The La Liga is one of the top five football leagues in Europe. Over the years, a plethora of young talent has graced the competition.
The 2019-20 La Liga season has been no different in this regard. A number of young players in the La Liga have stepped up to become permanent fixtures for their clubs in a season ravaged by the COVID-19 pandemic. Some of them have shone while on loan at another La Liga club.
This list of top five young players in the La Liga this season is based both on a player's contribution to his team cause in terms of goals and assists and also on his overall impact in games.
Note: This list is in no particular order.
Five young players who have shone in the La Liga this season
#1: Ansu Fati
If there is one young player in the La Liga whose name is on everyone’s lips right now, it is the 17-year-old Barcelona sensation Ansu Fati.
The Guinea-Bissau born youngster made his La Liga made his debut in Barcelona's 5-2 win over Real Betis. In his next game, a 2-2 draw against Osasuna, Fati became the youngest Barcelona player to score in the La Liga.
In the process, the teenager also became the fourth player in La Liga history to have scored a goal in the competition before turning 17.
Only two players - Mallorca's Fabrice Olinga in 2012-13 and Iker Muniain in 2009-10 - were younger than Fati when they scored their first goal in the La Liga goal.
This season, Fati has scored six goals in 13 La Liga appearances. Two of these goals came in Barcelona's 2-1 win over Levante, making Fati the youngest player to score a brace in the La Liga.
Fati has shown incredible maturity, given the fact that he is only 17, and has become a key player for Barcelona manager Quique Setien. The teenager's pace on the wings has energised the Blaugrana whose midfield has otherwise looked constricted in many La Liga games this season.
He has already scored six La Liga goals for Barcelona before turning 18, a tally that is five more than what club legend Lionel Messi managed at the same age.
There have been flashes of Neymar-like moments from Fati, and the Blaugrana faithful will really be excited to see how he develops into a more complete player.
Fati's exploits haven't been limited to La Liga. He scored against Inter Milan in the Champions League earlier this season to become the youngest player to score in the competition.
#2. Vinicius Junior
Ever since he lost out to bitter rivals Barcelona in the battle to acquire Neymar, Real Madrid president Florentino Perez has made it his mission to get hold of every young Brazilian talent he feels can make the cut in the first team.
Vinicius Junior is therefore Perez’s attempt to ameliorate his past transfer mistakes, and so far, the 19-year-old Brazilian has repaid the faith with interest, producing impressive performances in the La Liga this season.
He has made himself an indispensable player for Real Madrid manager Zinedine Zidane. The 19-year-old has almost usurped Eden Hazard’s place in the left-wing forward position. His pace and a vast array of trickery has enabled him to become one of the most difficult opponents for defenders to tackle.
The only attribute that needs improvement is his finishing. But that has not prevented him from notching a crucial goal in Real Madrid's crucial 2-0 home win over Barcelona in first the El Clasico of the season that enabled the capital club go top in the La Liga table.
In the process, the Brazilian became the youngest scorer in a La Liga El Clasico game in the 21st century, breaking the erstwhile record of a certain Lionel Messi.
This season, Vinicius Jr has scored three La Liga goals in 15 appearances and has provided one assist. But mere statistics do not fully justify the threat that Vinicius poses.
#3: Riqui Puig
Riqui Puig, has been a highly impressive performer for Barcelona in the La Liga this season. In many ways, Puig has rejuvenated the Barcelona midfield and has infused much-needed energy into the side.
His stats, like Vinicius Junior’s, do not look very impressive. So far, he has neither registered goals or assists in eight appearances in the 2019-20 La Liga.
But it is the sheer impact that he has had on Barcelona that has compelled the rest of the world to sit up and take notice.
Puig is 21, and if the Catalan giants can manage to develop him by providing him adequate playing time, he could very well be the next Andres Inietsa for Barcelona.
#4: Takefusa Kubo
To include Takefusa Kubo into a list of best young performers in the La Liga this season may look baffling at first.
His club RCD Mallorca sit in 18th place in the La Liga table and may well get relegated this season.
The 19-year-old Japanese youngster, who is on loan from Real Madrid, had earlier been part of Barcelona’s youth programme before the Catalan giants foolishly decided to let him go.
Kubo has scored four goals and provided five assists in 32 La Liga appearances for Mallorca this season.
Three of his four goals have come in Mallorca's La Liga wins against Villareal, Eibar and Levante while his other goal came in a 3-3 draw at Real Betis.
While Kubo's stats may not look impressive when compared to that of other ‘great’ players, this is a significant return from a young player who has been given creative responsibility.
His most impressive performance in the La Liga this season came at Real Betis where he scored a goal and provided an assist. In the first La Liga game after the post-pandemic restart, Kubo was one of the rare bright sparks for Mallorca who were overwhelmed 0-4 by holders Barcelona.
Another impressive performance by Kubo came in Mallorca's 5-2 win over Celta Vigo where the Japanese player provided two assists. Two games later, Kubo kept Mallorca’s La Liga survival hopes alive after scoring in the 2-0 win against Levante.
#5: Martin Odegaard
He has been described by Dan Kay of Liverpool Echo as:
"an attack-minded midfielder very much in the modern mould. Diminutive, quick-footed, with natural balance, pace and, perhaps surprisingly for one so young, excellent shooting power."
Odegaard is currently on his third loan spell from his parent club Real Madrid, who acquired him in 2015 for a fee of €4 million.
Now 21, there has been a recurring realisation that the young Norwegian has failed to live up to his early promise. This is mainly because Odegaard was supposed to make big things happen from the time he was 16.
But this season could be a turning point for the Norwegian. At Real Sociedad, he has made 29 La Liga appearances this season, where he has scored four goals and provided five assists.
Odegaard scored a goal and provided an assist in wins over Eibar and Osasuna. He also scored in the 2-0 win over Atletico Madrid and the lone goal in Sociedad's win over Mallorca.
Like Riqui Puig at Barcelona, Odegaard could be the mainstay at the Santiago Bernabeu midfield in the years to come.Published 11 Jul 2020, 03:38 IST