La Roja's young side secured their own European Championship success for a second year running on Sunday, with many of their players set for senior stardom in future
By Ben Hayward | Spanish Football Editor
The sight may have been a familiar one but the players, to most at least, will not have been.
On a soggy surface in Tallinn on Sunday, Spain secured a sixth European Championship success at Under-19 level to add to their ever-growing collection of silverware; La Roja also claimed the continental crown with their U-21 team last summer and added Euro 2012 glory to Euro 2008 and World Cup wins with their senior side.
They are, in 2012, very much a known threat.
Many of the U-21 team from last summer have now graduated to the senior side or made their mark at prestigious clubs at home and abroad - Javi Martinez and Juan Mata were World Cup winners anyway, while Adrian Lopez and David De Gea are now established starters at Atletico Madrid and Manchester United, respectively.
The next generation, though, is starting to shine away from the spotlight - at least at the moment. But after Sunday, many look set to go on and star for Spain in future.
The hero in the final was Real Madrid winger Jese Rodriguez, who scored the winner against Greece and claimed the Golden Boot as well with his fifth strike of the competition. The forward, who has often been compared to Cristiano Ronaldo, has made just one official appearance for Jose Mourinho's men, replacing the Portuguese in a 5-1 win over Real Sociedad last season. Opportunities have been scarce, but Jese is biding his time. "Mourinho pushes us because we have to learn," he said last summer.
And all of that work now appears to be paying dividends. Madrid have allowed many of their best youth prospects to leave in recent seasons and right-back Dani Carvajal is the latest to depart as he joined Bayer Leverkusen earlier this month, but Jese recently told Goal.com he expects to take his chance soon at the Bernabeu. And after witnessing his pace, trickery and finishing ability at these European Championships, which also included a fine hat-trick against Portugal and a winner versus Italy in the final qualifying rounds, Madrid fans will hope so too.
Jese's low, angled drive may have given Spain victory on Sunday, but the goal was all about Barcelona winger Gerard Deulofeu, who ran across the pitch and slid a pass through the legs of the last defender for his team-mate to do the rest. Deulofeu has impressed for Spain at under-17 level and now two years in a row with the the U-19 side. Still a raw talent and lacking discipline at times, the winger is seen as the next biggest star to emerge from La Masia and although he has already made his senior bow, the Catalan club are carefully nurturing the player behind the scenes until he is ready to star for the first team. And on this evidence, that is likely to be soon.
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Another emerging talent at Barcelona is Alex Grimaldo. The left-back is still only 16, but looks the part and is already seen as a long-term option in defence for the Catalans. Barca's need for a left-back this summer may have come too early for him, but in the future he will be expected to compete with recent signing Jordi Alba, with whom he shares many of the same attributes. Years younger than many of his team-mates, he did not look out of place in Estonia.
In central defence, meanwhile, Sevilla's Jose Campana was a commanding figure for Spain. The 19-year-old made a handful of appearances for the Andalusians in 2011-12 and is expected to become a first-team regular before too long at the Sanchez Pizjuan. Campana, a winner in 2011, offers experience, a cool head for his young age, as well as strength and good passing ability. As for the future, however, he has no thoughts of leaving Seville. "This is where I come from and I would like to play here forever," he said recently.
One player who has made the plunge to a different league is winger Suso, who was signed up by Liverpool from Cadiz in 2010. Known for his outstanding technical ability, vision and range of passing, Suso is being moulded into a more complete midfielder at Liverpool, learning discipline and defensive work to complement his more creative skills. The 17-year-old scored the opener in the 2-1 win over Armenia.
Last but not least is 18-year-old Paco Alcacer. The Valencia striker, whose father tragically died after watching him make his debut at Mestalla last year, is making waves on the east coast and was wanted by Barcelona as part of the deal which brought Jordi Alba back to Camp Nou. Valencia, though, weren't having it. Alcacer scored twice for Spain in Estonia, including one in the semi-final against France, which La Roja won on penalties after a 3-3 draw. Like Mata, David Silva and David Villa before him, he looks set to be the latest Valencia forward to go on and star for Spain's senior side.
So with all of these starlets coming through, that familiar feeling of Spanish success on the football field may just continue for a few more years yet.
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