A LOOK AT LA LIGA
It's been the summer of a star trek for the next generation of Spanish footballing superstars.
Manchester City fans are eagerly asking about Rodri, their new record signing; West Ham followers are very excited about Pablo Fornals; and the Spanish press are fact-checking a new kid on the block called Dani Olmo.
Dani Ceballos is back in vogue, Fabián Ruiz has come of age and Barcelona are contemplating triggering the buyout clause in Mikel Oyarzabal's Real Sociedad contract.
Spain once again won the European under-21 Championships and the future is very rosy.
Firstly, Rodrigo Hernández Cascante. Somewhere in the Atlético Madrid youth archive there's an assessment that suggested that he lacked physical strength and should not be retained. That was in 2013 when he was allowed to leave for Villarreal. He grew and grew some more. It cost Atlético 20 million euros to take him back in May 2018 and a year later his value has more than tripled.
Pep Guardiola has invested 70 million euros in Sergio Busquets' footballing doppelganger. He's his heir in the Spain national team and the successor to Fernandinho as the ball winner in Manchester City's midfield. It's a great move as he'll be given time to develop at the Premier League champions.
Pablo Fornals may not have as much time to settle at West Ham. The fans should be very satisfied with the dynamic midfielder who started his career in Malaga before further developing his game at Villarreal. The Premier League will not daunt a 23-year-old who already has a couple of caps.
The player of the under-21 tournament was his midfield partner Fabián Ruiz, another young man who is furthering his career abroad. Napoli saw the potential when he was playing for Real Betis and persuaded him to move to Serie A. One year later he's also won a senior cap and he's on the radar of every major club.
By contrast, it would be fair to say that Dani Olmo was very much off radar. He's big in Croatia but until this summer he'd not really registered elsewhere. As he was on his way to claiming the best player and young player awards for Dinamo Zagreb, it was reported that the country's president Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic was going to offer him citizenship so that he could represent Croatia. This was greeted with indignity back in the Spanish media where Olmo's name was registering for the first time. What didn't register was the date - 1 April!
Olmo, a Barcelona youth player, took a gamble in leaving the Spanish giants for Dinamo in 2015. Croatia could just be a stopping point as the likes of Manchester United are now tracking him, according to his agent.
Another agent who is certainly about to conduct business is the man who represents Dani Ceballos. The skilful midfielder earned a move to Real Madrid with his outstanding performances in the under-21 championships two years ago and after another sizzling summer he's apparently on the wishlist of Liverpool, Tottenham and Arsenal.
On his day he's an outstanding talent; sadly Real Madrid didn't give him many days. I fear he's one of those players who will suffer from inconsistency and never fulfil his potential.
In contrast, Mikel Oyarzabal is less flashy but consistently impressive. He's been a regular in Real Sociedad's midfield for four years and the club tied him to a deal until 2024. The inflated buy-out clause was inserted to prevent Basque rivals Athletic Bilbao muscling in. It appears that there are serious discussions within the walls of the Camp Nou about Barcelona investing 70 million euros on a proven midfielder who scored his first senior Spain goal against Sweden and weighed in with fourteen for his club last season.
The next generation of Spain's national team may be peppered around Europe but the future is looking very exciting as the crop is harvesting nicely.