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Football Cantera

The future of La Roja is now.

Canteranos Set to Breakout in 2013/2014 season

August 27th, 2013

With the new football season just started, here is a look at some of the potential breakout stars for the new campaign.

Last season saw the breakout of the likes of Asier Illarramendi, Alberto Moreno, Dani Carvajal, Ruben Garcia, Jese Rodriguez and so on as they took their game to the next level and began to deliver on the promise they showed as youth on the grand stage.

Here are some of the players likely to emerge this season:

Alejandro-Pozuelo

Alejandro Pozuelo (Swansea City)
Pozuelo is the latest Spaniard to join Michael Laudrup’s Spanish revolution at Swansea City or ‘Ciudad Swansea’ as I love to call it. Signed from Real Betis for €500,000, he is a potential for bargain of the season. His Swans career is off to a flyer already as he netted in his first competitive game in the Europa League 3rd qualifying round game against Malmo FF.

Pozuelo is an attacking midfielder who sits behind the forward, providing the armoury. He is blessed with a delightful touch, quick feet and thought and complete with an eye for the pass.

Pozuelo has for long been tipped for stardom and not so long ago was linked with a move to Manchester United. There is inevitably, a feeling of what could have been amongst Beticos.

His move to Swansea could not have come at a better time as he is at the stage of his career where he needs to be playing regularly at a high level and the move to Swansea will afford him just that.

Ismael ‘Isma’ Lopez (Sporting Gijon on loan from Athletic Bilbao)
Isma is one of the most talented players to come out of Athletic’s Lezama in recent times.

The talented winger returned to Athletic last season after a brief spell at Lugo where he helped them gain promotion to the Segunda Division.

He broke into the team earlier in the season but injuries and inconsistent displays saw him on the fringes.

On loan at Sporting Gijon for the season. The move to the rocky climes of the Asturias, under the guidance of Jose Ramon Sandoval could see his career hit new heights.

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Jose Campaña (Crystal Palace)
Campaña recently signed for Crystal Palace for €2million after failing to agree to a new contract. London may be just what he needs to kick-start a career that has promised so much yet delivered precious little.

For long he was touted as the next big thing to come out of the Sevilla youth system. He obliterated records at youth level and often played with kids above age – such was his talent – and he went on to make his first team debut against Hannover 96 in a Europa League qualifier aged 18.

Playing in central midfield, Campaña reads the game cleverly and has a very impressive range of passing and can also dictate the tempo of a game. What he lacks in pace and power, he more than makes up for in intelligence and technique. He is in every way the archetypal Spanish midfielder. He sights ball retention and distribution as his best qualities.

“What I like to think are my best qualities are keeping the ball and having good distribution”

His ability is not in question but why things did not quite work out well with Sevilla remains a mystery. Crystal Palace represents a chance to begin afresh.

Pablo Sarabia (Getafe)
A product of Real Madrid’s famed La Fabrica academy, Sarabia took the all too familiar route of joining city neighbours, Getafe from Real Madrid in 2011. He has however been unable to break into the team, making 15 starts in both league and cup in two seasons. Not even a long term injury lay off to Pedro Leon in 2012 could aid his cause. Luis Garcia is the kind of coach that likes to stick his tried and trusted team.

He recently voiced his dissatisfaction at the lack of opportunities and may look to move away from the Coliseum Alfonso Perez.

A European champion at U19 and U21 level with Spain, he was part of the Spain team that beat all comers at the just held Euro U21 championships in Israel, putting in a brilliant performance against Holland in the group stage where he assisted two goals as Spain ran out 3-0 winners.

An attacking midfielder who often plays from the right despite being left footed, he can also play across all the attacking positions. Sarabia is good on the dribble and has a very good cross. He often looks to drift inwards from wide positions and have a pop at goal. He is also very dangerous when one against one. What stands him out the most is his eye for the final pass.

As I mentioned earlier, he may look to move away from Getafe with Elche mentioned as a likely destination for a loan move or he may yet stay with Getafe and with Abdel Barrada having departed, he may play a major role for the Azulones this season.

Ruben Pardo(Real Sociedad):
The 20 year old midfielder has the uneviable task of filling the void left by Illarramendi in La Real’s midfield. Not an easy task by any means but it shows how much belief the La Real management have in the youngster.

Manager, Jagoba Arrasate recently said he is not looking forward to bringing in any more players and stated his satisfaction with his current squad – a huge endorsement for Ruben.

La Real’s mangement have taken a slow and steady approach as regards drafting him in the first team, preferring to carefully blood him in rather than throw him in at the deep end – a decision that has not often gone down well with the Txuri-Urdin faithful who demand to see the pearl of the Zubieta in regular action.

Pardo is a central midfielder who likes to drop deep and collect the ball, spreading it beautifully across the pitch; orchestrating play. He always wants the ball, moving brilliantly across the pitch and always making himself an option to recieve the pass.

Of course, there have been comparisons with Xabi Alonso – the inevitable cross it seems that every midfielder coming out of the Zubieta these days have to bear…Ask Illara – and a bid from Real Madrid earlier in the year was reportedly turned down.

With Real Sociedad set to play in the Champions League this season, Pardo has a big season ahead of him.

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Francisco ‘Paco’ Alcacer:
Paco did not have a successful loan spell at Getafe last season. He made a total of four starts in both league and cup, scoring four goals. He played a combined total of 867 minutes and he only twice completed 90 minutes. A disappointing season, no doubt but the experience of playing in the top flight will be invaluable.

Paco will hope to force his way into Valencia’s team this season. Manager, Miroslav Djukic , recently said the 19 year old striker is on his agenda.

Good pace, intelligent movement and composure all combine to make Paco a lethal finisher.

With Soldado and Valdes having departed Valencia, he should feature prominently for Los Che this season.

Uyi Ogbebor can be found on twitter @goody2_boots

Alexander González Guanche

August 7th, 2013

Full Name: Alexander González Guanche
Team: U.D. Las Palmas
Position: Goalkeeper
Age: 19
Birth Date: January 14, 1994
Birth Place: Las Palmas de Gran Canaria
Height: 180 cm

Lately, U.D. Las Palmas cantera is producing a good number of quality goalkeepers. If Alejandro Martín and Raul Lizoaín are alternating between the first and the second squad (where the Argentine, Pablo Varela, is also playing), then Alexander González Guanche is the undisputed goalkeeper in the youth categories of the club.

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Guanche has great reflexes, he is very agile and confident in all of his actions. He was very good in the youth Copa de Campones played last spring, where he was named best goalkeeper of the competition. He was instrumental in a win against Barcelona in the Quarter-finals and he was a star against Sevilla in the Semifinals despite his team’s loss. Last season Guanche debuted with Las Palmas Atlético in the second squad and was also called by the first team more than once, when the first team’s goalkeepers were unable to play due to injury and disciplinary sanctions.

Alexander González Guanche is a fixture in all the youth categories of his club. Now, at 19 years old, his biggest challenge is before him as he attempts to break into the first team at U.D. Las Palmas where the competition for a goalkeeping spot is fierce.

This article has been written by Mario Cipriano. You can find Mario Cipriano on Twitter @ciprianomario

Keko Gontán

August 5th, 2013

Full Name: Sergio Gontán Gallardo
Team: Catania
Position: Right Winger
Age: 21
Birth Date: December 28, 1991
Birth Place: Brunete (Madrid)
Height: 177 cm

In football sometimes quality is not enough. It’s not enough to be good technically, to be a fast runner, and to have personality. You can have a brilliant career at the youth level, following all the right steps, representing your country but if something goes badly at the wrong moment, a player that seemed destined for stardom, becomes average.

This is the case with Sergio Gontán Gallardo, known as “Keko”. He was a star and leader in all of the youth categories at Atlético Madrid and in Spain, and until 2010, one of the most promising young talents of the Spanish football scene. Then something broke and now there are only a few options left to the youngster.

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Keko was born in Brunete, a part of Madrid, in 1991. He soon began to ascend the ranks of the youth of the “Colchoneros”. There was something special about Keko, although perhaps he lacked some bravery in shooting on goal and he took too many touches in dribbling. Like any good winger, dribbling is his speciality. Keko’s speciality was executed with quickness, great technique and the ability to combine and collaborate with team-mates. He adapted to the collective needs of his team, using both his natural right foot and his left foot to shoot.

At 16 years and 307 days old, Keko became the youngest player to debut in an official competition with Atlético Madrid. He debuted in the Copa del Rey de España, a match that Atletico Madrid won 1-0 in Orihuela in October 2008. Keko was subbed in at the 89th minute. His Spanish League debut was a year later, on September 12, 2009, against Racing Santander in a 1-1 draw at home, his last appearance wearing the first team’s uniform. In July 2010, at the end of that season, he finished runner-up in the U-19 UEFA European Football Championship played in Caen (France), concluding a successful career with the youth of “La Roja”, having played for the U-15 through U-18 National teams. In the Caen tournament Keko was the captain and everyone expected an early call to play with the U-21’s but that never happened.

It was the beginning of his descent. In January 2010, Atlético Madrid loaned him to a Real Valladolid team that were marching down towards relegation to the Second Division. The following season (2010-11) he played on loan to Cartagena in the first half of the season and Girona in the second half, without ever convincing his coaches of his worth. For that reason and for the bad relationship he had with Atlético Madrid management, his home decided not to renew his contract. Keko then moved to Italy, signing with Catania. In two years in Sicily, he played 4 games (plus 10 appearances when he was loaned to Grosseto for 5 months in January 2012) and he scored only one goal (in his Serie A debut on 24 February 2013, contributing to a 2-1 away win over Parma).

Keko Gontán is still young at 21 years old and he can still become the great player who many observers believed he would be, but he needs to play on a team that believes unconditionally in his qualities.

This article has been written by Mario Cipriano. You can find Mario Cipriano on Twitter @ciprianomario

Enzo Fernández Zidane

July 26th, 2013

Full Name: Enzo Alan Fernández Zidane
Team: Real Madrid Castilla
Position: Midfielder
Age: 18
Birth Date: March 14, 1995
Birth Place: Bordeaux (France)
Height: 186 cm

His first name is Enzo, like Francescoli. His last name is Zidane, like Zinedine. It could be strange to play football with the name and surname of such an epic footballer. It would be a heavy burden to bear for an eighteen year old trying to establish a successful career.

Enzo Alan Fernández Zidane is the firstborn of Zinedine Zidane. His first name is a tribute to Enzo Francescoli (former Uruguayan footballer who played in the Eighties and Nineties), a teen idol of his father. He chose as a first surname his mother’s surname, “Fernández”, to avoid the stress of constant comparisons with his father, to try to go unnoticed. A strategy that has worked only until he has begun to play football, in the
same position as his father played, on the same team his father played with and with similar elegance.

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He was born in Bordeaux, France, where Zinedine Zidane played between 1992 and 1996, before moving to Italy. In Torino he started playing football in the Juventus youth set-up. When the former 1998 Ballon d’Or winner signed for Real Madrid, the whole Zidane family followed Zinedine. Enzo obtained Spanish citizenship in 2006, so he is eligible to play for France, Spain (was called up to the Spain U15 team in 2009) and Algeria (as of his paternal grandparents). Currently he plays for Real Madrid Juvenil B team and sometimes this season, José Mourinho called him to train with the first squad. He doesn’t stand out physically but by his technique with the ball. He is able to play with both legs phenomenally and is dangerous in one on one situations.

Now Enzo is in a tricky situation, because his father will be the first assistant of Carlo Ancelotti, the new Real Madrid coach. Last Winter, Liverpool tried to signed him, but he preferred to continue growing in Real Madrid. This year may be the year of his launch among professionals, since he will probably play in the Real Madrid Castilla in Spanish Second Division.

You can find Mario Cipriano on Twitter @ciprianomario

Ale Rodríguez “Pipo”

July 24th, 2013

Full Name: Alejandro Rodríguez Marrero “Pipo”
Team: U.D. Las Palmas
Position: Midfielder
Age: 18
Birth Date: August 19, 1994
Birth Place: Las Palmas de Gran Canaria

In the recent youth tournament, the “Copa de Campeones” played in Vigo, U.D., Las Palmas announced the arrival of three young talents. One of them is Alejandro Rodríguez “Pipo”, a play maker of massive quality, not overly quick, his real quality is found with the ball at his feet, his dribbling and accuracy on passing.

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A couple of years ago he was on trial at La Masía, but F.C. Barcelona’s trainers decided to not submit a contract to let the lad play in their youth squads. Someone in the club mentioned that there were problems of attitude more than a negative skills evaluation. So he returned home, waiting for the moment to demonstrate his value. He enacted some level of revenge last Spring in the tournament in Vigo, where U.D. Las Palmas eliminated F.C. Barcelona, winning with a penalty kick earned and scored by Alejandro Rodríguez.

As result of all these good performances, next season he will play with the first squad, coming directly from the Juvenil División de Honor, without passing through Las Palmas Atlético (the second squad, which will play in third division). There is a big expectation around him to be the new star of the team after the departure of Vitolo (23 years old winger and top scorer of U.D. Las Palmas in the last two seasons who was recently sold to Sevilla for 3 million Euros).

You can find Mario Cipriano on Twitter @ciprianomario

Waiting for Neymar and Isco – Preseason Begins in Spain

July 20th, 2013

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Yesterday was the first day of work for Real Madrid and Barcelona. All the players who hadn’t played Confederations Cup or for their respective National teams responded to Ancelotti and Vilanova, eager for the new season to begin. Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo were there; ready to start a new season and a new duel: who will win the Liga? Who will score more goals?

Isco, Illarramendi and Carvajal were also present, the three new faces of Real Madrid 2013-14, signed for a total of 80 million Euros. They will represent – together with Jesé Rodríguez, Álvaro Morata and Nacho Fernández – the Real Madrid youth revolution, promoted through young Spanish footballers. This is in stark contrast to the club’s strategy in recent times, when sometimes the team played with all foreigners. Now the priority for Real Madrid is to sell: Ancelotti does not have space for everyone, in Spain the first squads can be composed for a maximum of 25 players and today Ancelotti and Zidane have available 28. The first in going out could be Raúl Albiól (wanted by Rafa Benítez for Napoli) and Antonio Adán (the fourth goalkeeper). The Russian Denis Cheryshev (22 year old, coming from Real Madrid Castilla) is required on loan by Bayer Leverkusen and Gonzalo Higuaín is waiting for moving as soon as possible to U.K. (Arsenal and Liverpool the candidates to sign him). Once the sales are solved, Real Madrid’s management will be able to think about a last signing, having Gareth Bale, Luís Suárez and Zlatan Ibrahimovic on the top of their wish lists.

Barcelona’s situation is in a more advanced stage. Neymar came and David Villa left. Thiago Alcántara signed for Bayern Munich and his substitute will be young Sergi Roberto. Bojan Krkic, Rafinha Alcántara and Gerard Deulofeu have been loaned to Ajax, Celta Vigo and Everton; the next will be Afellay, Jonathan Dos Santos and maybe Isaac Cuenca. The only target from today to the end of the transfer market is a defender, with Brazilian Thiago Silva being the first on the wish list.

Both clubs, beyond who will came and who will leave, are preparing for a long season full of difficulties, where they’ll have among their opponents also José Mourinho (Chelsea) and Pep Guardiola (Bayern Munich), a recent past that will be surely be a measuring stick for the rest of us to compare in the new year.

You can find Mario Cipriano on Twitter @ciprianomario

Pauliño de la Fuente Gomez: The Canterano at Inter

July 16th, 2013

Name: Pauliño ‘Pau’ de la Fuente Gomez
Team: Inter Milan
Position: Attacking Midfielder
Age: 16
Birth Date: June 27, 1995
Int’l: Spain U16 (2 caps)

Pau came to light at the 2012/2013 Campeonat de Espana cadet. Playing for CF Basander at the time, a string of fine performances including a virtuoso display in Valencia in December where he scored the winner quickly made everyone sit up and take notice.

No prizes for guessing that the big wigs of La Liga – Real Madrid and Barcelona would come calling. Valencia, Levante and Racing Club were interested too. In the end, he signed for Inter Milan.

Inevitably, comparisons have been drawn with fellow Cantabrian and Valencia midfielder, Sergio Canales as Pau constantly drifted into space, head up. Orchestrating and exhibiting a game understanding that bellied his tender 15 years. The touch, slaloming runs, feints and vision are a pleasant reminder of why Real Madrid paid €6 million to sign him in 2010.

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The Future:

Italian football is notorious for not handing opportunities to youngsters but the landscape is fast changing. The downturn experienced by the Italian economy and the recent successes of Italian teams in youth competitions has seen clubs turning to youth. El Shaarawy at Milan, Pogba at Juventus are examples of young players who have been handed major roles at big clubs in Italy. For Pau, the journey to the first team is still a very long one. He first hast to succeed with the U18s where he is now and then progress to the Primavera – the highest youth team.

He still has work to do. There is the tendency to overdo things – going for the spectacular when the simple would suffice but that should improve as he grows older. He only recently turned 16. He has the talent and if he develops as expected, Inter have on their hands a player that could become a world beater.

So friends, mark this day on your diaries. The day you first read about Pauliño de la Fuente Gomez.

Carlos Leto

July 9th, 2013

Full Name: Carlos Ramírez Gálvez “Leto”
Team: U. D. Las Palmas
Position: Right Back
Age: 17
Birth Date: December 12, 1995
Birth Place: Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, Spain
Height: 172 cm

Another young star is coming up from the U.D. Las Palmas prolific “cantera”: Carlos Ramírez Gálvez, known as “Leto” looks like the bright future of the canary team’s right back position.

carlose letoShort but strong and dynamic, his name is beginning to be thrown around by youth football experts, especially after his brilliant participation on the recent youth tournament “Copa de Campeones” played in Vigo last Spring: important newspapers like AS (who included him in the all-star team of the competition) and Marca (who dedicated a report on its TV channel) have underlined his qualities and it is known that Barcelona (eliminated from the competition in Quarter Final exactly by UD. Las Palmas) took note of his talents. Defensively reliable, he likes to go on the attack (he always says that his model is none other than Dani Alves) and he tends to impress in the more important matches.

Because of the retirement from active football of Pignol and because of the constant injuries of Aythami, this Summer Carlos Leto should train with U.D. Las Palmas first squad to permit coach Sergio Lobera evaluate if he is ready to compete with professionals.

You can find Mario Cipriano on Twitter @ciprianomario

Carlo Ancelotti to Instigate Youth Revolution in Madrid

July 4th, 2013
Morata (middle) and Isco (right) will be reuniting under Carlo Ancelotti at Madrid.

Morata (middle) and Isco (right) will be reuniting under Carlo Ancelotti at Madrid.

The Italian manager could be poised to unleash the power of La Fabrica during his time with Real Madrid. Jose Mourinho has all but ignored the burgeoning young Spanish talent in Madrid’s cantera but that is all set to change as Ancelotti has voiced his ambition to bring spectacular football back to Spain’s capital while doing so with their homegrown talent. Not only youngsters out of the club’s own cantera, but bringing Spain’s brightest diamond in Malaga’s Isco Alarcon to the flashing lights of the Bernabeu. The Italian will bring an atmosphere of positivity back to the club that was sorely lacking it for most of the season. The youngsters out of the cantera with the most to gain from his appointment include:

Dani Carvajal – Right Back
The twenty-one year old played all of last season with Bayer Leverkusen in the Bundesliga. At the end of the season he was named one of the league’s best right-backs, behind Phillip Lahm and Schalke 04’s Atsuto Uchida. On June 3rd Madrid wasted no time in exercising the buy-back option on Carvajal and brought the canterano back into the fold. He was a part of the U21 sides European Championship triumph this summer and is set to compete with Arbeloa for a starting spot in Madrid, a competition which could very well spill over into the national team.

Jesé Rodriguez – Forward
The twenty year old led his team in goals with twenty-two this season, helping Real Madrid Castilla finish the season as top scorers in Liga Adelante scoring eighty goals and breaking a team record that had held since the 1983/84 season. The youngster may be best Madrid’s canterano since Casillas. Last summer, Jesé almost single-handedly won the European U19 Championship for Spain, collecting awards for best goal scorer and best player of the tournament and he is on his way to doing the same during the U20 World Cup this summer.

Alvaro Morata – Forward
Twenty year old Alvaro Morata is a complete center forward. His large 6 foot 2 inch frame makes him an aerial threat but he has a change of pace that is not typical of a player his size. He is a tricky dribbler and is not afraid to shoot from any angle, often catching keepers off guard. His scoring record is nothing short of prolific with forty-four goals in eighty-three games with Castilla, two goals in fourteen appearances with the first team, and twenty goals in twenty-six matches with the various youth levels of La Roja.

José Rodríguez – Central Midfielder
José came to prominence in the summer of 2011, when he was voted Most Valuable Player of the Under-17 Club World Cup, where Real Madrid were knocked out by Barcelona on penalties in the semi-final. In a deep midfield position, he stood out above all the rest, really dominating proceedings and showcasing his wide range of talents. Perfect technically, crisp and assured passing, strength and ‘arrogance on the ball’, he is definitely next in line to complement an aging Xabi Alonso.

Vicente del Bosque’s Spain

July 2nd, 2013
An unfamiliar experience for the Spaniards.

An unfamiliar experience for the Spaniards.

Let me preface everything I’m about to say with the fact that Spain had another fantastic tournament. Losing in a final is tough but the fact that La Roja found themselves in another final is a feat that cannot be taken lightly. I am not one of those calling this the end of Tiki Taka and Spain’s dominance but I hope to lay out the issues as I see them as well as a few solutions to Spain’s, and Barcelona’s recent malaise.

There are those of you who are already raging at my last sentence but the fact is that Barcelona were utterly dominated by Bayern Munich in this year’s Champions League Semi-Final and Spain were similarly disposed of by Brazil yesterday. Those who thought that the Champions League was a fluke or just a blip in the success of Spanish football have to be wondering after the Confederation Cup Final where the experience and world class talent of the Spanish side was dominated by a young Brazilian side (albeit with an entire country behind them).

Xavi & Torres are both past their prime yet remain as undisputed starters.

Xavi & Torres are both past their prime yet remain as undisputed starters.

There are two major areas of concern and they are consistent across the national team and FC Barcelona. One is the efficacy of starting Xavi at the end of another marathon season and the other is the questions about Pique’s defensive abilities. No one respects and loves Xavi more than me but the fact is that he is 33 years old now and his body is not what it used to be. In the last three years since his thirtieth birthday, the midfield maestro has played 172 games, that is a game every six days on a body that is past its prime and he is expected to set the pace for Spain and Barcelona’s possession game and high pressure off the ball. Iniesta, his partner in crime, seems to be improving from year to year, leading La Liga in assists this campaign and being honored as the second best player in the Confederations Cup.

It is safe to say that Gerard Pique misses Carles Puyol. The charismatic cave-man leader has been out injured the majority of this season and his absence was felt keenly in both the Champions League Semi-Final and the Confederation Cup Final. Pique’s distribution and ability on the ball is as good as it’s ever been, but when Spain are not at their dynamic, possession-keeping best he and his teammates have been found wanting.

So what to do? My biggest criticism of Vicente del Bosque has been how predictable his squads have been over the last four plus years. His teams have rarely varied further than his group of fourteen favored players which include: Casillas, Arbeloa, Pique, Puyol, Ramos, Alba, Busquets, Xavi, Iniesta, Alonso, Villa, Torres, Navas, and Fabregas. The likes of Silva, Cazorla, Mata and Javi Martinez have been fringe players for a while now. Brazil beat Spain on Sunday with a squad that did not include any of their senior players (Ronaldinho, Kaka, Robinho were not even in the squad).

The next generation of Spaniards are ready to contribute.

The next generation of Spaniards are ready to contribute.

Some new blood is needed in the national team, and luckily no country has more young talent then Spain. Two players that are ready to make the leap to the first team have tasted international success already this summer. Isco Alarcon and Thiago Alcantara led the Spanish U21 side to European Championship glory this summer and look ready to add a new dynamic to the national team. Thiago can provide the metronome passing that Spain have come to expect, taking some of the pressure off of Xavi and brings more flair and creativity to the table than the thirty-three year old. Having Isco and running at opposition defenses will give Iniesta a dynamic threat to work with and create more opportunities for La Roja.

There are more youngsters rocketing through the youth ranks, watch for Martin Montoya and Real Madrid’s Dani Carvajal to challenge Alvaro Arbeloa for his spot, a spot which should have been contested long before now. Alvaro Morata and Jese Rodriguez maybe a few years away but both could provide a nice alternative to Spain’s striking conundrum at the moment. Inigo Martinez could slot in at centre back sooner or later as well, the youngster plays in a similar style to Carles Puyol. Regardless the future is bright for La Roja, hopefully Vicente del Bosque sees this too.

Football Cantera

The future of La Roja is now.