Almost all the football clubs in Europe have young players matching strides with their seniors. So much so that by the age of 23, they are established first choices players at their respective clubs.
In this article, we will be looking at the best U23 football lineup for the 2010 World Champions and three-time European champions Spain. Like France and England, La Furia Roja also have an impressive array of young talent breaking through.
Considering four defenders, three midfielders, three strikers, and a goalkeeper, here’s how a U23 Spanish football team would look like.
Unai Simon has been a wall for Bilbao this season.
One of the standout keepers in La Liga this season, Unai Simon, gets into this XI with relative ease. The 22-year-old from Basque has 10 Liga clean sheets in 24 games for Athletic Bilbao in 2019-20. He has also been crucial in the team’s run to the Copa Del Rey final.
Doing an excellent job in replacing Kepa Arrizabalaga, the world’s most expensive goalkeeper, Simon has exhibited maturity beyond his years. The 22-year-old was a part of the Spain team that won the U21 Euros last summer.
Unai Nunez (Centre-Back)
Unai Nunez was instrumental in Spain’s U21 Euros win in 2019
Athletic Bilbao’s Unai Nunez would be one of our two centre-backs in this team. Nunez, like club team-mate Simon, also played at the 2019 Euros for the U23 Spanish squad. The 23-year-old recently earned a call-up for the senior national team.
Pao Torres (Centre-Back)
Giving company to Bilbao’s Nunez at the heart of the Spanish defence would be Villareal’s Pau Torres. The 23-year-old has been an ever-present for the Submarines this season. With his string of strong performances, Torres has exhibited maturity beyond his years.
Sergio Reguilon (Left-back)
Sergio Reguilon has been one of the best in his position.
Left-back is a position that arguably had the most competition in this team. The spot, though, goes to Sevilla’s Sergio Reguilon. After having outshone Real Madrid legend Marcelo last year, Reguilon has continued his impressive progress at Sevilla this season, becoming one of the best-left backs in the league.
Pedro Porro (Right-back)
Unlike the left-back position, there is not much competition for the position of right-back.
Real Valladolid’s Pedro Porro makes the cut to complete the defensive quartet. The 20-year-old has been impressive in the Liga this season. Porro, on loan from Manchester City, made his Liga debut for Girona in 2017-18.
The right-back scored his first competitive goal in Girona’s 1-3 Spanish Coppa defeat to Real Madrid in January 2019.
Mikael Merino guarding the ball.
In holding midfield is Real Sociedad’s Mikel Merino. Though only 23, Sociedad is Merino’s fourth club. The midfielder has previously played for the likes of Borussia Dortmund and Newcastle United.
Merino has been impressive this season, working tirelessly to keep the Sociedad midfield buzzing, as the likes of Martin Odegaard and Alexander Isak garnered all the plaudits. The 23-year-old’s performances have ensured that Sociedad did not feel the absence of the injured Asier Illaramendi.
Dani Ceballos is an artist on the ball.
Dani Ceballos also gets into this XI. The Arsenal man is an artist on the ball, and his creativity will be crucial for Spain in the future.
The upcoming transfer window is one to watch for Ceballos as Arsenal might permanently buy him from Real Madrid. Ceballos was phenomenal in the U21 Euros for Spain in 2019, having won the player of the tournament award in the competition in 2017.
Dani Olmo scored on his international debut.
The most attacking midfielder in this side is RB Leipzig’s Dani Olmo. A La Masia graduate, Olmo moved to Dinamo Zagreb at a young age in search of playing opportunities.
He top-scored for Spain in last year’s U-23 Euros. Olmo, along with teammate Torres, scored on their respective international debuts for Spain.
Despite being linked with several big clubs, Olmo decided to move to Bundesliga side RB Leipzig this January.
Ansu Fati is touted as the next big thing to come out of La Masia.
On the left of the front three is Barcelona’s Ansu Fati. The 17-year-old prodigy has risen to prominence this season in the absence of Ousmane Dembele, troubling defences with his pace and trickery.
Fati became the youngest ever goal-scorer in Champions League history this season, and the third-youngest to score a La Liga goal. Although he had the opportunity to represent Guinea Bissau, Fati chose Spain, and has already featured for their U21 side.
The sky is the limit for the Barcelona striker.
Real Sociedad’s Mikel Oyarzabal has been in good form this season.
Playing in the middle of the forward line is Real Sociedad’s captain Mikel Oyarzabal. Though he generally plays on the left, here, he would play in a false nine role, instead of being an out and out striker.
Oyarzabal is just 22, and despite his tender age, has played more than 150 league games. He has also represented Spain on many occasions.
Ferran Torres has been great in the UCL
On the right of the forward line would be Valencia’s Ferran Torres. One of the most sought-after youngsters in European football, Torres has four goals and four assists in the league this season.
However, it is his Champions League performances that have caught the eye. Torres became the youngest Valencia player to score in the competition as the Liga side topped a group containing Chelsea, Ajax, and Lille.
In the Round of 16 defeat to Atalanta, Torres was one of Valencia’s rare bright spots.
The following names missed the cut for a place in this team’s playing XI.
# Barcelona’s Junior Firpo (left-back)
# Granada’s Jesus Vallejo (centre back)
# Manchester City’s Eric Garcia (centre back)
# Real Betis’ Carles Alena (central midfield)
# Barcelona’s Riqui Puig (central midfield)
# Valencia’s Carlos Soler (right-wing)
# Levante’s Borja Mayoral (striker).
Published 14 Apr 2020, 02:06 IST