The best of those on show at the 2013 European Under 21 Championships.
Spain’s flourishing youth managed to overcome all obstacles to win the 2013 Under-21 European championships this week, and their free-flowing style of football was too much for every opposition, but it wasn’t only them who shone this summer. How many Spain players make my team of the championship?
Goalkeeper: David De Gea, Spain & Manchester United
The young keeper really was a level above the rest, not conceding a single goal until the final against Italy, putting his shot-stopping ability and fantastic reflexes on show for all to see. The last line of defence for Spain will prove to be a worthy successor to Iker Casillas long-term, and solidified his place in the United line-up this season following his move from Atletico Madrid. Linked with a move to Real Madrid to replace Casillas, De Gea is primed for a true breakout season, recognised as one of the world’s best goalkeepers.
Right Back: Martin Montoya, Spain & Barcelona
The 22-year old defender has been on the fringes of the Barcelona first team for a while now, without showing his full potential as a player. Given his chance over Daniel Carvajal during the Euro’s, Montoya wowed us with his high-quality defensive skills, and attacking flair and creativity. Liverpool and Inter Milan are interested in the right back who only has one-year left on his current Barcelona contract. With Dani Alves’ play deteriorating, it could be time for Barcelona to extend his stay and promote him to the first team indefinitely.
Centre Back: Marc Bartra, Spain & Barcelona
They key to Spain’s defensive solidity in Israel, Bartra was a rock in their back line. Another one of Barcelona’s talented young defensive unit, Bartra, 22, is set for a make-or-break season in club football, and desperately needs first-team football to further his development. West Ham and Crystal Palace are interested in taking the defender on loan, while Spanish reports claim Barcelona will hand Bartra a 4-year contract extension and will be loaned out to Valencia for experience.
Centre Back: Matteo Bianchetti, Italy & Inter Milan
Despite their abysmal showing against Spain in the final, the Italian back line was the bedrock of their success until then. Bianchetti was an integral part, showing great strength at the back, fantastic timing and composure when making tackles and was a presence from set plays. On loan at Verona, the Inter product could be ready for first team action in Italy’s top division, amid interest from European clubs.
Left Back: Alberto Moreno, Spain & Sevilla
The young full back is one of the brightest talents in this team. His creativity and attacking role down the left opens up a lot of space inside for Spain’s most creative players. The Sevilla defender is reportedly open to a move away from the club, with some of Europe’s most notorious clubs eyeing up a move, with only two-years left on his current deal, they may be forced to sell.
Centre Midfield: Asier Illarramendi, Spain & Real Sociedad
Another Spanish starlet makes the team. Illarramendi was an unsung hero in the Spanish line-up during their run to European glory. Anchoring the midfield exquisitely, playing a casual game and just doing his job at a high level. Being able to break up the play, and also spark an attack makes Illarramendi unique, and has attracted interest from Arsenal for his performances. Real Sociedad could be inundated with offers for their midfield prospect.
Centre Midfield: Marco Verratti, Italy & Paris Saint-German
The midfielder joined PSG from Pescara a year ago and has become one of Europe’s best young midfielder. Verratti was key to linking up Italy’s attacking football throughout the tournament, averaging 100 passes a game, the most of any player. The player is a target for Manchester United who are looking to replace Paul Scholes’ passing influence, and Real Madrid are also keen. Arguably Italy’s best player at the tournament, Verratti has a very bright future.
Right Wing: Isco, Spain & Malaga
Not his preferred position but has to make the cut one way or another. His creative influence behind the striker and in-between the lines have rightfully made him a target for Manchester City and Real Madrid. Showing composure in front of goal, a fantastic first touch and can pick a pass between defenders, Isco has the quality to play for most full national teams.
Attacking Midfield: Thiago Alcantara, Spain & Barcelona
The third Barcelona player to make the line-up, Thiago was an inspirational captain for Spain during the tournament. His set plays were outstanding, and to bag a hat-trick in the final really cemented his place as my personal player of the tournament. Available for just £15million this summer, the Barcelona product is a target for Manchester United and will walk into most national team set ups. His future lies in his hands, and has the potential to become one of the worlds top midfielders.
Left Wing: Lorenzo Insigne, Italy & Napoli
Insigne was the real attacking threat for Italy throughout the tournament, and the Napoli starlet didn’t disappoint. Outlined by his match winning free-kick against England, Insigne has the quality from set-plays and the open field to create from nothing. Set for a breakout season in Serie A with Napoli, a full term in the first team will aid Insigne’s development as an attacking threat.
Striker: Alvaro Morata, Spain & Real Madrid
Starting out as the second choice for Spain behind Benfica’s Rodrigo, Morata burst onto the scene with his game winning goal off the bench in their opening fixture, and finished up winning the golden boot, Morata has gained the interest of Liverpool as a potential make-weight in the Luis Suarez sale. With his future at Madrid in doubt, a career in English football is on the cards for the prolific forward who has netted 44 goals in 83 games for Castilla.
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