With every La Liga season comes a new cast of characters to follow and admire. Though we’re only in November, these are five talents who’ve surpassed all expectations set before them. Some are complete revelations, while others are merely logical progressions.
Either way, each of these footballers have justifiably staked their claim as top-flight somebodies. If you’re interested in buying stock, now’s the time.
Yannick Ferreira Carrasco
Atletico Madrid did their fair-share of cash-splashing over the summer. Most notably, they spent a combined €55 million on Jackson Martinez and Luciano Vietto to replenish a slimming frontline after Arda Turan fled for Barcelona. However, it was a little-regarded Belgian winger, Yannick Ferreira Carrasco, that has proven to be the real steal of the transfer window.
Signed from Monaco for €20 million, Carrasco came into the season a little known quantity outside of France. So far, the 22-year-old has thrived as Turan’s replacement in Diego Simeone’s bullish, counterattacking system. Despite only starting three Primera games this season (four substitution appearances), Carrasco has managed two goals and appears to have played himself into Simeone’s starting eleven. Look for him to have an advanced role in the remainder of Atleti’s Liga campaign.
Sergi Roberto came into the preseason on the outskirts of Barcelona’s first team. Injuries in defense led to the 23-year-old being deployed in an unfamiliar right-back role, where he unexpectedly flourished. Roberto has played five Liga matches on defense and hardly taken a single wrong step.
With Dani Alves returning to action, Roberto has been circulated back into his natural midfield position, where he’s playing with newfound confidence. His two assists last weekend at Getafe capped off a Man of the Match performance — and not his first of the campaign. Roberto is a prime example of what a talented young player surrounded by world-class teammates can do if they bide their time on the fringes of a side’s starting 11.
While his true breakthrough season may have occurred last year while on-loan at Porto, Casemiro has risen to new, unforeseen levels this season in Madrid.
The 23-year-old Brazilian possesses keen spatial awareness, superb passing skills, and relishes in the tackle. Although Madrid have typically flooded their midfield with technicians over the years like Xabi Alonso and Toni Kroos, Casemiro fittingly brings a bit more Claude Makelele to the “Makelele role” he inhabits. It’s a perfect fit within the more pragmatic system Rafa Benitez has set-up at the Bernabeu.
Although the safety-first approach isn’t what we’ve come to expect from Los Blancos, there’s no doubt that it’s working. Madrid currently boast the best defensive record in La Liga (four goals allowed) with Casemiro serving as its holding linchpin.
On loan at Espanyol from Real Madrid, Marco Asensio has officially begun his ascension. Just 19-years-old, the incredibly talented winger has been pipped for a breakout season for quite some time now. He came into the 2015/16 season in great form after sparkling in Spain’s U-19 European Championship victory run over the summer.
This season, Asensio leads all of La Liga with four assists in seven appearances for the Parakeets. Unfortunately, the youngster has been the lone shining light for a bare-boned Espanyol squad with a leaky defense. But regardless of the team’s struggles, Asensio has put his flag in the ground as one of the future bearers of Spain’s top-flight.
On loan from Barcelona, Croatian wunderkind Alen Halilovic has set La Liga ablaze at Sporting Gijon.
Being sent by Barca manager Luis Enrique to longtime friend and defensive specialist manager Abelardo, the hope was that Halilovic could develop new defensive qualities while at Gijon to add to his already stellar attacking prowess. And it’s worked. Unlike the similar case of Gerard Deulofeu — who was loaned to Sevilla last year only to be dropped repeatedly by manager Unai Emery for failing to adhere to his defensive duties — Halilovic has adapted his game to fit Gijon’s, all-the-while without compromising his offensive game.
The youngster has two goals and three assists so far this season and has averaged more dribbles than anyone else in La Liga not named Lionel Messi or Neymar. Oh yeah, he’s only 19-years-old.
(All stats per WhoScored.)