La Liga 2017-18: Top five young breakthroughs
La Liga is known for Real Madrid, Barcelona, top talent, and never-ending European dominance. Trophy parades are not a scarcity in Spain. Barca won the league and the Copa del Rey. Real took home a third consecutive Champions League title. Atletico Madrid completed the sweep by claiming the Europa League.
The less prominent Spanish clubs haven't the money to compete with the El Clasico giants and Atleti. So, they've changed things up. Looking for inspiration from clubs like Benfica and Ajax, sides like Valencia, Celta Vigo, and the rest are developing and selling on young talent.
Here are five golden children big clubs might consider raising into 24-karat stars.
Last season, Sociedad struggled due in large part to their right back dilemma. Both Aritz Elustondo and Joseba Zaldua were injured. In response, then-manager Eusebio promoted Odriozola from the B team. Quick on his feet, quicker in thought, they young defender completed the season as the first-choice right back. The youngster was always eager to join the attack. His second season proved better than the first.
Averaging roughly two take-ons and one cross per 90, he can do both, he keeps defenders off-balance by mixing up his approach. Will he cross or will he cut inside? The 22-year-old knows when to lock down and when to win the ball. Exemplary instincts and decision-making put him in good stead at both ends.
Reportedly, he is a Real Madrid and Manchester United target.
Rodri is a Sergio Busquets clone. Like the Barcelona holding mid, he is a deep-lying orchestrator with excellent vision, technique, intelligence and passing range. He reads the game, maintains composure, and exposes the high press like a veteran.
Only Ivan Rakitic made more successful passes in 2017/18 than the Spanish regista. His ability to supply long balls and crosses into the box has torpedoed enemy keepers many times for the Yellow Submarine.
Atletico Madrid have already signed him to replace club legend, Gabi. Rodri has a great future waiting at the Wanda Metropolitano.
When Dani Ceballos departed for Real Madrid, Fabian kept Beticos faithful looking forward rather than back. The 22-year-old is a complete midfielder. He finished the season with an 86% passing accuracy, made 80 tackles and 41 interceptions), created 39 chances, provided six assists, and completed 69 take-ons. Portrayed as ‘next Pogba’ by fans at the Estadio Benito Villamarin, Ruiz loves to shoot from the distance. He takes at least one shot from outside the box every 90. He always likes to show for the ball when pressed high, putting faith in his ability to either take on his opponent or keep the play ticking over.
Ruiz was at the heart of the midfield against Real Madrid in the famous win at the Bernabeu. With a release clause of just €30m, any big club should be kicking his tires. Somehow, manager Quique Setien has convinced him to stay at the Benito Villamarin.
Gomez's first season with Celta was breathtaking. The Uruguayan striker scored 17 goals, the most by any U21 player in Europe's top five leagues. He added four assists, too. His work with Pione Sistos and Iago Aspas has paid handsome dividends.
Memorably, he scored the equaliser in a 2-2 draw with Real Madrid. His footwork is top-notch, the ability to find space in the box reminiscent of Diego Forlan. Likewise the former Atleti captain, he can play in the air, too.
Celta's fox in the box has a contract which will keep him at the club until 2022 but interests from China, Germany and England are already testing the club's resolve. If he continues to maintain such prolific form next season, a move will have to come.
On a season-long loan from Paris Saint-Germain, Guedes has been unbelievable for Valencia. He left France in search of game time. Marcelino was delighted to give it to him. The dynamic winger powered the Bats run to a Champions League place. The Benavente-born youngster owns the left flank. Seventy-seven take-ons translated into five goals and nine assists.
His deal with PSG expires in 2021 but there is no guarantee that he will enjoy the same minutes with the Ligue 1 powerhouse. Happily, there is no shortage of interest in his signature. He has everything a modern forward should possess. Just 21, he also has plenty of time to learn more.