The Next Xavis and Iniestas: 5 Up-and-Coming Spanish Midfielders
Xavi Hernandez is 32 years of age. Andres Iniesta is 28.
Spain have set a blueprint of passing football and now carry a winning expectation on their shoulders, so the Royal Spanish Football Federation must be astute in locating their heirs.
To be considered for this list, the player must be 23 years of age or younger. Ultimately, there are more than five players who could end up inheriting these two fine players' crowns, but here are your top five.
Sergi Roberto and Oriol Romeu were considered, but not included.
Both Pep Guardiola and Tito Vilanova have been very careful in introducing Thiago Alcantara to the footballing world.
In the summer of 2011, he had a wonderful preseason tournament for Barcelona and played a chief role in the destruction of Bayern Munich. While it was only an exhibition, many experts began to question the merit in Barca's dogged pursuit of Cesc Fabregas.
If Fabregas is the heir to Andres Iniesta, then Thiago is the heir to Xavi.
He's been used sparingly so far this season. However, when he does play, he's sharp, accurate and fits right into the group with a 93.9 percent pass completion rate.
Ignacio Camacho has come from nowhere to become one of La Liga's finest holding midfielders.
After failing to make the grade at Atletico Madrid, his first season with los Boquerones was hindered by injury. However, much like another on this list, he's exploded into life this season.
He's formed a wonderful partnership with Jeremy Toulalan, and Malaga haven't quite been the same since Manuel Iturra stepped in.
Camacho's passing is improving with every game, while his elite ball-winning skills show no sign of diminishing. He averages 4.4 accurate long balls and a whopping 4.3 interceptions per game.
Is there a more convincing candidate for La Liga's Young Player of the Year right now? Perhaps teammate Ignacio Camacho is in with a shout, but Isco is surely top of the polls.
Particularly in the UEFA Champions League, Isco has been electric this season and remains the one reason Malaga aren't ruing their lack of a goal-happy centre-forward.
A question to consider as he progresses is whether he could fulfill the false-nine role Cesc Fabregas bombed-out in during the Euros—would that be the catalyst that sees him enter the Spain squad?
Well-known prospect Iker Muniain is the closest thing Spain has with regard to eventually replacing Andres Iniesta when he plays in an advanced, Euro 2012-esque role.
The young Pamplona-born star is being guarded from potential suitors by Athletic Bilbao, but it seems just a matter of time before he moves on.
His ability to pass, see the holes, move between the lines and shoot from distance adds up to an unrivalled set of skills in la Furia Roja's setup right now.
Asier Illarramendi is fast becoming the authoritative presence in Real Sociedad's midfield, despite the emergence of Ruben Pardo.
He's dictating play, feeding star winger Antoine Griezmann and controlling the tempo of La Real's midfield.
Txuri-urdin have endured a difficult start to the season so far under Philippe Montanier, but Illarramendi is shining nonetheless.