As the end of the season beckons across Europe, it is time for us at Outside of the Boot to recognize the accomplishments of tomorrow’s stars under our Talent Radar banner, with the U-22 Team of the Season across each individual top leagues being featured for the fourth consecutive year. This feature looks at the best of La Liga.
[Eligibility: As of 1st June 2016 – 21 years old and below for outfield players // 22 years old and below for goalkeepers]
Sergio Rico // 23 // Sevilla // Goalkeeper: Despite their late collapse, Sevilla have had a good season. While it hasn’t ended with a customary Europa League win, it will be counted as progress under Sampaoli. Key to this progress has been Sergio Rico. Of course, you won’t find him top of the clean sheets list because of the ultra attacking style of football espoused by Sampaoli. He is, however, one of the very best in La Liga when it comes to reactions, and has produced some absolutely stunning saves.
Marc Navarro // 21 // Espanyol // Right Back: Navarro is a bit of a late bloomer, having made the step up to the first team only after the winter break. Having done so, he did a great job of making an impact, scoring goals as well. He made it onto our Talent Radar Team of the Week as well in consecutive weeks, a rare honour. He’s had some setbacks too, with injuries restricting him to just eleven appearances, but the talent is certainly there.
Aymeric Laporte // 22 // Athletic Bilbao // Centre Back: Laporte is a strong defender, but a better ball playing one. He’s been a big presence in their side for a few years now, and his calm, assured presence is a major plus for the Basque side.
Yeray Alvarez // 22 // Athletic Bilbao // Centre Back: Interestingly, Laporte’s partner at club level partners him here as well. Yeray has been thrust into the pressures of the starting XI, and has responded brilliantly. Yeray averages 2.5 tackles and almost 4 interceptions a match over the season, an incredible set of numbers. His long passing is also a big advantage that he brings. Athletic Bilbao have a good set of defenders on their hands now, and will look to build on this base.
Theo Hernandez // 19 // Alaves // Left Back: The 19 year old has been a model of consistency for Alaves this year, performing both in attack, and defence. He’s got a team high of three assists, and scored two goals as well. He averages over two tackles a game, and his boundless energy has been the key to his success.
Pablo Fornals // 21 // Malaga // Central Midfield: The talented Pablo Fornals of Malaga is in the middle of our midfield. The creative player has had a fine season, with his sharp passing making a mark. He’s also won praise for his running off the ball, picking up six goals for his side, being the second highest scorer for Malaga.
Marcos Llorente // 22 // Alaves // Central Midfield: The other Alaves man in the team is Marcos Llorente. The midfielder who normally plays just in front of the defence, is a neat player like so many of his other compatriots. He does very well to make about 4 tackles a game, and break up play. His passing is also efficient, making about 55 a game at 85% + accuracy. The Real Madrid loanee will be hoping that like Asensio, he too will get an opportunity at the Bernabeu next season under Zinedine Zidane.
Marco Asensio // 21 // Real Madrid // Right Midfield: It isn’t very often that one gets to write in about Real Madrid youngsters featuring on such XIs, but Marco Asensio has achieved the seemingly impossible. The winger has done very well whenever called upon by Zizou, impressing with his dribbling and pace. His intelligent running has been important for a counter attacking team like Real Madrid. One only hopes he gets to stick around at the Bernabeu and express himself.
Mikel Oyarzabal // 20 // Real Sociedad // Attacking Midfield: Oyarzabal is a talented attacking midfielder who is pretty versatile as well. Capable of playing on either wing or through the middle, he’s generally one who plays a lot of quick short passes. He’s most effective in the tight areas of the pitch, and that’s the sort of ability that has seen him make seven assists this season.
Saul Niguez // 22 // Atletico Madrid // Left Midfield: Saul has been a top talent for Atletico for a couple of seasons now, doing very well for the club. While we do include him as a left sided midfielder, he has over this season matured and evolved into a deeper lying midfielder. That hasn’t stopped him from contributing in the goals and assists though, and of late especially, his work has helped Atletico overhaul what once seemed too big a gap to Sevilla.
Sandro Ramirez // 21 // Malaga // Striker: The ex-Barcelona striker Ramirez has been excellent for Malaga. Interestingly, he’s scored his 14 goals in 13 different games, which is a big plus for his team. The skillful forward is always a threat to the opposition, buzzing about and pressing them as well.