Seven U21 La Liga stars that Europe’s best clubs should be trying to sign
Whilst not a hotbed for young talent like the Bundesliga or Ligue 1, La Liga certainly has more than a few exceptional U21 players who could go on to great things, and here at FootballTransfers, we thought we’d list seven young players that Europe’s best clubs should be looking at.
Whilst compiling this list, we decided to leave out the likes of Vinicius Junior, Rodrygo, Joao Felix, Ansu Fati, Pedri and Ilaix Moriba as they already play for some of Europe’s best clubs, and instead focus on lesser known talents.
With many of these clubs low on funds, an offer from a Premier League side for example would go a long way, and hence they could be picked up on the cheap.
Here are seven 21 or under La Liga stars that Europe’s best clubs should be trying to sign.
Alexander Isak is still just 21-years-old, yet it seems as though he’s been around for ages. Bursting through at AIK in his native Sweden, Isak scored 10 goals in 19 starts for the club and earned a €9 million move to Borussia Dortmund back in January 2017.
It didn’t work out in Germany, but since moving to Sociedad, Isak has reminded everyone of his talent.
This season, he scored 17 league goals in just 30 starts, and his non-penalty goal contribution per 90 tally of 0.73 was the fourth best in the entire division (of players with over 1,000 minutes), behind only Lionel Messi, Karim Benzema and Luis Suarez; Isak is in impressive company.
Standing at 6ft2in, Isak needs to improve his aerial prowess, but he’s a penalty box predator, and with a shot conversion rate of 21%, better the the aforementioned Suarez (20%), Benzema (19%), and Messi (15%), the Swedish striker has a big future ahead of him.
Stepping into the shoes of the injured Samuel Chukwueze in a European final is not exactly the easiest thing to do for an 18-year-old, but for Yeremi Pino, it was a walk in the park.
The Villarreal youth product has burst onto the scene this season, and while he’s only amassed six La Liga starts, he’s appeared off the bench 18 times; it’s clear that Unai Emery trusts him.
He made his debut for the Yellow Submarines in the Europa League against Sivasspor in October before making his La Liga debut in the same week against Cadiz.
In all competitions this season Pino has played over 1,300 minutes, scoring seven goals, including three in just four Copa del Rey appearances, and assisting once.
With 3.1 dribbles per 90, Pino is a menace for defenders, and at such a young age, his future is bright.
Having spent the 2020/21 season on loan at Eibar, Bryan Gil will return to Sevilla at the end of June, and hope that his performances this campaign have done enough to earn him a starting berth for Julen Lopetegui’s side.
A somewhat surprising facet of Gil’s game is that he’s a left-footed winger who plays on the left, akin to Burnley’s Dwight McNeil, which is something that is slowly dying out of the game.
However, Gil’s technical proficiency is outstanding, and just like McNeil, his crossing is a key part of his game. It may come down to the system that Eiber play, but Gil’s 7.7 crosses per 90 was the fourth most in La Liga (of players with over 1000 minutes).
But, to reduce him to a role of simply someone who delivers balls into the box would be a waste of his talent, as shown by his 2.5 dribbles per 90 this season, which is the fifth most from players with more than 2000 minutes this term.
With four goals and three assists in the league, only veteran striker Kike Garcia contributed to more league goals than Gil, and their relegation was certainly no fault of his.
Since signing for Atletico Madrid back in 2018, centre-back Neheun Perez has been sent away on loan three times, with the latest being to Granada for the 2020/21 season.
Now 20-years-old, Perez made 26 appearances for Granada, with 10 of those coming off the bench. He was far from a regular, but when he did play, he looked promising.
In fact, he lost possession just 6.2 times per 90 this season, which is the ninth best for outfielders with over 500 minutes in La Liga; it’s clear that he is composed in possession.
Atletico Madrid are unlikely to promote him into the first-team next year, so if a club wants to take a punt on him, it could be worth the gamble.
A product of Valencia’s famous academy, Hugo Guillamon has experienced his breakthrough campaign this year. Having made just six senior appearances before 2020/21, the centre-back has come into his own and played over 2000 minutes in all competitions this time around.
With a pass accuracy of 88% alongside winning 4.7 duels per 90, Guillamon is the perfect modern defender, and he fits the bill for any club looking for a ball-playing centre-half.
Valencia are struggling financially so any bid would likely be accepted, and for someone so talented, and just 21, Guillamon could be a smart addition.
A La Masia graduate, Juan Miranda has come through the ranks at Barcelona, but his future there is over. In fact, the Blaugrana are set to pay Miranda €600,000 in compensation to leave the club for Real Betis due to contractual obligations (read more here).
Therefore, Miranda could be a useful, and cheap, signing for many clubs if he decided to leave Betis anytime soon.
A 21-year-old left-back, Miranda has reportedly impressed the likes of Real Sociedad and Marseille during his time at Betis, in which he’s played 25 times in all competitions, scoring twice and assisting twice.
He would most likely be a rotation player for a bigger side, and so a deal could be tricky, but Miranda is certainly one to keep an eye on.
Last, but by no means least, it’s Real Socidedad’s Ander Barrenetxea.
Barrenetxea became the first player born in the 2000s to play in La Liga when he made his debut against Alaves back in 2018, and he hadn’t even played for Sociedad’s B team before making his first-team debut, becoming the first to do this since Antoine Griezmann achieved the feat in 2009.
A left-winger who likes of cut inside onto his stronger right foot, Barrenetxea is a powerful dribbler, and his 2.7 dribbles per 90 ranks eighth in La Liga for players with over 1000 minutes.
By comparison, those 2.7 dribbles per 90 is 0.2 more than Jack Grealish’s per 90 tally for Aston Villa in the Premier League this season, for example.
With three goals and zero assists to his name this term, Barrenetxea needs to improve his final ball, but the early signs are extremely positive.