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Spanish Inquisition: Pedros, Manuels, Marc, Mikel & ‘El Pirata’ - Spain’s Best Uncapped Secrets

European champions Spain have unquestionably one of the deepest squads heading to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

Such is the wealth of talent the country has produced in recent years that some of the best players in their respective clubs have been left with no chance of being called up, while the emerging young stars can find it difficult to break in.

If it wasn’t for the Iker Casillas, Carles Puyols, Xavis, Cesc Fabregases or David Villas, La Furia Roja might look something like this.

Remember, these are not players who would replace Spain’s current starting XI, but more of an alternate XI who have yet to be called up to the senior side.

Goalkeeper

Manuel Almunia (Arsenal)

The 32-year-old had only played one season of top flight football in La Liga before joining Arsenal. He would be no more than a back-up with the Gunners, but when given a chance to shine with the first team, he duly impressed, putting in a number of spectacular performances and pulling off his fair share of miraculous saves, especially from the penalty spot. He has been knocking on La Seleccion’s door ever since, and he would’ve been in the Spanish national team by now if it wasn’t for the untouchable trio of Iker Casillas, Pepe Reina and Diego Lopez.

Defenders

Jesus Gamez (Malaga)

The 24-year-old could have been playing for either Sevilla or Atletico Madrid this season had a move not collapse in the summer. The exciting wing-back generated a lot of hype last campaign following his impressive exploits with Malaga. Staying at a small club like Los Boquerones might harm his chances of actually making the national team. However, he has been earning plenty of playing time and he is continually fine-tuning the delicate balance between defending and attacking.

Alexis (Valencia)

The former Getafe man joined Los Che at a very turbulent period at the Mestalla on and off the pitch, and struggled to live up to his promise. But having finally settled in under Unai Emery and having shaken off any injury concerns, the 24-year-old is now showing his true potential. He is a hugely dependable centre-back who covers a lot of ground. He is extremely solid in the air thanks to his lanky frame, not unlike Gerard Pique, although he doesn’t score as many goals.

Marc Torrejon (Racing Santander)

The 23-year-old is an imposing figure who looks more like a wrestler than a footballer. He had his breakthrough year two seasons ago playing alongside the late Daniel Jarque at Espanyol but he has disappeared from the radar in recent time. If he can resurrect his career with the Cantabrians, work on his positional play and continue to build on his solid aerial game, he could sneak his way into La Seleccion when the likes of Carles Puyol and Carlos Marchena vacate their positions in a few years’ time.

Mane (Getafe)

The 27-year-old is very much like Spain’s current left-back, Joan Capdevila. The ex-Almeria defender loves going forward but does so quietly and reasonably without abandoning his defensive duties, unlike some flashy, marauding full-backs. It is perhaps his ‘fly under the radar’ approach that has kept him from being noticed, either by the national team or by La Liga’s bigger clubs, but in staying loyal to the more modest teams, he has been able to mould himself to an extremely consistent performer.

Midfielders

Pedro Leon (Getafe)

Another player who could have joined one of the big boys, but he opted for the more humble surroundings of Getafe. It may not be a bad move as it allows him a chance to continue growing without the glare of the media spotlight and excessive hype. The 22-year-old has now gone from Murcia to Levante to Real Valladolid to El Geta… a very slow progression to the top. Although he is a natural winger, he has the qualities of a central midfielder, relying more on his passing range than the usual tricky wizardry of a wide-man.

Mikel Arteta (Everton)

The poor man’s Xavi. Or was it Fabregas? Either way, the former Barcelona youth product is yet another cerebral deep-lying playmaker that Spain – and in particular Barca – have been producing like bunny rabbits ever since Pep Guardiola made the role his own for club and country. And like many of his nation’s central midfielders, the Basque-born 27-year-old is a set-piece specialist blessed with tremendous close control, dribbling skills and, of course, the number one pre-requisite for a Spanish playmaker, deadly accurate passing. He is one of those players who would walk into almost any other country’s first team.

Javi Martinez (Athletic Bilbao)

The 21-year-old is an all-action midfielder, not quite the flamboyant playmaker or the conventional holding midfielder. He is an explosive player who makes darting sprints towards the opposing goal from deep. At 1.90 metres tall, he has an incredible burst of speed and plenty of agility, but his physique also gives him an immense advantage over his opponents as he wins balls easily in the air.  

Esteban Granero (Real Madrid)

‘The Pirate’ has boundless potential but he needs a little helping hand. In order for him to break into Spain’s first team, he first has to break into Real Madrid’s equally talent-packed regular midfield line-up. The 22-year-old can play either side of the park or in the centre of the field, but versatility alone won’t be enough. He does have a killer left foot when he lets fly from distance, and he’s also a master at ghosting into the opposition penalty box unnoticed.

Forwards

Alvaro Negredo (Sevilla)

The ‘Wild Animal of Vallecas’ came close to being considered by Vicente del Bosque for the 2009 Confederations Cup, but the poker-faced coach eventually decided to keep his faith in Dani Guiza and Fernando Llorente. The 24-year-old is a striker who can provide limitless options to the national team, who often lack physical strength and height against their more brutish rivals. Of course, the former Madridista is no longer an 'uncapped secret' following a chain of events over the past 24 hours which resulted in him being roped in to La Seleccion to take over from David Villa and Guiza.

Pedro (Barcelona)

If there’s one player who can blossom tenfold over the next eight months or so, it is the 22-year-old. The Canarian is a winger rather than a natural forward, not unlike David Silva or Andres Iniesta. But he has a deadly eye for goal and he will be ideal for the national set-up: a versatile attacker who can drop deep but also be utilised as a frontman. He would complement Negredo perfectly.

Which Spanish players do you believe deserve to win their first cap with La Seleccion? Do you have an alternate XI of your own? Goal.com wants to know...

KS Leong, Goal.com