The Top 5 La Liga Players Under Age 20

April 11, 2012

This list consists of the best five players in Spain’s La Liga under the age of 20. All five of these players have a tremendous future and will undoubtedly have an impact in world football with both their club and country.

For the most part they have already made significant impacts and are contributing to their respective teams’ success. Although they are teenagers, they carry themselves as wily old veterans on the pitch.

These players are practically kids in the eyes of veteran footballers, so trust is something that they must earn from their teammates. However, these players have proven themselves by showcasing their skill, tenacity, guile, imagination, and composure. Each player on this list brings something different in terms of skill, but all five are special talents worthy of notice.

#1 Left-Winger Iker Muniain 5-7, 150 pounds (Athletic Bilbao)

Iker Muniain tops our list, as the Spanish international has demonstrated that he has arguably been the best player this year for Athletic Bilbao, despite the presence of stars Fernando Llorente and Javier Martinez. The 19-year-old has had sparkling performances in the domestic league as well as in Europe during Bilbao’s Europa League campaign, as they are currently in the semi-finals of that competition.

His most notable performance came in the two-leg affair that Athletic Bilbao had against powerhouse Manchester United.

In the first leg at Old Trafford, the diminutive Muniain had a field day with the opposing defenders, as Manchester United had no answer for him and he did as he wished on the pitch.

His speed and quick passing drove defenders mad, and he capped off his wonderful performance by scoring a goal in the dying minutes of the game to give Athletic Bilbao the 3-2 win at Manchester United's home field.

Muniain made his debut in 2009 at the age of 16, and has 91 appearances to his name already in addition to 11 goals. As a 19-year-old he has established himself as a regular starter on the team week after week.

His speed, passing, dribbling, and shooting ability make him a dangerous threat in the offensive half of the pitch, and he boasts a tremendous engine. Because of this skill-set, Munian is a complete midfielder, making him one of the best midfielders in all of La Liga, and not merely one of the best under age 20.

#2 Central Midfielder Thiago Alcantara 5-8, 156 pounds (FC Barcelona)

Thiago Alcantara comes from a great pedigree, as he is the son of Brazilian footballer Mazinho who won the World Cup in ’94. Although born in Italy, he plays his international football for Spain and has been capped 3 times by Vicente del Bosque.

Arguably the most technically gifted player on the list, Thiago is blessed with great touch, technique, vision, and a cerebral sense for the game. Unfortunately for Thiago, he is on team that is filled with the likes of Iniesta, Xavi, Busquets, and Fabregas, so playing time has been scarce. However, his talent is undeniable.

Since his senior debut in 2009, Thiago has accumulated 37 appearances and accounted for 4 goals. Although the majority of his appearances have been made as a substitute, it is clear that Thiago is held in high regards in football circles. If Thiago were on just about any other team in La Liga he would be their playmaker and would be running the show. The sky is the limit for this savvy young player.

#3) Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois 6-6, 174 pounds (Atletico Madrid on loan from Chelsea FC)

The third man on the list is technically an English Premier player, but is currently on loan from Chelsea for the entire season. So for the sake of this list, he is a La Liga player.

At 6-6, Thibaut Courtois is a huge keeper whose height and incredible wingspan allow him to cover the goal tremendously well. Because he is tall and lanky, his reflexes and footwork are not the greatest, but they are definitely above-average.

Where Courtois excels is in his positioning.  He always is in the right spot, allowing him to make the difficult saves seem very pedestrian. At the tender age of 19, he has already received Goalkeeper of the Year honors back in the Belgian Pro League when he played for Genk, and he has already been capped once by his country.

Courtois has been an instrumental part of Atletico Madrid’s success this year, as he has appeared in 22 games and has helped the capital club reach the semi-finals of the Europa League. This is definitely one young goalkeeper that you will be hearing from in the future.

#4 Central Midfielder Francisco Roman Alarcon Suarzez (Isco) 5-9, 174 pounds (Málaga CF)

"Isco," as he is known, is a gifted, young attacking player. He loves to take players on out wide and provide crosses, or even go in alone and look for his own shot. The speedy attacker has shown that he is capable of playing with the best of them, but like most young players, he is somewhat inconsistent at times.

His skills are hard to ignore, and with more playing time and experience, everything should come together. Isco has played at all the youth levels for the Spanish National Team, but he has yet to receive a call up to the senior team. Nevertheless, he has been influential in Málaga CF's chase for a Champions League spot.

With 26 appearances and 4 goals since his move from Valencia CF in the summer of 2011, Isco has shown his talents and has become an integral part of Manuel Pellegrini’s squad.

Isco's speed and dribbling ability have caused defenders throughout La Liga many problems this season -- an issue they will likely deal with for many years to come.

#5 Center Back Raphael Varane 6-3, 167 pounds (Real Madrid)

This French international made his move in the summer from Lens to Spanish giant Real Madrid. At 6-3, Varane possesses a great build for a center back. Although Varane has been given limited opportunities by Jose Mourinho this season, he has shown glimpses of the talent he possesses.

With 8 appearances and 1 goal credited to his name, Varane has demonstrated that he is comfortable on the ball and has good technique. When defending he is strong and sure, as he rarely commits a bad foul.

Varane also seems to do well in the air, although he will need to bulk up a little as he is on the slender side.  As such, stronger forwards will take advantage of his slim build, but he is still very young and has time to grow and get stronger.

In the games that he has played, Varane has seemed unflappable and extremely composed for an 18-year-old competing for arguably the biggest club in the world. If Varane continues on this path there is no doubt that he will become one of the best center backs in the world.

By Victor Chinchilla
Contributing Writer for The Daily Sports Herald

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