Some of these Spanish talents have already made their mark in international football
Spain have been bestowed with some of the most technically sound players in football. Since 1978, they have qualified in every FIFA World Cup edition. In FIFA’s latest ranking, Spain’s men’s football team sits in eighth position, beaten by a very close margin by Portugal in seventh-place. Waiting for a major piece of silverware since the 2012 Euro Championship, Luis Enrique’s men have given themselves a shot at winning the UEFA Nations League.
The current Spanish side have seen some young guns take to the field and absolutely own the game. They have nurtured youngsters with sound technical skills, a DNA of Spanish football that is present in various academies in the country.
Even though the measure of the talent crop is huge, we have narrowed down the following five best Under-21 Spanish stars based on their current form:
#5 Yeremi Pino
Yeremi Pino (center) proved a handful for Arsenal defenders in Europa League semi-final
Villareal wonderkid Yeremi Pino became the youngest player to win the UEFA Europa League last season when the La Liga club defeated Manchester United on penalties. Since then, he has consistently given effective performances for the Yellow Submarines and has been on the radar of a few Premier League clubs.
Primarily a winger who can play on either side, Pino gathered interest from Barcelona, who were keen to sign him, but he chose Villarreal in favor of game time. Last season, Pino announced how special he was by scoring against Real Madrid and becoming the youngest player to score an away league goal against Los Blancos in the 21st century.
He made his debut for La Roja by coming on for Ferran Torres against Italy in the Nations League semi-final. During those 41 minutes against the Azzurri, he created two big chances and contributed with three key passes, in addition to completing all three of his attempted dribbles.
The Villarreal winger has provided three assists and scored on one occasion in five games in La Liga this season. Pino’s contract with Villareal expires in 2024. Ideally the club would want to keep him for longer, allowing them to slap a high price-tag on him for the future, with his potential having no bounds.
FC Barcelona v RC Celta – La Liga Santander
Around a month ago, Pedri completed his one-year anniversary with Barcelona. A year that saw the world turn its attention and watch with wide open eyes the charisma and the spectacle that Pedri is in midfield. Barcelona have really had an underwhelming start to their new campaign and their drop in form and lack of cohesiveness has affected Pedri’s numbers to some extent.
He still manages to make a game all about himself by never putting a foot wrong. However, after 74 appearances in the last season for both Barcelona and La Roja, Pedri sustained an injury last month which kept him out of action for nearly two weeks. But he made a return against Benfica in the Champions League.
A few months ago, Luis Enrique was raving about how good Pedri is and that there is no doubt he’s going to be a pillar in Spain’s squad for years to come. He was the standout performer for Spain at Euro 2020 as well. He missed the game against Italy in the Nations League because Luis Enrique preferred to field a fully fit side and not risk injuries to young talents.
Gavi ran the show in midfield for the 85 mins he was on pitch against Italy
In a Barcelona squad that has been utterly disappointing this season, Gavi has been a center of attraction with his commanding performances in midfield. If they were performing any better under Ronald Koeman than they are at present, there would be even more praise coming Gavi’s way.
At 17, he managed to break into Luis Enrique’s Spanish sid and, with his debut against Italy in the Nations League semi-final, became the youngest ever player for the team. It is indeed a happy accident that he got his chances at Barcelona because the club hierarchy wished to see more academy players come to the senior setup.
Gavi loves to drop deep to get involved in the game and is very comfortable with the ball at his feet, giving him all the time to advance his team from back to front. The Spaniard’s ability to read the game allows him to pop up in the right place at the right time. His relentless pressing against Italy made life very difficult for Marco Verratti.
In a parallel universe where Georginio Wijnaldum joined Barcelona instead of PSG and Ilaix Moriba extended his stay with the Spanish giants, there would be no sign of Gavi. Quite sure Koeman is overjoyed to have avoided such a timeline.
#2 Brahim Diaz
AC Milan v AC Sparta Praha: Group H – UEFA Europa League
When you juggle big clubs like Manchester City and Real Madrid before turning 21, the bar for you is set really high. Two years ago it felt elite clubs like those were a step too fast for Brahim Diaz and maybe he was biting off more than he could chew. The talented Manchester City academy graduate finally seems to have found his feet at the top level in his spell at AC Milan.
The Rossoneri have showcased some impressive performances both in Serie A and in the Champions League, where they find themselves in the group of death with Liverpool and Atletico Madrid. A protagonist in those performances, Diaz has contributed four goals and two assists already across all competitions.
In a bold move, Hakan Çalhanoğlu crossed the Milan divide when he decided to join Inter on a free this summer transfer window and his absence could have worried Milan.
But Diaz has stepped up his game and is functioning effortlessly in the position behind the striker. Milan extended his one-year loan spell from Real Madrid by two more years. Maybe by the end of it all, Diaz could see himself get a chance to prove his worth to Los Blancos as well.
#1 Ferran Torres
Manchester City v RB Leipzig: Group A – UEFA Champions League
The Red of Spain or the Blue of Manchester, there has been no stopping high-flying Ferran Torres this season in either of those colors. He plays under the management of two of the most demanding coaches in football, Pep Guardiola and Luis Enrique, and somehow he’s managed to bring a smile to both their faces.
It wasn’t easy to predict how this campaign would pan out for Torres, who was going to play out of position for City with Gabriel Jesus being employed on the wings. But the talented Spaniard has remained unfazed by his new role as a centre-forward, in fact he has only gone and become more dangerous.
After shining for La Roja at Euro 2020 from out wide, Torres showcased his ability to play in the middle of a front three in the UEFA Nations League semi-final. The City striker scored a brace in the first half which was enough for Spain to get past Italy. Those two goals meant Torres has now scored 12 for his country in just 21 appearances.
Guardiola, with the amount of ideas he has, sometimes kept the former Valencia striker on the bench for City this campaign. But Torres has managed two goals and two assists in his 10 appearances, making the starting eleven on six occasions. There is clearly a lot of potential with Torres and his form with Spain is certainly going to give him an edge within the City squad.