Millions of people around the world turn every weekend to watch their beloved La Liga. With the feeling of communal pride ever present in Spain, supporters will turn on their TVs, hit the corner pub, or simply just take a trip to the stadium to shout for Raul, Xavi, Joseba Etxeberria, and other stars that have shaped the Primera world into the form we all know today.

Yet, the bitter truth remains that all of the aforementioned names will have to unlace their boots one final time and abandon the green rectangle that they have developed on all these years, setting up the spotlight for other youth-teamers that will try to win the masses’ affection. That said; here’s a look, in alphabetical order, at Spain’s growing future stars:

1) Sergio Asenjo (Goalkeeper; 20 years old; Atletico Madrid)

A drop in form for each of Ludovic Butelle and Alberto prompted former Real Valladolid coach Jose Luis Mendilibar to promote the young and inexperienced Asenjo to the club’s first team in the latter part of 2007. Largely labelled the next Spanish Iker Casillas by the press due to his youth credentials and the similar style he shares with the Real Madrid legend, Asenjo managed to dislodge Butelle and Alberto as he established himself as Valladolid’s first-choice custodian. His fine personal season was crowned in the summer by an Under-19 achievement with “La Seleccion”, as he guided Spain all the way to the final against Greece, where his superb goalkeeping ensured that the game ended 1-0 in Spain’s favour.

After another season with Valladolid, Sergio Asenjo was sold this past summer to Atletico Madrid, for the measly sum of €5M. His start with Los Colchoneros has been disappointing so far, but given Asenjo’s potential, that shouldn’t constitute a prolonged problem.

2) Sergio Canales (Attacking midfielder – second striker; 18 years old; Racing Santander)

Two months ago, Sergio Canales wouldn’t have probably made too many people group him amongst Spain’s top youth hopes, but jaw-dropping displays for Racing de Santander of late have left him riding high, with this season sure to be remembered as the one where the youngster announced himself to La Liga.

Although he was promoted to the first team last season, it is this year that Canales has truly blossomed into a true gem. Blessed with an important combination of pace and shot accuracy, Canales has so far found the net five times in the ten league matches for Racing. His impressive brace against Sevilla last January, followed by his lone goal against Real Valladolid the following weekend, meant that the European big guns were soon on alert for this growing starlet, with recorded interest from Real Madrid, Barcelona, Manchester United, Chelsea and Arsenal. With his Racing contract expiring this summer, Canales was quick to renew it as he wanted to make sure that his boyhood club would receive a fee for his probable transfer, paying Racing Santander back for giving him his chance.

At time of writing, Sergio Canales remains a Racinguista, but should the Spanish press be trusted, that won’t be the case for much longer as Real Madrid are believed to have beaten others to his signature – for the light fee of €6M – with the stipulation being that Canales will spend the 2010/11 season on loan at El Sardinero.

3) Pedro Leon (Winger; 23 years old; Getafe CF)

When Real Valladolid bought Pedro Leon after the Murcia-born man endured heckled times at Murcia and Levante, Jose Mendilibar knew straight away that he had a great piece of talent on his hands.

Gifted with Messi-esque dribbling ability and a penchant for set-pieces, Pedro Leon made sure that the €300,000 Valladolid paid in September 2008 – a large sum for the club – was quickly forgotten as he helped his team earn a memorable win over Real Madrid at home in November. Leon opened his goalscoring account a week later in the 3-0 thrashing of Villarreal at the Yellow Submarine’s own El Madrigal stadium.

Having seen his stock rise through the roof after an explosive season, suitors came knocking at Valladolid’s door for the signature of their talented midfielder. It was Getafe however, a team known for its farming of young talents, that won the day for the sum of €4M. As of now, Pedro Leon has appeared in nearly all of Los Azulones’ league matches, scoring some impressive goals along the way. Should this situation continue, then it won’t be long before the likes of Real Madrid and Chelsea come beating down his door.

4) Pedro Rodriguez (Winger; 22 years old; FC Barcelona)

Promoted to the senior squad after Pep Guardiola assumed control of the Barcelona battleship, Pedro – or “Pedrito” as he was commonly known last season – was a marginal player in the team’s march towards an unprecedented sextuple, setting the stage for fellow canteranos Gerard Pique and Sergi Busquets to shine.

After largely impressing in Barcelona’s pre-season tour, Guardiola confirmed that Pedro will continue to be a key member of the Blaugrana squad, improving his contract and inserting a hefty €75M buy-out clause. His excellent displays at the FIFA Club World Cup went straight into the history books as Pedro became the first ever player to score in six different club competitions within a single year, having opened his account in La Liga, the Copa del Rey, Champions League, Spanish Super Cup, European Super Cup, and Club World Cup.

With Pedro showing no signs of slowing down, this youngster could very soon claim the Barcelona left wing as his own, with Frenchman Thierry Henry bearing the burden of a history of injuries and inconsistency. His displays for the “triplete” champions could also very well be his calling to South Africa this summer.

5) Iker Muniain (Striker; 17 years old; Athletic Bilbao)

Football fans in Spain know only one other Iker, and that’s the Real Madrid and Spain captain. However, there will arrive a time where the name of Iker Muniain will be synonymous with Spanish football.

Born in Pamplona, Navarre, on 19th December, 1992, Iker Muniain became the youngest player ever to wear the Athletic Bilbao jersey as he took part in the 1-0 loss to BSC Young Boys in a Europa League qualifier, aged at the time just 16 years and 7 months.

A week later, the young forward scored his first ever goal in the return leg in Switzerland, becoming the youngest ever player to score a goal in an official fixture. Yet, the records did not stop here, as participation in the home win over Espanyol on 30th August, 2009 meant that Muniain went on to earn the status of La Liga’s youngest ever player. On 1st December, 2009, Muniain signed his first ever professional contract with Bilbao. A few days later, he returned from injury and scored immediately as a substitute in the 2-1 loss to Valencia. A week later, he contributed to his team’s two goals in the win over Real Zaragoza.

Having a short stature for a striker – 171 cm – Muniain combines elements of Romario and Maradona, holding the same box flair of the former Brazil star, while having the low centre of gravity and agility of the current Argentina coach. It won’t be long before the name of Iker Muniain will have a chance to define Spanish football.


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