There are a lot of exciting young players in Europe right now, some are already well-known whilst others are about to announce themselves in their respective leagues. On top of that, several rising individuals are prepared to do anything to achieve the opportunity of going to the World Cup.
In Spain, the production line of youngsters being promoted from the youth academy to the first team or are brought for cheap from elsewhere and are developed effectively, remains consistent season by season. This is one of the huge factors to why Spanish football will always be superior.
Here are the four youngsters that are having a wonderful season at a personal level in La Liga...
Unai Nunez – Athletic Club
Athletic Club have proven to be a side that produces many talented individuals and a team that can keep hold of their valuable gems for longer than expected. For sure, Inaki Williams, Kepa Arrizabalaga and Yeray Alvarez are a few players that are worthy of being mentioned, however, its Unai Nunez that has entered the main event at San Mames and has featured in all of the headlines from the beginning of the campaign up until now.
Since his La Liga debut at the start of the season, the 21-year-old centre-back has evidently shown that he is a solid player on and off the ball as he continues to make a mark in Jose Angel Ziganda’s starting line-up. Also, he is regarded as a classic defender, who is not afraid of aggressively completing an interception or tackle without a second thought in the first third of the pitch. Given the fact that he has managed to produce 25 shots blocked, 57 interceptions, 60 tackles and 101 aerial duels won in 28 league games, Nunez is showing to Spain as well as the whole of Europe that he is a complete defender who will become a wanted man soon or later.
Igor Zubeldia – Real Sociedad
Meanwhile, just under 50 miles away from San Mames at the Aneota Stadium, Real Sociedad are showing their local rivals that they are not the only Basque club that can create and develop young players. Defensive midfielder Igor Zubeldia is of course enjoying the game time he has experienced so far this term, an individual who was given his league debut back in 2016 under Eusebio Sacristan and is currently on the rise for La Real.
The close competition in the midfield position does not help Zubeldia’s situation of playing on a weekly basis, though, the fact that both David Zurutuza and Xabi Prieto are ageing will allow the Azkoitia-born youngster to receive a more important role in the long run. Until then, he will have to make the most out of the minutes given to him by current coach Jon Mikel Arrieta. Compared to the midfielders within the squad, Zubeldia has completed the second most tackles (1.7 per game) and the third most interceptions (1.3 per game), showing that his pure aggression and composure to retrieve the ball from dangerous areas is simply second to none.
Rodri - Villarreal
Whilst Bruno Soriano has been on the sidelines from the start of last summer and is still yet to make a return to full fitness, Rodri has taken his place in the Villarreal starting line-up and has made sure that the team has not missed the captain’s vital experience in the middle of the pitch. Since the beginning of the 2017-18 campaign, Rodri has become a regular starter for Javier Calleja’s side as he continues to prove himself as one of the best young central midfielders in the league and in Europe.
However, there is some bad news for the Yellow Submarines as Rodri is reportedly joining Atletico Madrid in the summer window, who have apparently met the player’s €20million buyout clause. Los Colchoneros see the 21-year-old as a long-term replacement for Gabi and are getting him for a fee that would be deemed as a bargain if he reaches his potential. Not only that, but Rodri is seen as the most effective and tidiest player whilst in possession of the ball compared to his team-mates as he has a successful passing rate of 89% as well as an average figure of 66 passes being completed per game.
Maxi Gomez – Celta Vigo
In the top-flight of Spanish football, the main focus within the category of strikers would constantly be on individuals such as Diego Costa, Iago Aspas and Luis Suarez. On the other hand, Celta Vigo forward Maxi Gomez has evidently proved himself as one of the La Liga signings of the season as he has quietly achieved 14 goals and three assists in his first season within Europe. Standing at six foot one inches tall, the 21-year-old has received a lot of recognition due to his work rate on and off the ball as well as his pure ability to hold up play.
The Uruguayan international completed the big move to Celta Vigo last summer for a fee as little as €4million, and is now being linked with the likes of Borussia Dortmund and Tottenham Hotspur. It’s unlikely that he will be leaving the Estadio Municipal de Balaidos anytime soon, especially since he has become a fan favourite at the club and has formed a dominant partnership with Iago Aspas. With his intelligence and movement being his invaluable asset, Maxi Gomez certainly has a massive career ahead of himself for both club and country.
This article was written by Asif Norat for Soccer Box, where you can shop for a huge range of official La Liga football shirts, kit and accessories. Order online for fast worldwide delivery options.