With the Premier League season coming to an end, clubs like Manchester United, Manchester City or Liverpool can start focusing in planning the next season while the likes of Arsenal, Tottenham or Chelsea fight until the end to achieve their goals. It’s time for scouting in search of young talents to build exciting squads and engage the fans with new faces to bring more glory to the club, in some cases, or recover the lost one, in others.
I will turn my eyes to sunny Spain in order to find five of the finest under-23 players of La Liga, in the hope that the likes of Mata, Michu or Cazorla are not the last ones that changed the flip-flops for the umbrella.
The latest starlet from the Real Betis youth academy. This precocious winger made his first appearance with the first team at the age of 16 in 2011, although a clash against Sergio Ramos in his Santiago Bernabeu debut weeks later ruled him out for six months with a ligament injury. A year and a half later, Betis boss Pepe Mel has given him a permanent spot in the senior squad, a move Vadillo is justifying by showing a great form on his return to La Liga.
Quick, skilful and with ability to perform in both wings, Vadillo called the attention of clubs like Barcelona and Manchester United before his injuries, reason why Betis chiefs urged to raise his buy-out clause from £2.5 million to £17 million last January before he made his reappearance. Definitely a player to watch, and the club could be willing to negotiate his transfer for a lower fee.
Without a doubt, one of the most desired midfielders in Europe, as Wenger recently pointed out by saying “everyone is after him at the moment”. Sevilla signed this strong holding midfielder last season from Lens for a £3.3 million fee, and could be ready to sell him this summer, as his price tag has raised to £17 million after impressing in La Liga with a fine display of tactical skills and stamina. However, the investment group that owns half of the players’ rights could be interested in keeping the player at Sevilla at least one more season to continue his development.
Kondogbia has called the attention of Real Madrid, Arsenal, Chelsea or Manchester City, among others, and although the player himself has expressed signing for Los Blancos would be a dream come true, Sevilla chief Jose Maria del Nido has always been reluctant to strengthen Real or Barcelona with his young stars, circumstance top Premier League clubs could take advantage of.
This young midfielder is considered in San Sebastian as Xabi Alonso’s successor. Growing at Real Sociedad’s youth academy with the Real Madrid ace as a reference, the 21 year-old gained notoriety in Spain after commanding the Under 17’s midfield in the 2011 European Championship success, where he played a key role in Julen Lopetegui’s squad.
Slowly gaining a spot in Philippe Montanier’s starting XI at Real Sociedad, Pardo has featured in 24 games this season and the Txuri Urdin club has rushed to seal a £25 million buy-out clause to ensure negotiation before seeing the starlet go. In his first season as a regular first-squad player, Pardo is improving the numbers of his idol Alonso in some of the areas the veteran player has been mastering for over a decade – such as passing accuracy (82.3% for Pardo against Alonso’s 82.2%) or long pass accuracy (70.2% against 67%).
A key player in Marcelo Bielsa’s line up – he has started the 25 games he has featured in this season – Herrera has been a crucial piece in Athletic Bilbao’s attack during the last two seasons. Normally acting as an attacking midfielder, the 23 year-old has in his dribbling skills and ability to combine with other team-mates his main assets, as he is not precisely a scoring prone player. Despite being an offensive player, Herrera also helps in the defensive duties, as his 6.6 ball interceptions per game testify.
Although his buy-out clause is simply unreachable – £33 million – this tends to be a habit at Athletic, as their policy of playing with only Basque-origin players reduce notably their chances of signing new talents. Nevertheless, his price tag would be substantially lower. Herrera is also a regular for La Rojita, the Spanish Under 21 team, and senior coach Vicente del Bosque has pondered a call for the first team in previous occasions.
One of the main players responsible of the outstanding season Real Sociedad are completing in La Liga, Griezmann has formed a devastating duo of wingers with former Arsenal player Carlos Vela. Fast-paced, extremely creative and with a powerful left foot, this talented Frenchman counts 8 goals and 3 assists on his league tally.
Griezmann has publicly admitted his desire of Champions League football, and should Malaga or Valencia end up taking Real Sociedad’s current fourth place, a summer exit could be a predictable ending to his excellent season. Both Arsenal and Tottenham have been reportedly linked to the French winger.
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