Talk about Depth: five Spanish starlets for 2014
With all the plaudits coming Spain’s way following Sunday’s footballing masterclass against Italy, it is well worth noting the quality of player that did not get a game during Euro 2012, and even more so, those that didn’t even get in the squad. From the 23-man squad for Euro 2012, five players did not play a single minute: the two back-up goalkeepers, Raul Albiol, Fernando Llorente and Juanfran. Those five players alone would walk into most national teams, but even scarier is the sheer depth of talent in Spain is so much that a number of very talented players did not even make the squad. Here are just five that may play a major role in World Cup 2014.
1) Iker Muniain
Dubbed “the Spanish Messi” by the Spanish media, Muniain has had a wonderful season for everyone’s new favourite Spanish team, Athletic Bilbao. Anyone who saw him absolutely terrorise Manchester United’s defence at Old Trafford in the Europa League can tell you the talent and promise there. Quick, skilful and not afraid to run at defenders, Muniain is destined for a big transfer soon. He already has one full cap to his name and surely will add more. It will be hard to dislodge a certain Andres Iniesta from his position though.
2) Thiago Alcantara
Born in Italy to Brazilian parents, but grew up in Spain. Thiago is a central midfielder for Barcelona who is quite possibly one of the hottest names in world football. Combining the metronomic passing of Xavi with the goal scoring ability of Fabregas, Thiago is one of a number of players eyeing up Xavi’s place in the team once the great man retires. Thiago has three full caps already and would most likely be the first name in the frame should any of Alonso, Busquets, Xavi or Fabregas get injured.
3) David De Gea
For all the praise heaped on Spain’s attacking prowess, it is easy to forget how many world class keepers they have, and even more impressive how these back up keepers never refuse to be back-ups for the national team (like a certain Ben Foster for England). Iker Casillas will only be 33 by the time of the next World Cup, so will most likely still be in goal. With Victor Valdes and Pepe Reina, Spain have an abundance of riches between the posts, but then there is David De Gea, who can’t even get into the squad. After a turbulent first season with Manchester United, there is no reason to suggest he will do anything but become better. De Gea showed flashes of brilliance and could easily dislodge either Valdes or Reina in the squad come 2014.
4) Martin Montoya
With the press keen to pick holes in the Spanish line up before the tournament, the right back position was seen as the potential weak link. Alvaro Arbeloa showed himself to be more than capable, but with the abundance of talented defenders coming through Spanish football, he may quickly find his place under threat. Martin Montoya is another product of the Barcelona academy, playing in the 3-0 defeat of Bilbao in the Copa Del Rey at the end of this season. He has been in the Spanish squad before but has yet to make an appearance. He will surely be pushing Arbeloa all the way for the place at the World Cup.
5) Cristian Tello
Anyone who saw Tello’s two-goal cameo performance against Bayer Leverkusen in the Champions League can testify that Barcelona have another great talent on their hands (in case anyone missed it, Tello was the guy scoring the two goals in between Messi scoring another trillion). Tello plays like a lot of Barca strikers, coming off wide areas, dashing in behind defenders and slipping balls through for others. He might just suit Spain’s new “false 9” formation and could be one to keep an eye on for the next World Cup.
Even in attempting to compile this list, I found myself making tough choices. A number of players who are good enough for any other national team were left out of my list: Sergio Canales, César Azpilicueta, the list could go on. The fact is that Spain not only have the best team, but the best squad, the best back up, and the strongest depth. It is a scary prospect. The only hope is that, with Xavi at 34 by the next World Cup, replacing him becomes a difficult thing to do.
Note: whilst writing this article the Spanish Olympic squad was announced and included all 5 of the players listed here. So there is a reason to watch the Olympic Football at least.