Khamis, 24 Mei 2012
Five Breakthrough Players From La Liga
La Primera's promising footballers who had outstanding campaigns in Spain.
Thibaut Courtois: Goalkeeper, 20, Atlético Madrid
Atlético Madrid's humungous tax bill - around €200m and counting - meant that the club didn't really have much choice in the sale of goalkeeper, David de Gea, to Manchester United. But it turned out to be a very handy deal as coming in on loan from Chelsea to replace the fin-haired flapper was the brilliant Belgian, Thibaut Courtois, who had only just joined the London club from Genk. A near flawless campaign from the incredibly composed 'keeper - in front of a very flawed back four - saw the Rojiblancos finish fifth in La Liga and Courtois end up with a Europa League winner's medal, as well as finishing only behind Víctor Valdés and Iker Casillas in the 'goals conceded' stakes.
Raphael Varane: Central Defender, 19, Real Madrid
Time to wheel out a cliché. Although the French defender only made nine league appearances this season, you can bet your bottom, and everything contained in it, that there'll be a heck of a lot more in the years to come with Varane signed to Madrid until 2017. It's fair to say that the Frenchman was a complete unknown when signed from Lens for €10m after just 19 league starts for the Ligue 1 outfit, but a tip-off from Zinedine Zidane alerted Madrid's interest and Varane has looked the business from the first day of training. Elegant, fast - but with the physicality required - Varane has a big future for France and Real Madrid.
Iñigo Martínez: Central Defender, 21, Real Sociedad
The Bilbao-born defender began the season making his debut for la Real's first team having come up from the youth system, but the centre-back ended the campaign being linked with Barcelona in the summer's transfer tittle-tattle - a move that doesn't seem that outrageous. The youngster is a Spanish under-21 international and has an extra special skill aside from being a very solid defender - namely, the ability to score from his own half; something that Martínez managed twice during the season.
Oscar de Marcos: Midfielder/Forward, 23, Athletic Bilbao
In Marca's annual preview, stuffed with lovely facts and figures, there's a section with a shaded-in area of a football pitch to explain where every footballer in La Liga tends to play. For the Athletic 'utility man' pretty much the entire area is covered. This was a heck of a year for De Marcos and a heck of a year for his club, that had the likes of Manchester United linked with the 23-year-old after he played a big role in the Basque team's double destruction of the English side. In 34 league games, De Marcos, playing as a defender, midfielder or forward, covered every blade of grass. He's yet another player breaking through from a current crop of brilliant Basque talent.
Isco: Forward, 20, Málaga
Valencia were tremendously annoyed when Málaga's millions and the chance for a more rapid improvement lured the 20-year-old forward from Mestalla to the la Rosaleda - especially when Málaga weren't completely prompt with keeping up the payments on the youngster, who cost a cool €6m. And they have a right to be irked, considering Isco was one of the team's most consistent players in a campaign that ended in fourth for Málaga but wasn't the most convincing. Isco is another brand of teeny, tiny Spanish playmaker who likes to sit behind a striker, but has been so effective in his role that he has made Vicente del Bosque's provisional Spain squad. The Euros may be a stretch this time around but the Olympics surely await.