It has become quite clear that over the last three years, the Spanish football philosophy is way above those of the rest of the world right now and the current European Championship and World Cup holders show no signs of slowing down as a nation as proven when Spain’s Under-21 team won the European U21 Championship this year, a victory that illustrates just how bright the future of Spanish football is.
The Under-21 tournament threw up a number of Spanish players that will undoubtedly become the mainstay of the full Spanish team over the next few years and several of them are already catching the eye of Europe’s biggest clubs. The Spanish players who particularly shined during the tournament in Denmark are listed below and whilst they may not be familiar names with readers just now, there’s a good chance they will be in the future…
Juan Manuel Mata – Midfield: Although one of the older players in the squad, this Valencia midfielder possesses obvious class. He scored twice in the tournament and alongside Martinez and Alcantara, they formed a midfield that resembled their senior counterparts – Xavi and Iniesta. It is little wonder that Mata has been the subject of transfer rumours with Spain and England’s biggest teams.
Javi Martinez – Midfield: Just 22 years old and a mainstay in the Athletic Bilbao side, Martinez is regarded as the ‘midfield engine’ of the Under-21 side whose powerhouse performances were largely responsible for why the team enjoyed so much possession. He has already won four full caps for his country and he has been linked to Liverpool this summer. He was the captain of the Under-21 team and sure to be in the reckoning for the full squad for Spain’s defence of their European crown at Euro 2012.
Thiago Alcantara – Midfield: One of the future stars of Barcelona, this highly rated midfielder has a buy-out clause of 90 million Euro in his contract, such is the belief that the club have in him. He played every game in the Under-21 Championship and was awarded Man of the Match in the final against Switzerland, scoring a 40 yard free kick in the process, another likely contender for the full Spain squad and will be knocking on the door of Barca’s starting XI this coming season
Adrian Lopez – Striker: A natural goalscorer who won the “Golden boot” award at the Under-21 tournament with five goals. Like Mata, he was one of the permitted older players in the tournament but at 23 he is still young and has a huge future ahead of him. Lopez plays for Deportivo who were relegated from La Liga last season which is there is currently a lot of interest in the striker from clubs all over Europe.
Didac Vila – Left Back: A quality left back who is currently on loan at Espanyol from his main club, AC Milan. Vila put in some top quality performances in Denmark, proving himself equally competent defending as he is when running forward to support the attack. He had been somewhat injury prone when he first came to prominence but now back to full fitness a call up to the full Spanish team is on the cards and domestically, Milan is unlikely to be letting him leave any time soon!
David de Gea – Goalkeeper: Signed this summer by Manchester United from Atletico Madrid for just under £19m, this young keeper is hugely talented and heads to Old Trafford with a huge reputation and looks the ideal long-term replacement for the now retired Edwin Van Der Saar. At just 20 years old he has a very long and exciting future ahead of him in the game and is likely to replace Iker Casillas as the Spanish number one.
With the current Spanish squad boasting such names as Villa, Torres, Iniesta, Xavi, Busquets and Pique, the chances are that some of these names may not feature too prominently in the Euro’s next year in Poland and Ukraine, however, by the 2014 World Cup comes around in Brazil, it is likely that many will form the backbone of Spain’s next generation of talent, not a thrilling thought for fans of other International teams around the globe, particularly England whose youngsters, like their seniors, crashed out of a major tournament with a whimper!