Rising Stars to Watch in La Liga This Season
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As one of world football's richest, most entertaining leagues, Spain's La Liga has no problem attracting some of the most talented players from across the globe. These expensive, established imports, however, only tell half of the story behind the success of Spanish clubs.
Behind those foreign stars is a core of homegrown talent that has enriched both the league and the national team. It is no coincidence that Spain, having enjoyed a golden generation of talent from Barcelona and around the country, are reigning world and European champions with every chance of repeating that success in 2014.
But who are the names that will light up La Liga in 2013/14? The names of the following four youngsters could well be on everybody's lips come May of next year.
Isco, Real Madrid
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The name of this pacey attacking player is no longer a secret. A brilliant season at Malaga from Isco earned the 21-year-old a dream move to Real Madrid, where he wasted no time in impressing with a goal-scoring debut against Betis at the weekend.
Establishing himself amongst Madrid's star-studded forward line, however, will be a whole new challenge for the budding star with hopes of making the Spain team in time for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Needless to say, if what we saw in the weekend's 2-1 victory against Betis is anything to go by, he has a real chance of making his name in the famous white shirt.
Isco set up Karim Benzema with a fine pass on Sunday, later powering home a fine header to seal the points. This young star will be the focus of great hopes in the Santiago Bernabeu if he can reproduce that fine start across the season.
Iker Muniain, Athletic
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With four full seasons under his belt, it is hard to believe that Iker Muniain is still four months shy of his 21st birthday. The versatile striker thrived for two years under Marcelo Bielsa at the San Mames, and now must take on further responsibility to drive the Basque club on to a better 2013/14 season.
With Fernando Llorente and Bielsa gone, the man who spent much of his time under the Argentine playing in midfield or out wide will now be pushed into the firing line. Judging by Sunday's performance, when he hit a second-half goal to hand Athletic victory over Valladolid, Muniain should have no trouble stepping up to become a regular scorer.
Federico Cartabia, Valencia
The Che side that lined up for the 2013/14 curtain-raiser included one rather unfamiliar name: Fede Cartabia, an attacking midfielder from the Argentine province of Santa Fe.
As is obligatory for any youngster born in the same province as one Lionel Messi, comparisons started courtesy of TN as far back as December 2012.
Cartabia, however, will hope to make his own impact after debuting in Valencia's 1-0 win over Malaga at the weekend. Miroslav Djukic certainly believes the young Argentine can make an impact, handing the 20-year-old a professional contract until 2017.
Cristian Tello, Barcelona
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Breaking into the Barcelona forward line is never going to be an easy task. Attackers as talented as David Villa and Gerard Deulofeu (on loan) have chosen pastures new over fighting for a place in the lineup of the Liga champions, but there is still a formidable look to the side under new coach Gerardo Martino with the incorporation of Neymar.
At 22 years old, though, Cristian Tello is hungry for football and knows that he needs to be at his most direct, powerful best in order to tie down a spot in between the likes of Messi, Neymar, Alexis Sanchez and Pedro.
Eight goals in 34 games during 2013/14 represented an excellent haul for the former Espanyol trainee, especially considering a high quantity of those appearances came off the bench. If he can keep up that form and continue to impress, a regular spot in Martino's rotating attacking trident is far from impossible.