Forza Futbol

A Better Lens at Spanish Football


At last, the top 5! Enjoy Michael Bell’s best of the best Spanish youth.



5. Cristian Tello


First in the top five is Barcelona winger Cristian Tello, who has been terrorising wingers in La Liga in the past year.


It was nearly a case of the one that got away with Tello, as his contract ran out with Barcelona when he was aged 17, being snapped up by rivals Espanyol, but after a year, he was resigned, and put in the B team.

After two seasons playing in the B team, manager Pep Guardiola gave him his first team debut against Villarreal in January 2012.

Tello went on to make 22 appearances for the first team last year, and scored seven goals, including two in the Champions league 7-1 rout of Bayern Leverkusen.


During the summer, with Tito Vilanova taking over from Pep Guardiola, the 21 year olds future was uncertain, but Tello managed to convince him he has a future at the club, and signed a new deal until 2016.


Tello is yet to earn a call up to the full Spanish national side, but featured for his country at the 2012 Olympics in London.


The pacey winger is a bag of tricks, and has all the potential to be a future star for not only Barcelona, but the Spanish national side.



4.Raphael Varane


With the fans use to Galactico signings over the years, not many Real Madrid fans were overly excited by the €10 million signing of an 18 year old defender from Lens, but boy what a player they have in Raphael Varane.


At such a young age, the Frenchman has an awareness, and calmness of a player that is twice as old, with Varane slowly becoming one of the first names on the team sheet.


As Real Madrid went on to win the La Liga title last year, Varane was used sparingly, only appearing in 15 times in all competitions scoring twice.


However this season has seen the 6 foot 3 inch tall centre half become a more permanent part of the first team alongside Pepe, and Sergio Ramos.


Even with the club struggling in third, and their title challenge all but over, many have been impressed with Varane’s talents, earning him a call up to the French national side, although he didn’t play.


At the age of 19 Varane is already a quality defender, and with so much time to develop, and improve he could eventually become one of the best in world football.



3. Thibaut Courtois


Atletico Madrid lost first choice keeper David de Gea at the start of last season, but not many care anymore with Courtois coming in and performing exceptionally.


The 20 year old joined on loan from Chelsea straight after they bought him from Genk, so he could gain first team experience.


What has followed is a string of brilliant displays, that have made him a fans favourite, and one of the biggest goalkeeping prospects in the world.


Last season Courtois made 52 appearances, as Atletico went on to win the Europa league, and finish 5th in the league.


This season has seen Courtois go from strength to strength, helping his on loan side beat his parent club Chelsea 4-1 in the European super cup in August.


In the league Atletico lie 2nd, seven points ahead of arch rivals Real, with Atletico winning 11 out of 11 home games.


Courtois is now no1 for the Belgian national side, and with Victor Valdes set to leave Barcelona in 2014, the 20 year old is favourite to replace him.


However Chelsea will not want to lose their Belgian superstar, and see him as the replacement for Petr Cech, but in the meantime he is helping Atletico split the big two in La Liga.




2. Thiago Alcantara


With Xavi, and Anders Iniesta already at the club, Barcelona are blessed with midfield talent, but they also have one of the best youngsters in world football, Thiago Alcantara.


The youngster was originally born in Italy, with his father, Brazilian World Cup winner Mazinho, playing in the country at the time, before moving to Brazil.


Starring for the youth teams of Flamengo, he was signed by Barcelona at the age of 14, joining his cousin Patrick, who was also at the club.


After impressing in the B team, Thiago made his debut for the first team in 2009 at the age of 18 against Mallorca, his only appearance of the season.


The following year he only appeared once again, but in the game against Racing Santander he managed to score his first goal for the club in a 4-0 win.


The last two seasons under Pep Guardiola Thiago became a regular starter in the team, and shone alongside Xavi, and Iniesta in the midfield, showcasing his tremendous talent.


This year Thiago spent the start of the season recovering from injury, but is now back, and part of the team that is strolling to the La Liga title.


Thiago is seen as Xavi’s long term replacement in not only the Barcelona side, but also the Spanish side, with the 21 year old already having 3 caps to his name.


Vision, calmness, a tremendous passing range, and also an eye for goal, make Thiago a world class prospect, who over the next few years may dominate Europe with Barcelona.



1. Isco


Thiago was only pipped to the post by young Malaga midfielder Francisco Roman Alarcon Suarez aka Isco, and anyone who has seen the maestro in action so far this season will know why.


A local lad, Isco was born in Benalmadena, before moving to join the youth ranks of Valencia aged 14, going on to make 52 appearances for their B team, and four for the first team.


However the youngster wanted first team football, and when cash rich hometown team Malaga came calling, it was an offer he can not refuse.


Isco moved back home for a fee of €6 million, a measly sum considering his talent, and went straight into the first team.


The attacking midfielder was a regular in the team last season, as the club finished 4th, qualifying for the Champions league for the first time.


Isco netted five goals that season, but his performances were somewhat overshadowed by Santi Cazorla, but with Arsenal signing the Spanish international, this allowed him to step into the limelight.


With so much turmoil behind the scenes at the club, Isco’s performances on the pitch have been nothing short of spectacular, especially those in the Champions league, as Malaga qualified for the knockout stages.


His two goals in the 3-0 win over Zenit saint Petersburg in the first group game, capped a dominant performance, ones he repeated throughout the tournament.


Against Real Madrid, Isco netted in a 3-2 victory, helping Malaga to the first victory over the club in 29 years.


Isco has been compared to Anders Iniesta, due to his outstanding ball control, which allows him to weave past players with ease.


The 20 year olds appearances haven’t gone unnoticed, and Isco is constantly linked with the top clubs around Europe including Barcelona, and Chelsea, but a new deal is in the pipeline at his home town team.


If you get the chance to watch Isco in action, sit back, relax, and enjoy watching one of the best prospects in world football, he is a delight.




-Michael Bell (twitter: @LaLigafooty)



Forza Futbol On January - 24 - 2013

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