El Centrocampista

THE BARCLAYS PREMIER LIGA – The Spanish invasion of English football

By Sam Hughes

The second Spanish invasion of England is well underway  and has been far more successful than the previous armada that was crushed by Francis Drake and his navy almost 430 years ago.

In fact it’s fair to say, in footballing terms, the Spanish have most definitely arrived.

With Spain seemingly unrivalled in their continued production of top quality talent, the elite clubs in the Barclays Premier League have shown more and more interest as Spain’s dominance has increased over the years.

Traditionally, Spanish players have never really settled in England, often finding the frantic pace and physicality too much to handle.

That, however, has all changed and it looks as though most clubs in England will soon have a Spanish edge in their side, with the top clubs already heading that way.

Fernando Torres, Pepe Reina and Xabi Alonso were probably the first major Spanish imports to succeed at the top level. Rafa Benitez brought his fellow countrymen to Liverpool as he began to mould the side in his image.

Other imports such as Luis Garcia and Alvaro Arbeloa were also in that side, although with varying degrees of success.

Arsenal have taken a different route, they scouted Spanish youngsters early and made them their own. Cesc Fabregas, before ‘going back home’ to Barcelona, was the captain and the hub of the side after signing as a 16-year-old.

More recently, youngsters Hector Bellerin and Jon Toral were also brought to Arsenal. The London side haven’t been afraid to look at more established Spanish players either. Jose Antonio Reyes came to the club with high expectations before being broken by the Neville brothers against Manchester United and Mikel Arteta has been signed as a replacement for Fabregas this season.

Chelsea are the latest side to start to build a Spanish core to their side. Fernando Torres was signed in January for big money, Juan Mata was the marquee signing in summer from Valencia, and young Oriol Romeu was brought in from Barcelona.

Their new manager, Andre Villas-Boas, is looking to inject a slick, free-flowing style into the side as they try to finally shake off the Mourinho years that still loom large over Stamford Bridge.

Manchester City currently possess the in-form player of the season so far in the shape of David Silva. His performances have been nothing short of magical as he weaves his way around opponents before picking out sumptuous passes week in, week out.

The mega-rich club have also scouted a number of Spanish talents for their youth sides, with Denis Suarez – signed from Celta Vigo – being heralded as the next star.

Their neighbours Manchester United have arguably the best young goalkeeper in the world as their number one, David De Gea.

After a shaky start to his career, the former Atletico Madrid stopper was laughably written off be certain sections of the English press. However, in recent weeks he has shown just why he is so highly rated back home.

It is Manchester United, again, that have been linked with another Spanish star – Athletic Club’s Javi Martinez.

The Basque player has been linked with a January move to Old Trafford, having allegedly been identified as the long-term answer to the club’s central midfield dilemma.

Elegant, yet physically imposing, Martinez has been a regular for the Basque club since the age of 18. He was signed by Athletic Club for €6 million at just 17, highlighting the incredible potential he had at that tender age.

No-one knows how truthful the story is, but a January move does seem somewhat unlikely. Although, should he eventually make the move, there is absolutely no doubt that he would be another success. He has all the right attributes to make it in the Premier League and be another Spanish addition of genuine quality.

Since Spain’s Euro 2008 win, the success rate of Spanish players in England has certainly increased. It seems they have the staying power to go with their natural skill and vision.

Should Spain continue to produce these players and win national tournaments from youth to senior levels, then we may well be seeing a complete Spanish invasion in England over the next few years.

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