The likes of Koke, Inigo Martínez and Raphael Varane have all emerged on the scene in La Liga to devastating effect in the last few seasons. Now, there are several new faces looking to make a name for themselves over the course of the upcoming campaign, all of whom are aged 21 or under.
Thievy – Espanyol
A player who has the skill set to be a dominant force in La Liga, and potentially the Premier League in the future. Thievy is a powerful, rangy customer capable of barging through defences with his sheer athleticism. Quick, strong and showing signs of using his frame to his advantage, the Frenchman could be a sensation this season. Mauricio Pochettino felt the player needed to grow up and sent him out on loan despite dipping his toes in the first team picture at Espanyol, and he was justified in doing so with Thievy excelling at Las Palmas in their play-off surge. 13 goals in 44 games in such a tough league was a fine achievement, and a new contract until 2017 was thrown his way.
This season the 21-year-old has already managed 2 goals and that’s from 4 shots without even starting a game. Both strikes came due to smart movement; first there was a run bended to evade the offside trap and latch onto a through ball, while the second came as a result of astute anticipation in the penalty area. There is still a rawness to his game, but Thievy has massive potential which, handled correctly, could make for one hell of a future.
Rubén García – Levante
That the scouting department at Arsenal were enamoured by Rubén García came as no surprise given his performances in 2012/2013. Levante aren’t notoriously an attractive team, but the 21-year-old possesses flair as well as the rough exterior the team from Valencia requires. He’s often been placed in a wide left role, with license to cut in and drive at the opposition, but there is a creative side to his game yet to be fully tapped. His versatility has also allowed him to play in a second striker role, using his excellent bursts of pace and close control to bypass a defence.
This season already his impact has been sizeable, managing just the 1 goal but bringing more shape to his game; 1.7 key passes and 1.3 successful dribbles per appearance makes him the leader in both regards for Levante. His explosiveness, technique and potential might be vital for a Levante side that can often be very predictable.
Saúl – Rayo Vallecano (on loan from Atlético Madrid)
There has been talk over the last few weeks that this very player has been targeted by Barcelona in a first option deal, and it’s not surprising to see why that might be the case. Saúl, at only 18-years-old, has taken on the mature step of accepting a loan elsewhere in La Liga, and his talent befits such a level. At 7.59 he’s currently the highest rated Rayo player this season, while an opening weekend performance against Elche was nothing short of sensational, as he was awarded an 8.6 match rating by WhoScored – only Alberto Bueno with 2 goals and an assist surpassed him.
His 58.3 passes per game is the second most on the team, while a 90.9% accuracy shows just how methodical he is with his distribution. With the energetic Javi Fuego gone from Rayo though, there is a need to shore things up defensively and Saúl’s efforts are by no means falling short. With 3 tackles and 3 interceptions per game he’s the most active player at Rayo in these terms, while 2.7 aerials duels won per game further emphasise the combative side of his game. Saúl is a Busquets clone at times, operating in those deeper zones, breaking up play and picking off opposition attacks, but also possesses the ability to circulate possession to a quality standard.
Suso – Almería (on loan from Liverpool)
Unable to find a role for him in the current Liverpool setup, Brendan Rodgers judged it correctly that Suso needed more playing time elsewhere. Almería it seems, might just be the perfect move despite their impending battle with relegation across the course of the season. Suso has been handed the responsibility of playmaker-in-chief and with it a free role which allows him to penetrate defences from a variety of areas. Already he’s managed 2 assists, one of which a perfectly weighted pass behind the defence after roaming centrally.
2 key passes per game since the season began make him the joint-most efficient for Almería, while his 14 successful dribbles is the best in La Liga. More important than any assist or dribble however, is the continuity that Suso will gain from the loan. Rather than be in and out of proceedings, he’s been earmarked as a vital cog in the works that operate to keep Almería in La Liga – all while still just 19 years old.
Carles Gil – Elche (on loan from Valencia)
Isco might have slipped through their grasp, but Valencia had better not make the same mistake with Carles Gil. A second year on loan at Elche is underway, and early signs are the transition from Segunda to Primera is suiting the 20-year-old. Gil’s an extremely efficient player, able to circulate possession from deep areas and also able to play in a wide role, pressing without the ball and running at defences with pace. The debate rages on as to where he’s best suited, but so far in his wide right role he has been superb.
Gil has made 1.7 key passes per game this season, the second most at Elche, while he has also completed an impressive 2.7 successful dribbles per game and been fouled 4.3 times per game as he runs at opposition defences. Off the ball he’s shown a maturity too, taking part as the first line of defence pressing defenders on the ball and dropping in centrally to shore up Elche’s central midfield. Valencia retain an €8m clause on the player but it’s no surprise they’re looking to increase that due to interest from major clubs.
Who do you think is the hottest prospect in La Liga? Let us know in the comments below