has to be assumed, though, that this is just a youthful flaw that will soon be replaced with a ruthless streak akin to the senior side.

So, just who are the next stars for Spain?  Here, I’ll take a look at the squad that is set to strike fear throughout the international stage…




David De Gea

The extremely talented 20 year old who stands at 6ft 4” made his debut for Atletico Madrid aged just 18.

He is seen as one of the best goalkeeping prospects in world football.

On his La Liga debut against Real Zaragoza he gave away a penalty but redeemed himself by saving it in a 2-1 win.

He soon became the first choice at the Vicente Calderon and lifted the Europa League trophy in his first full season.

His second season was equally impressive and he has earned a £18 million move to Manchester United as Edwin Van der Sar’s long-term replacement.

He is expected to start as United’s first choice goalkeeper for the coming season.


Diego Marino

Another young goalkeeper who is currently playing regularly for Villarreal B in the Segunda division.

The 21 year old’s positional sense and quick reflexes have earned him international call-ups at various age groups.

He is expected to be first choice for Villlarreal B once again this coming season.


Ruben Mino

The Catalonian is a product of Barcelona’s La Masia and is currently plying his trade for Barcelona B.

He made his debut for the senior side in the Spanish Supercup against Sevilla in August 2010 but is expected to return to Barcelona B

for next season.




Alvaro Dominguez

After learning his trade at Atletico B, Dominguez became a first team regular for the Colchoneros and has not looked back since.

Able to play either centre half or left back, the Madrid-born player has received plaudits for his ability on the ball and focused performances at such a young age.

He is sure to continue his progress next season which is sure to make Real Madrid regret the day they let him go.


Cesar Azpilicueta

This talented young right back moved to Marseille from Osasuna in 2010 for a fee of 7 million after a summer of speculation in which he was linked to top clubs across Europe.

He has struggled to break into the first team at the French club after a six month lay off through injury.

There has been talk of a move this summer back to Spain with several clubs interested.

Whatever happens in the transfer window, he is going to need regular football to really fulfil his potential.


Alberto Botia

The former Barcelona man is currently plying his trade at Sporting Gijon after failing to make the grade at the Nou Camp.

Initially on loan at El Molinon, Botia was an automatic starter throughout and has now signed a 4 year deal with the club.

Barcelona have included a buy-back clause for the first 3 years which highlights what a promising talent he is.


Jose Angel

A product of Sporting Gijon’s youth academy, the left back has been featuring regularly for the club since his debut in 2009.

His performances last year caught the eye of Barcelona; however, he has recently joined Luis Enrique at Roma.

You do suspect that he may well be back on Spanish soil should he progress as expected.


Martin Montoya

The right back was a regular started in Luis Enrique’s Barcelona B side last year and has since been linked with a move to Roma with Enrique and Valencia.

As with all La Masia products, he is extremely comfortable on the ball and a solid defender.

Should a move materialise for Montoya and gain him a first team place then he should flourish.


Victor Ruiz

The Catalonian centre back joined Napoli from Espanyol in January, and is already being linked with a big move again this summer.

Barcelona are the club who are known to admire the player.

It isn’t hard to see why, either, as Ruiz’s performances have shown him to be a natural defender with an assured calmness on the ball.


Mikel San Jose

The former Liverpool centre back has become a solid fixture in Athletic Bilbao’s backline since joining on loan, and then permanently last year.

He is also able to play in midfield, making his versatility are real asset for both Bilbao and the national sides.


Didac Vila

A product of Espanyol’s youth system, Vila became a regular for his hometown club and impressed in his first full season with the first team.

His progress earned him a move to AC Milan in January.

He is a great athlete, a willing runner and physically dominant for a left back.  He has re-joined Espanyol on a season-long loan this year.




Ander Herrera

Herrera is an extremely gifted attacking midfielder with technical ability in abundance.

After impressing at Real Zaragoza, he joined his hometown club – Athletic Bilbao – this summer for around €8 million.

The fee is expected to become a real bargain for the Basque club as he looks to use the move as a springboard towards greater things.

A senior call-up may well be on the cards in the near future.


Diego Capel

A creative left winger, Capel has recently joined Sporting of Portugal for a relatively cheap price of €3.5 million.

He is hoping to kick-start his career after a fairly inconsistent time at Sevilla in recent years.

At 23, he is now expected to deliver what his potential has always promised.


Javi Martinez

Athletic Bilbao paid €6 million for the classy central midfielder when he was just 17 and that has certainly paid dividends for the Basque club.

Physically imposing with an elegant style on the ball, Martinez has already gained 4 caps for the senior side with plenty more expected.

As the hub of Bilbao’s talented side, he is sure to impress again next season.

This could open the door to a regular starting place for the senior side and, quite possibly, a big move to one of Europe’s powerhouses.


Dani Parejo

Parejo came through the youth system at Madrid, and went out on loan to QPR before being sold to Getafe in 2009.

The central midfielder’s performances for the Azulones impressed Valencia who have paid around €5 million for his services.

Playing for his new side, amongst plenty of talent, should help Parejo improve as a player significantly.


Ruben Perez

Perez is currently on loan at Deportivo from Atletico Madrid.

He has become a fixture in the side thanks to his tireless work-rate and tidy use of the ball.

He is very much a defensive minded midfielder and is expected to continue as a starter for Deportivo next season.


Thiago Alacantra

The star of the show and Barcelona’s latest wonderkid; Italian- born with a Brazilian World Cup winning father – Mazinho.

Much to Spain’s delight, he has chosen to represent the country at various ages so far.

A typical Barcelona footballer – he has burst onto the scene this pre-season with his performances at the European Championships and for Barcelona.

He is a scorer of spectacular goals, naturally gifted on the ball and a definite game changer.

He is seen by many as the successor to Andres Iniesta.

After making a handful of appearances last year, he is expected to feature much more prominently this coming season after signing a new deal until 2015.




Adrian Lopez

Lopez finished as the golden boot winner of the tournament with 5 goals and made an exciting move to Atletico Madrid this summer.

The former Real Oviedo youth product is expected to help fill the void left by Sergio Aguero after his move to Manchester City.

He will need to hit the ground running at the Vicente Calderon to really make an impact this season.


Bojan Krkic

Widely expected to be the next big thing at Barcelona, things became difficult as he fell below the vast array of attacking talent available at the Nou Camp.

However, he has followed Luis Enrique to Roma this summer, where it is hoped he will find form and a regular starting place.

The forward is well known for his dribbling ability and lightening pace – something that Barcelona know all too well as they have also included a buy-back clause in the deal that can be activated after two seasons.


Jeffren Suarez

Jeffren is another talented forward from the Barcelona ranks unable to break into the side.

He has opted to solve this by joining teammate Diego Capel at Sporting for a fee of €3.75m.

There is yet another buy-back clause in the deal so should he impress during his time in Portugal, then expect to see him at the Nou Camp come 2013.


Juan Mata

Mata is an intelligent and extremely quick attacking midfielder with a knack for scoring goals.

The former Real Madrid youth is the star man of the Valencia side following the departures of David Silva and David Villa in recent years.

He has represented the senior side 11 times, scoring 4 goals.

There are strong rumours that he will be leaving the Mestalla this summer for the Premier League with reported interest from Arsenal,Tottenham and Manchester City.


Iker Muniain

The diminutive and precociously talented forward made his debut for Athletic Bilbao at just 16 years old.

Rated as one of the brightest prospects in Spain, Muniain still has a way to go but is sure to benefit massively with the appointment ofattack-minded maverick Marcelo Bielsa as coach for the coming season.


Emilio Nsue

The Mallorca striker rejected the chance to represent Equatorial Guinea national team in favour of Spain after representing at various youth levels.

The talented forward successfully spent last season on loan at Real Sociedad and is widely expected to do the same again this season.

Once a target for bigger clubs, he is hoping that his performances will warrant such attention once more.


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