5 Spanish starlets that have shone in La Liga this season

Asensio was one of the breakout Spanish stars in La Liga last season
Asensio was one of the breakout Spanish stars in La Liga last season

The 2017-2018 La Liga season has entered its home stretch as the identities of the champions-elect, the UEFA Champions League/Europa League qualifiers for next season as well as the candidates fighting to escape relegation to Segunda.

Barcelona have been near-imperious in the league and it is only a matter of when and not if the Catalans will lift their seventh league title in the last ten years.

Madrid giants; Atletico and Real have secured their places in next year's Champions League while fourth-placed Valencia is almost certain of its return to Europe's elite competition after a brief hiatus.

It has been a strange season where the big guns; Ronaldo, Luis Suarez, Antoine Griezmann among others took their sweet time to get into the groove for the season.

La Liga has witnessed an explosion of Spanish talent: new/existing this season. Last season, the league's fans became fully aware of young Spanish talents like Marco Asensio (Real Madrid), Alvaro Odriozola and Mikel Oyarzabal (Real Sociedad), Pablo Fornals (then Malaga) and many more.

This season, more young & eager Spanish talents have shone brightly guaranteeing that La Furia Roja (The Red Fury) will have more options in the future.

Here are 5 of the very best/previously unheralded Spanish talent who have set La Liga on fire this season:

#5 Portu (Girona)

The 25-year-old converted striker has been brilliant for Girona this season
The 25-year-old converted striker has been brilliant for Girona this season

By no means a youngster (aged 25), the former Valencia youth product is one of the many graduates of Los Che's famed academy who have come to limelight elsewhere in recent times (like Isco at Malaga and Jaume Costa at Villarreal).

Signed by the Catalan side last season in their eventually successful promotion challenge, the 5'10' attacking midfielder who has been playing as a striker this season has been brilliant for the team with the second smallest stadium in the history of La Liga (the Estadi Montilivi holds just 9,200 spectators).

Portu has formed a very productive partnership with experienced Uruguayan Christian Stuani and both players have been central to Girona's surprising push for a UEFA Europa League spot next season as the Blanquivermell (White and Reds) are currently eight on the table, 3 points behind sixth-placed Villarreal with 7 matches to go.

He has scored 11 goals and provided 4 assists this season and though any hopes of a call-up for Spain's World Cup squad is a pipe dream at best, if he continues this vein of form next season, he could get a look-in.

#4 Fabián Ruiz Peña (Real Betis)

The classy midfielder has been central to Real Betis' good performances this season
The classy midfielder has been central to Real Betis' good performances this season

Another one from Spanish football's unending conveyor belt of midfielders, the graduate of the Real Betis youth team was said to be a target for FC Barcelona in the January transfer window as a mooted-long term replacement for Andres Iniesta,

Calm on the ball with an eye for a pass, the 22-year-old possesses a fantastic range of passing and is also capable of playing on the right wing.

He is said to move the ball 'with the ease and elegance of a dancer. The 22-year-old like most Spanish central midfielders possesses very good technique and more often times than not this season has provided a calming influence in the centre of the field for Los Verdiblancos (The Green and White).

Alongside fellow Ccantenaros like captain Joaquín and striker Loren Morón, Fabián has been at the heart of everything good that Quique Setién's side has done this season as the team has surprised everyone with their attacking verve and team ethos which has seen them climb as high as 5th on the league table ahead of their hated Andalucian rivals, Sevilla.

#3 Carlos Soler (Valencia CF)

The crown jewel in Valencia's crown
The jewel in Valencia's crown

The crown jewel of the Valencia youth system, the 21-year-old is said to be the best product from the academy in recent times and has already been dubbed as the new "David Silva".

Tenacious and possessing the unique characteristics of the archetypal Spanish midfielder-- close control, an eye for a pass, technique, and intelligence-- Soler has become a mainstay in coach Marcellino Toral’s new look Valencia side patrolling the middle of the park alongside captain Daniel Parejo and French workhorse Geoffrey Kondogbia.

The 20-year-old Spanish youth international started his career as a striker but was moved to the middle of the park by his youth team coaches who felt his talent would be wasted upfront.

He has been sensational for Los Che as alongside Parejo and Kondogbia, he has kept the midfield ticking and provided the base on which manager Marcelino has built the attacking force that Valencia has been this season.

He has been linked to various clubs like Real Madrid and Manchester United and looks set for greatness as in just 25 games, he has scored once and assisted four times.

#2 Santi Mina (Valencia CF)

Santi Mina is finally living up to his whizkid tag
Santi Mina is finally living up to his whizkid tag

One of the most impressive young starlets in the league, Mina's performances this season have been his best ever as he has now fully settled down and under Marcelino's expert tutelage, he is looking like the real deal.

He turned 22 in December and has already made over 100 appearances in La Liga for Celta Vigo and Valencia.

His excellent technical ability coupled with speed and an intelligence to drag defenders out of position has been of immense benefit to the team as his rotation with on-loan Portuguese winger Goncalo Guedes has meant that Marcelino has been able to deploy his forward line in a way that allows the strikers as well as the inside forwards to flourish.

The youngster who cost Valencia €10m when he joined as a fresh-faced 19-year-old in 2015 has taken his time to settle at the club even though his settling in has not been helped by the club's upheaval.

He has been superb this season with 11 goals and 2 assists in his 27 appearances (14 of which have been as a substitute) and if he keeps it up, a call-up to the national team will definitely happen sooner rather than later.

#1 Rodrigo “Rodri” Hernández (Villarreal)

The new Busquets; Rodrigo (L) has been sensational for the Yellow Submarine
The new Busquets; Rodrigo (L) has been sensational for the Yellow Submarine

Undoubtedly THE breakout star in La Liga this season, Rodri has been sensational for Villarreal and with his move to Atletico Madrid for 20m already a done deal for next season, expect to see many more of the 21-year-old at the highest level of Spanish football for the foreseeable future.

He has been the outstanding player in a youthful El Submarino Amarillo (The Yellow Submarine) side and under manager Javier Calleja, Rodri has blossomed into an outstanding central midfielder and is already being spoken of as a potential long-term replacement for Sergio Busquets for the national team.

Playing in a defensive midfield position, the youngster has averaged an astounding tackle rate of 2.7 per game in La Liga while also making 1.6 interceptions and 2.8 clearances.

He has been the glue that has held the midfield together as his intelligent defending coupled with his passing ability and ball shielding skills have meant that fellow Spaniards Pablo Fornals and Manu Trigueros who haveplayed alongside him at the base of the midfield is often able to drive forward to join the attack.

As the long-term replacement for Atleti captain Gabi, Rodri will be a big part of the club's regeneration moves next season and given his performances this season, expect him to be at the heart of everything good going forward.

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