Richard Pike profiles 20 of the best Under-20 players to watch in the La Liga for the 2020-21 season, one from each club!
As the start to the 2020/21 La Liga season draws ever closer, the tension and excitement amongst spectators continues to build. A new season give fans a chance to see established stars go once again alongside new signings. However, it also gives fans an opportunity to see young talent. Such talent could be youngsters debuting or those who we have already seen establishing themselves as regular first team stars. Here is one such player from all 20 La Liga clubs to watch in 2020/21.
Real Madrid // Rodrygo Silva de Goes // 19 // Brazil
Despite a disappointing last sixteen Champions League exit to Manchester City, 2019/20 was overall a success for Real Madrid as Los Blancos won their record 34th La Liga title. Transfer spending is expected to be restricted at the Santiago Bernabeu this summer. However, Real have amongst their ranks a fine crop of young, emerging talent which should ease the need to dip too much into the market. One of which is 19 year-old Brazilian Rodrygo Silva de Goes. Predominantly a right winger, Rodrygo had a breakthrough 2019/20, making 29 appearances in all competitions for Real, notching 9 goals and 3 assists. The young Brazilian’s whose many strengths include his close control of the ball when in possession, first touch and dribbling ability will be hoping to establish himself as a regular starter in 2020/21.
FC Barcelona // Ansu Fati // 17 // Spain
Whilst all is glittering gold domestically for Real at present, their great rivals FC Barcelona are in turmoil both on and off the pitch. Not only was the Spanish title lost, it was followed by a humiliating 8-2 loss to Bayern Munich in the Champions League Quarter Finals and the recent shock revelations that star man Lionel Messi is seeking to leave the Camp Nou. Should such a previously un-believeable scenario occur, someone tipped to fill Messi’s colossal-sized shoes may have to step up much sooner than anyone at the Catalan giant expected, Ansu Fati. The 17 year old prodigy debuted aged 16 years 10 months in Barca’s 5-2 home win against Real Betis on Matchday 2 of La Liga in 2019/20, the first of 33 appearances in all competitions, which yielded 8 goals and 1 assist.
Atletico de Madrid // Manu Sanchez // 20 // Spain
2019/20 was overall a challenging campaign for Atletico de Madrid, Los Colchoneros eventually finished 3rd in La Liga, the predicted pre-season title challenge never materialising. There was however the positive of the shock Champions League last sixteen victory over then-European champions Liverpool. Despite excellent business under Diego Simeone in the transfer market recently, Atleti also possesses a fine youth academy. One such academy graduate is really looking to make strides in 2020/21, 20 year-old left-back Manu Sanchez. The Spanish Under 21 international made 5 La Liga appearances last campaign whilst also playing 24 times for Atletico de Madrid B in the Spanish third tier. Regular starting left back Renan Lodi will be difficult to displace permanently, however, with Atleti having both domestic and European commitments, Sanchez’s minutes could increase in 2020/21.
Sevilla FC // Bryan Gil // 19 // Spain
Arguably the second best performing La Liga representative across all competitions in 2019/20 behind Real Madrid was Sevilla CF. A fourth placed La Liga finish combined with victory in the Europa League brought the curtain down on a successful campaign for Rojiblancos. What summer transfer moves Sevilla will make in the market will make for fascinating viewing. The Andalucian outfit have already decided to let their fringe Portuguese winger Rony Lopes go to French Ligue 1 outfit OGC Nice on a season-long loan. Lopes’ place in the first team squad could be taken by 19 year-old Sevilla academy product Bryan Gil. Capable of playing on either wing, Gil became the first player born in the 21st century to score a La Liga goal in 2018/19 and had a 12 game loan spell at Leganes during 2019/20.
Villarreal CF // Takefusa Kubo // 19 // Japan
Despite finishing 10 points behind Sevilla in 5th place last campaign, optimism is high at Villarreal CF. Unai Emery has arrived as new manager of El Submarino Amarillo and some impressive new signings such as former Valencia pair Dani Parejo and Francis Coquelin have raised expectations. However, another signing could particularly catch the eye this upcoming campaign, that of 19 year-old Japanese winger Takefusa Kubo. After an impressive loan at relegated Real Mallorca in 2019/20 where he contributed 4 goals and 5 assists in 35 La Liga games, Kubo’s parent club Real Madrid have allowed him out on loan again in 2020/21. With Villarreal at a much higher level than Mallorca, a strong loan in 2020/21 could put Kubo in the frame to challenge for a first team place back at Los Blancos in 2021/22.
Real Sociedad CF // Ander Barrenetxea // 18 // Spain
Despite a slump in the return to action post-Covid pause, Real Sociedad managed to cobble together enough points to finish 6th in 2019/20 and qualify for the Europa League for 2020/21. La Real will face the new campaign without last season’s star man Martin Odegaard, who after an impressive loan at San Sebastian in 2019/20 has been recalled by parent club Real Madrid. 2020/21 could see the emergence of a new star at Anoeta in the shape of 18 year-old left winger Ander Barrenetxea. The Spain Under 19 international made 23 appearances for La Real in 2019/20 in all competitions and will be hoping to see that figure increase this upcoming campaign.
Granada CF // Antonin // 20 // Spain
La Liga’s surprise package of 2019/20 was without question Granada CF. Upon winning promotion from Segunda Division in 2018/19, expectations were just to survive in La Liga in 2019/20. However, Diego Martinez’s outfit stunned everyone by finishing 7th place and qualifying for European football for the first time in their history. One player who may be expected to feature a lot for the Andalucian outfit next campaign is 20 year-old striker Antonin. After 4 goals in 22 games for Malaga CF in Segunda last campaign, Antonin signed for Granada in early 2020 and featured 8 times for Granada in the latter part of the 2019/20 La Liga season. With new signing Jorge Molina and Roberto Soldado both 38 and 35 years old respectively, Antonin gives the striking position a much needed injection of youth.
Getafe CF // Ante Palaversa // 20 // Croatia
After struggling to adapt to the frantic nature of games every 3 or 4 days upon the resumption of play post-Covid, Getafe slumped to an 8th place finish, missing out on Europa League qualification. Nonetheless, it was still another impressive season of over-achievement for the Comunidad de Madrid based outfit coached by Jose Bordalas. One young player at Geta to watch in 2020/21 is Ante Palaversa. The 20 year-old Croatian midfielder has been signed on a season-long loan from Manchester City after playing 19 games at KV Oostende in the Belgian top flight during a loan spell from the Cityzens in 2019/20.
Valencia CF // Hugo Guillamon // 20 // Spain
It has been a summer of turmoil at Valencia CF. First team regulars Dani Parejo, Francis Coquelin, Rodrigo and Ferran Torres have all departed Mestalla in the off-season. Expectations for Los Che in 2020/21 are at their lowest for many a year. However, one positive for Valencia last campaign was the emergence of Hugo Guillamon. The 20 year-old made 6 appearances in La Liga for Valencia’s senior team after being a regular for the club’s farm side Valencia Mestalla in the Spanish third tier throughout the last two seasons. After renewing his contract in late July until 2023, Guillamon should see a vast increase in regular game-time throughout 2020/21.
CA Osasuna // Aimar Oroz // 18 // Spain
2019/20 saw a successful return to Spain’s top flight for Osasuna CF. Following their promotion to La Liga, the Pamplona outfit never looked in any serious danger of relegation throughout the campaign and eventually finished an impressive 10th place. Osasuna will look for another campaign in mid-table throughout 2020/21 and one youngster who could make a breakthrough of sorts is Aimar Oroz. The 18 year-old Pamplona-native has been a regular for Osasuna’s B team in the Spanish third tier over the last two seasons and debuted for the first team in their final league game of 2019/20. With veteran Fran Merida having departed Osasuna to sign for Espanyol, it could allow Oroz’s minutes to increase substantially in 2020/21.
Athletic Bilbao // Oihan Sancet // 20 // Spain
With their Basque-only signing policy, Athletic Bilbao remain one of football’s most unique clubs. It is a policy which requires Los Leones to maintain a high level of youth development to continuously bring stars through their academy and reserves into the first team. One such future star who Athletic have high hopes for in 2020/21 is Oihan Sancet. The 20 year-old attacking midfielder rotated his playing time between Athletic’s senior side and their farm team Bilbao Athletic in the Spanish third tier in 2019/20, making 17 and 14 appearances for each respectively. With veteran 34 year-old Raul Garcia approaching the end of his career, 2020/21 could be the year Sancet permanently displaces him as a first team regular at Athletic.
Levante UD // Giorgi Kochorashvili // 21 // Georgian
2019/20 was Levante’s third consecutive season in La Liga and the Valencian club’s 12th placed finish a representation of further progress from the 15th placed finishes of the previous two campaigns. Having consolidated impressively in La Liga, Paco Jemez’s troops will now be looking to further climb La Liga in 2020/21. One young player who could make his mark for Granotas in 2020/21 is midfielder Giorgi Kochorashvili. The 21 year-old Georgia Under 21 international played a total of 43 games over the last two seasons as a regular for both CF Peralada and Levante’s farm team Atletico Levante in the Spanish third tier. Kochorashvili also debuted for Levante’s senior team in Matchday 36 of the 2019/20 campaign as a late substitute after being an unused substitute 8 times earlier in the campaign.
Real Valladolid // Miguel de la Fuente // 21 // Spain
Another club who can now consider themselves established in La Liga is Real Valladolid. The Castille and Leon outfit, majoritarily-owned by legendary Brazilian striker Ronaldo Nazario survived for a second straight campaign in La Liga in 2019/20 finishing in an impressive 13th place. One of the Castille and Leon side’s best youth prospects is Miguel de la Fuente. The 21 year-old academy graduate scored an impressive 14 goals in 26 games for Real Valladolid B in the Spanish third tier alongside making 7 appearances for the senior team in 2019/20.
SD Eibar // Miguel Atienza // 21 // Spain
Arguably Spanish football’s most overachieving club, SD Eibar’s 14th placed finish in 2019/20 secured a 7th straight La Liga campaign for the club based in the tiny eponymous town in the Basque Country. An incredible achievement for such a small place and a modest club. In the shadows of larger Basque rivals Athletic Bilbao and Real Sociedad, Eibar find it more difficult to attract young talent to their youth teams and reserve team CD Vitoria, who play in the Spanish fourth tier. However, with their first team’s central midfield looking a little light in numbers, youngster Miguel Atienza could see some action in 2020/21. 21 year-old Atienza spent last season with Eibar’s first team, eventually making three La Liga appearances after spending 2018/19 as a regular at CD Vitoria, serving on occasion as the farm team’s captain.
Real Betis // Diego Lainez // 20 // Mexico
Alongside eventually relegated RCD Espanyol, Real Betis were the other big under-achievers of 2019/20 in La Liga. Los Beticos eventually finished a disappointing 15th place in La Liga and manager Rubi was dismissed as manager. However, the appointment of veteran Chilean Manuel Pellegrini gives Betis hope going into 2020/21 that the club may eventually start to fulfil its undoubted potential. If Betis are a club looking to fulfil their potential, Diego Lainez is a player hoping to live up to the hype. Since signing for Betis from Club America in his homeland in January 2019, the 20 year-old Mexican has struggled to establish himself as a regular. Could Pellegrini’s appointment in 2020/21 be the catalyst for Lainez to fulfil his potential?
Deportivo Alaves // Borja Sainz // 19 // Spain
Deportivo Alaves struggled throughout 2019/20 in La Liga and despite securing survival with a 16th placed finish, the club from Vitoria-Gasteiz are amongst the relegation favourites in 2020/21. One player who Babazorros could turn to in 2020/21 to turn around their fortunes is Borja Sainz. After starting out his career in Athletic Bilbao’s youth system, 19 year-old left winger Sainz left Los Leones as a 17 year-old in the summer of 2018 to sign for Alaves. After impressing in 2018/19 with Alaves’ B team, Sainz was promoted to Alaves’s senior squad for 2019/20 where he made 20 appearances in all competitions, mainly as a substitute. Sainz will now be hoping to establish himself as a regular first team player in 2020/21 at Mendizorroza.
Celta de Vigo // Miguel Baeza // 20 // Spain
Another club with a lot of improvement to do in 2020/21 is Celta de Vigo. The Galicians narrowly avoided relegation to Segunda Division by the skin of their teeth in 2019/20 eventually just staying up by a solitary point from 18th placed Leganes. To improve their fortunes in 2020/21, Celta have quickly turned to the transfer market and have snapped up Miguel Baeza from Real Madrid’s Castilla B team for a fee of EUR 2.5 million. 20 year-old Baeza is an attacking midfielder who enjoyed a productive season in the Spanish third tier for Real Madrid Castilla in 2019/20, noting 9 goals and 4 assists in 26 games.
Cadiz CF // Djordje Jovanovic // 21 // Serbian
2019/20 was a season to celebrate for Cadiz CF. The Andalucian outfit’s 2nd place finish in the Spanish second tier secured a return to La Liga for the first time since 2005/06. The Yellow Submarine will face a tough task to survive in the Spanish top flight and one young player they could look to in their quest could be young 21 year-old Serbian forward Djordje Jovanovic. The young forward made a contribution to Cartagena’s promotion to the Spanish second tier in 2019/20, making 16 appearances and scoring 3 goals.
SD Huesca // Sergio Gomez // 19 // Spain
2019/20 saw SD Huesca quickly recover from the disappointment of relegation from La Liga in 2018/19 by bouncing back up to the Spanish top flight by winning Segunda Division. The Aragonese outfit once again playing in a higher division than more famous local rivals Real Zaragoza. One promising young player who Azulgranas could turn to in a bid to avoid a second instant return to Segunda is 19 year old Sergio Gomez. The youngster spent the whole of 2019/20 on loan at Huesca in the Spanish second tier from German giants Borussia Dortmund and helped them to promotion, noting 1 goal and 3 assists in 36 games. Keen to see Gomez, who was second best player to England and Manchester City’s Phil Foden at the 2017 FIFA Under 17’s World Cup continue his development, Dortmund have opted to extend his loan at Huesca by another season.
Elche CF // Ignacio Pastor // 20 // Spain
The final team to confirm their spot in La Liga were Elche CF. A victory in the promotion play-offs against Girona confirmed their place in Spain’s top flight for 2020/21. The Valencian outfit have just over 5 weeks between their promotion play-off victory and their first top flight game, highlighting just how tough a task survival will be. With such a current small squad which currently only includes three senior central defenders, one young player who could see some first team opportunities is Ignacio Pastor. The 20 year-old central defender made 23 appearances for Elche’s farm team Elche Ilicitano in the Spanish third tier and debuted for Elche’s first team in two Copa del Rey matches in 2019/20.
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