6 Young Stars La Liga Cannot Afford to Lose

Tre' Atkinson@@TreAtkinsonFeatured ColumnistJanuary 23, 2013

6 Young Stars La Liga Cannot Afford to Lose

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    There is no doubting the wealth of young talent in Spain, but the financial situation is making it harder for clubs to keep their rising and established stars.

    However, the future of La Liga as a whole rests on the shoulders of the upcoming talent. For La Liga to continue the amazing success, fans will be hoping that the player exodus ends soon.

    We have seen it lately with the likes of Santi Cazorla moving to Arsenal. But the Spanish exodus is not something new. A few years back, Valencia also had to sell stars, which resulted in David Silva moving to Manchester City.

    So which young stars are the most important to La Liga? In this article we will take a look at the top six starlets of Spain that the league just cannot afford to lose.

    The list will depend not only on age, but the ability and importance of each player for both club and country. Each player must be 21 years of age or younger.

    With that said, let us look at the six young stars that La Liga cannot afford to lose.

Leo Baptistao

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    Young Leo Baptistao has been an incredible surprise to this La Liga season. The 20-year-old broke on to the scene for Rayo Vallecano early in the campaign and is a huge part of why the club currently sits in sixth place in the table.

    The Brazilian striker boasts an incredible six goals for Rayo, while also being instrumental in the technical build-up of Vallecano’s attack.

    Though he is a very raw talent, his composure suggests he is way past the age of 20.

    While being both calm and strong with the ball, Leo’s body type has also been vital in his play this season. Young Baptistao stands nearly six feet tall, but he also has incredible strength to go with his size.

    It is obvious that the Brazilian could be headed for great things.

    The Daily Mail recently reported that clubs such as Manchester United were in pursuit of the striker. With big clubs after the 20-year-old, his ability is not a joke.

    But there are some rumors claiming that Leo Baptistao could be on his way to Atletico Madrid at the end of the current season.

    Surely losing the Brazilian would be a heavy blow to La Liga and Rayo Vallecano.

    For more analysis on Leo Baptistao, you can check out Karl Matchett's scouting report.

Iker Muniain

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    Iker Muniain has already made over 100 appearances for Basque side Athletic Bilbao. However, despite his status as a leader on the pitch, Muniain is merely 20 years of age.

    The Basque left-winger has been dubbed the “Spanish or Basque Messi” and although comparisons tend to be exaggerated, his play style is very similar.

    Iker Muniain is a very quick player who uses his speed to constantly beat defenders, but it is his dribbling that sets him apart from others his age.

    Young Muniain possesses the incredible ability to beat nearly any defender when in attack, and he only becomes more dangerous once in the penalty box.

    On the international level, Muniain has achieved great success with the Spanish youth teams. He is one of the most dangerous players in the world at his position, and Bilbao will certainly want to keep him around for the duration of his career.

    Losing Iker Muniain would be hard on La Liga. The winger is one of the most exciting players to watch and is also very important on the international level.

    There were reports last April claiming that Sir Alex Ferguson wanted to bring the Basque to Old Trafford (via Daily Mail). While there has been no news lately, Muniain will be a hot prospect for a while.

Inigo Martinez

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    To put it simply, Inigo Martinez is the best young center-back in Spain. The 21-year-old may be short for a defender at just under six feet, but his ability more than makes up for his size.

    The young defender, who currently plays for Real Sociedad, has drawn comparisons to Barcelona’s Carles Puyol, and the claims may be right.

    Martinez has been a steady leader for the Spanish youth team and has already seen many minutes at the club level.

    For Real Sociedad, Inigo Martinez is a staple. But in the years to come, he could become a rock-solid starter for La Roja.

    Thankfully, there have not been many rumors of clubs pursuing the center-back. But with the way his progress has been going, big clubs may soon come knocking.

    It would be a sad day for La Liga if the best upcoming defender were to leave, let us hope that he remains in Spain.

Koke

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    Koke is a rising talent born and bred in Madrid. The 21-year-old midfielder has grown up in the Atletico Madrid academy and is already contributing to the first team.

    Despite his tender age, Koke is the complete midfielder.

    He has great vision and is calm in possession. But his passing is certainly his strongest ability. Koke is one of the engines that runs the Atletico midfield and has been vital to their success this season.

    But Koke has also proven to be a scoring threat. His latest goal against Levante showed that he has all of the traits needed in a goal scorer, and that he could be the next great midfielder for La Roja.

    With so many rumors about Radamel Falcao leaving, Koke may become even more important to Atletico Madrid. Though he is still developing, Koke is already a vital part of the Atletico lineup.

    Fans should fully expect clubs to be in pursuit of the talented midfielder. But for the sake of La Liga, Koke must stay in Spain, and preferably with Atletico Madrid.

Thiago Alcantara

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    Watching Thiago play, no one would guess that the midfielder is a tender 21 years old. The Barcelona-bred starlet possesses great wisdom beyond his age.

    Thiago has been dubbed “The heir of Xavi” for a while now. Though comparisons always have their merit, this one may be more true than any ever stated.

    The Spanish midfielder has the same passing, vision and technique of his Catalan mentor. However, Thiago adds an attacking dimension that Xavi seems to lack.

    Young Thiago has proven that he can strike the ball and really pressure the defense. His link-up play with Lionel Messi is already proving that he is deserving of an important role with Barcelona.

    Yet it will always be the passing ability of Thiago that will see him soon running the Barcelona midfield.

    He is already a general when on the pitch and keeps possession like not many players can. His future career at Barcelona is almost already decided. But were Thiago to leave, La Liga would truly lose a future world star.

    Most clubs understand that Thiago’s heart and future remains with Barcelona. But the midfielder did have to quell rumors of a move to Bayern Munich. His exit appears impossible, let us hope that is so.

Isco

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    Isco is already the “Golden boy” of Spain. Though only 20 years old, Isco is the leader and lifeblood of Malaga.

    The attacking midfielder broke onto the scene immediately after Santi Cazorla left for England. Malaga had a hole in the middle of the pitch and Isco was given his chance to show his ability.

    Since that time life has only gotten better for Malaga-born footballer.

    Incredible performances against clubs such as Real Madrid have proven that he is the top young talent in Spain. As a midfielder he has everything a club could want. Isco can pass, defend and is becoming more of a scoring threat with every game.

    If there is any young player deserving of a spot in the Spain National Team, it is Isco. His time will surely come soon, but for now he will continue to show why he is the best player in Spain under the age of 21.

    Malaga will absolutely try their best to keep Isco. This midfielder is simply not someone that a club will let leave. Interested clubs will have to make big offers to secure the purchase of this rising star.

    There are certainly many clubs interested in Isco, with Chelsea appearing to be the favorite. A talent like Isco will be courted until he can be bought. But for La Liga, it would be best if he stayed and continued to build Malaga.

     

    Is there anyone I have missed? How badly does La Liga need to keep its rising stars? Don't forget to leave your thoughts and comments below.

     

    Tre' Atkinson, The Catalan Blood of Bleacher Report. 

     

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