Every season, La Liga is known for generating tremendous talent. The league that has delivered Lionel Messi, Andres Iniesta, Xavi, and Iker Casillas to the world continues to produce great players.
As the beginning of the new La Liga season approaches, the anticipation and excitement among fans is starting to intensify as they prepare to see their club’s latest big-money signings in action. But witnessing a young player succeed when given the chance on the greatest platform is even more gratifying and fascinating for a fan.
With that being said, FootTheBall has compiled a list of ten young players to watch out for in the La Liga 2021-22 season.
A top-flight footballer in the Segunda B, insultingly superior to everyone, Alex Collado is now ready to take the big step up following his promotion to the senior side. His comeback from injury in November had a transformational impact, as former Barcelona B manager Garcia Pimienta had big plans for him. He was named captain, which meant he would be the unquestioned leader, and his influence was even more pronounced.
Collado has had the same amount of freedom as Lionel Messi as a player of his caliber definitely deserves to be the conduit between everything. Not everyone can have independence, but the 22-year-old can since he is extremely intelligent. He has pure Barca DNA in terms of awareness and knowledge of the collective requirements.
Pimienta has maximised Collado’s talent to be an indisputable member of the first squad. Even with less freedom, as a winger near to the touchline and seeing less of the ball, he would have a major impact and be a valuable contributor to the senior squad.
Before the commencement of the new season, Takefusa Kubo’s future remains up in the air. In 20/21, the 20-year-old wasn’t able to perform at the heights he did the season prior with Mallorca, partly because he didn’t get a long run of games as a starter with Villarreal or Getafe.
He did show flashes of potential here and there, and he may have scored the goal that kept Getafe from relegation. But, even under Jose Bordalas, following an unsuccessful stint under Unai Emery, he didn’t leave a lasting impression. Of course, he can’t be faulted for this because he was only there for half of the season.
Nonetheless, the Japanese winger’s sky-high promise is the reason teams have been vying for his signature. Kubo has it all: left-footed, flexible, full of creativity and grace, always looking to surge ahead, with explosive changes of direction and rhythm, superb balance, and lateral agility.
Takefusa Kubo nutmegged FOUR players to score this goal for Japan 😳
— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) July 23, 2021
Although nothing has been agreed upon with any club about his loan transfer as of yet, all that exists are rumors, most of which link him to Sociedad. Presumably Kubo will leave on loan, hoping to persuade Los Blancos, like Martin Odegaard did, that he deserves a shot here. And fight for a spot while gaining experience and adapting to the Spanish game.
Not every academy graduate has the good fortune to thrive at Real Madrid, but Sergio Arribas, 19, is attempting to defy the odds. Arribas drew attention last season with a few cameo appearances for Zinedine Zidane’s senior team, and many familiar with the clu anticipate plenty more chances for the midfielder.
Talents like him are not supposed to be rushed, for it is only after they have gained experience that they can begin to showcase what they are capable of. Those who have seen him play for Real Madrid B under Raul know what the young Spaniard is made of.
The 19-year-old is extremely skilled and blessed with amazing technical ability, akin to Aston Villa captain Jack Grealish. His calmness in tight situations to overcome them astounds those who invest in their time well to observe him, and his eye for goal — compared to those in the same category as him — is phenomenal. His potential is scary and can be one of the best if Real Madrid helps his progress.
Yunus Musah, 18, is another talented youngster to keep an eye on in the next La Liga season. The midfielder made his senior debut for Valencia against city rivals Levante in September, and since then has been a regular starter for the club.
Los Murcielagos gain is Arsenal’s misfortune, since the midfielder was a former Gunner, having spent seven years at the North London club’s academy before moving to Spain the previous summer. He is primarily a midfielder who is most at ease and accustomed to a box-to-box role. His technical prowess, distributing range, and close control, along with his athleticism, make him a daunting opponent to handle in the middle of the park.
💎 17 years, 338 days.
🏴 The youngest English player EVER to score in #LaLigaSantander.
🌟 Yunus Musah = #LaLigaHistory 🌟#ValenciaGetafe pic.twitter.com/ZtVCDFwJCD
— LaLiga English (@LaLigaEN) November 1, 2020
With several Valencia stars and veterans out the door now, doors for bright youngsters such as Musah have opened. The teenager is already a part of La Liga’s history as Musah ( 17 and 338 days) became the youngest American to score in La Liga and the youngest foreigner to score for Valencia with his fantastic solo effort against Getafe last season.
Real Sociedad’s massive talent pool is overflowing with outstanding attackers and midfielders, and Ander Barrenetxea is one of those talents in La Real’s clutches.
The 19-year-old winger epitomises the contemporary Spanish winger. He lacks the blazing speed or special skill, but his fierce agility and relentless desire to dash into half-spaces make him an extremely versatile attacker. The right-footed teenager has frequently said that his favourite position is as an AM in the middle channel, but with the senior team, he has had to adjust to both the wings.
Back in February, the youngster signed a contract extension with the club until 2027, which explain that he is eager to flourish in the Blue and White outfit. With Barrenetxea and the quality Real Sociedad has at their disposal, they are certainly building something special at Anoeta.
The 18-year-old Yeremi Pino enjoyed a breakout campaign last season with Villarreal and also became the youngest winner of the Europa League after the Yellow Submarine defeated Manchester United in the finals.
🟡 Yeremi Pino = youngest winner in competition history! 🏆
1⃣ Yeremi Pino (18 years, 218 days)
2⃣ Robin van Persie (18 years, 275 days)@VillarrealCF | #UELfinal pic.twitter.com/BMKyngXf1k
— UEFA Europa League (@EuropaLeague) May 27, 2021
A large portion of their progress since the commencement of the 21st century has been centered around their youth academy, with players such as Santi Cazorla, Bruno Soriano, and now, Gerard Moreno rising to prominence. Yeremi Pino, the most recent offspring of that yellow bloodline, is poised to follow in their footsteps following a breakout season.
18y 194d – Only Ansu Fati 🇪🇸 (17y & 229d) is the youngest #LaLiga player to have scored at least six goals in all competitions than Yeremi Pino 🇪🇸 (18y & 194d) since at least 2013/14 season. Premature
@Eng_Villarreal #Villarreal#Endavant pic.twitter.com/0EH51LTlgR
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) May 3, 2021
What distinguishes the young winger is his desire to take on opposition players in one-on-one encounters, as well as his fearlessness at such a young age. Pino is a conventional winger, an old-school number 7. He’s a natural right-footed right-winger, so he’ll dribble down his flank before blasting a dangerous and tight cross into the box. He seldom decelerates since he is extremely vertical and attack-minded.
Athletic Club’s unrivaled dedication to young development has resulted in enormous success and excitement over the years, and Oihan Sancet is the most spectacular capture in recent years from the broad net of talent in their academy. Earning a regular starting spot at Athletic Club at such a young age speaks volumes about Oihan Sancet’s potential and the talent he has.
When the 20-year-old steps onto the field, he’s impossible to avoid given he is six feet, two inches tall. His style features elegance and trickery, with his best position appearing to be as a second striker. With his poise and composure in possession, he can also feature in interior roles, as a No.6 or 8. He’s also a tremendous ball dribbler with remarkable ball control.
2000 – Oihan Sancet has become the first player born in 2000 to score for Athletic in LaLiga. Future. pic.twitter.com/Mvxk8Yjk6h
— OptaJose (@OptaJose) June 27, 2020
Sancet has no fixed position and at such a young age, has perfected the concept of space and coming into space. He understands the geometry of the whole pitch and knows where he has to be in order to allow everything to flow. He said he still acts on instinct and has to read the game more, but his intelligence and maturity is well beyond his years.
Not a beast neither a monster, Eric García is not a traditional defender and he will not draw praise for it. He fits into a different mould of center-backs. Him starting in the semis of the Euros with Spain, at 20 and having barely played with Man City was surprising but Eric performed above expectations.
He is a prototypical Barcelona defender, but a defender that Barcelona lacked. He is always alert and concentrated, always checking his shoulder and signaling his teammates where they should be positioned. His overall reading of the game, both in and out of possession, allows him to be exceptionally well-positioned at all times and prepared to mark and follow his opponents’ runs.
A center-back that helps in pushing the defensive lines a few meters forward, a quality that was lacking for the Blaugranas. Eric is excellent in some facets, good in others, and has plenty of room for improvement in several more, like 1v1 defending. With his willingness to learn, his wit, and his attention to detail, there is no doubt he will only get better at them.
Real Madrid may not be prepared for life following Raphael Varane and Sergio Ramos’ departures, but Victor Chust has the potential to play a much bigger role in the first team. There will be questions and doubters since he plays for Castilla and is not a signing, but this has to be his moment.
Chust does not (yet) have the quality of a great center-back like Varane and Ramos, but with consistent playing time, the defender can breakthrough. He is an uncomplicated defender with a fantastic passing range, understands the game as simply as he plays it, and is never out of focus.
The defender possesses all of the qualities that made Varane so successful for Real Madrid over the previous decade, therefore he’s expected to take the step up post the Frenchman’s departure and become an important contributor to the first team.
Although Real Betis’ Diego Lainez has been in Spain for the last 2 seasons, in 48 appearances, the Mexican winger is yet to open his La Liga goal-scoring account. But that doesn’t mean the 21-year-old isn’t one of the high-ceiling prospects scattered around in the Spanish top flight.
The petite winger’s fluidity while dribbling complements his quick bursts of pace wonderfully. With the dip of a shoulder, he can wiggle past opponents or entice them into committing a foul. He seldom contributes directly to goals or assists, but Lainez’s inventiveness on either of the flanks handles the technical job for his side.
His lack of direct goal output certainly raises questions about his potential to individually change the flow of a contest, but his mentality gives answers on a regular basis. The young Mexican can excel if he gets regular playing time without being hampered by injuries.