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U21 Players To Watch: LaLiga


Who are the brightest starlets lighting it up in Spain? We ran the numbers to find out. 

By: David Perales, Javier Moreno

Last week we looked at the top U21 stars making a name from themselves in the Premier League. Today we turn out attention to Spain.

A little over a year has passed since Ansu Fati made his debut with Barcelona under Ernesto Valverde. He came on as a second-half substitute in Barcelona’s 5-2 victory over Real Betis in August 2019, aged just 16 years and 298 days. In doing so, he became the second-youngest player to play for Barcelona.

Fast forward just over a year, and Fati is now 18. With 43 games, 13 goals and 3 assists to his name, he has very quickly become a fundamental piece in Barça´s system.

As you’d expect from a player bursting onto the scene at such a young age, Fati has broken his fair share of records. He scored his first senior goal against Osasuna just a week after his debut, becoming the youngest Barcelona player in history to score in LaLiga (16Y, 304D).

He is also the youngest player to score in a Champions League match (v. Inter aged just a little over 17) and he’s also the youngest Spanish national goalscorer, scoring the third goal in Spain’s 4-0 Nations League victory over Ukraine in June 2019 (aged 17Y 311D).

Indeed, of all the current U21 players in LaLiga, no player has scored more goals (11) or has been involved in more goals (12) than the Spaniard.

U21 Players With Most Goal Involvements in LaLiga:

Player  Team  Games Played  Goals  Assists  Goal Involvements  
Ansu FatiBarcelona3111112
Vinícius JúniorReal Madrid54718
Takefusa KuboMallorca35448
Lee Kang-InValencia CF28235
RodrygoReal Madrid24235
Oihan SancetAthletic Club23213
Roberto LópezReal Sociedad11213

This season, the Catalans have really relied on Fati’s goalscoring. No other Barcelona player has scored more goals than him in LaLiga (4) and he is the club’s second-highest scorer in all competitions (5), behind only Lionel Messi (6).

It’s hard to understate Fati’s impact. Since he joined the club, he’s clocked up the highest expected goals (xG) value out of any Barcelona player in LaLiga (5.6). When Lionel Messi is your teammate, that is mighty impressive.

Vinícius Junior has quickly become one of LaLiga’s most exciting prospects. Vinícius’ electric pace enables him to run in behind defences, creating space and opportunities for the rest of his teammates to exploit.

He is also a defender’s nightmare with the ball at his feet. No Real Madrid player has attempted (336) or completed (155) more dribbles in all competitions since the Brazilian made his debut at the club. Moreover, he’s a dribbler with end product. Only Karim Benzema (82) and Sergio Ramos (26) have been involved in more goals than Vinícius for Real Madrid in all competitions (24, equal with Modric).

Real Madrid Players (All Comps) Since Vinícius Júnior’s Debut (29th Sept. 2018):

Player  GamesGoals  Assists  Goals InvolvementsDribbles Attempted  Dribbles Completed  
Vinícius Júnior79121224336155
Karim Benzema104582482235133
Luka Modric89111324200123
Gareth Bale55135189446
Toni Kroos90715227457
Sergio Ramos88242262720

Now in his second full season at Valencia, Lee Kang-in is emerging as one of the best creators in LaLiga. Only Ángel Correa (4) and Sergio Canales (4) have provided more assists in the competition than the South Korean (3).

LaLiga 2020/21 Assist Chart:

Player  Team  Games Played  Assists 
Ángel CorreaAtlético de Madrid74
Sergio CanalesReal Betis94
Lee Kang-InValencia CF83
RodrygoReal Madrid53
Jordi AlbaBarcelona63
Karim BenzemaReal Madrid83
Álvaro NegredoCádiz83

No other Valencia player has created more chances than Lee Kang-in this season (13), five more than next-closest teammate José Gaya. His underlying expected assist (xA) total of 2.1 is also the highest in the Valencia squad in LaLiga this season, showcasing his creative importance to the side.

Rodrygo Goes made his debut in September of last year against Osasuna, and needed just 93 seconds to score his first Real Madrid. That speedy debut goal meant he was the quickest player to score their first goal for the Whites since Ronaldo Nazario famously scored after 62 seconds against Alavés in LaLiga in October 2002).

Since his debut with Real Madrid, only Benzema (1 goal per 156 mins) has a better goals-per-minute rate in all competitions than Rodrygo (1 goal per 207 mins) when looking at players to have scored two or more.

Real Madrid Players (All Comps) Since Rodrygo’s Debut (25th Sept. 2019):

Player  GamesMinutesGoals  Assists  Mins/Goal Goal Involvements
Karim Benzema5343822813156.541
Sergio Ramos494265161266.617
Vinícius Júnior43218983273.611
Marco Asensio1995431318.04

Rodrigo (18y 301d) is the second-youngest player to score a hat-trick in a Champions League game behind Real Madrid legend Raul (18y 113d), after he notched three against Galatasaray in November 2019.  Giving the similarities, the Brazilian will be hoping to emulate the glittering careers Raul and Ronaldo had at the Santiago Bernabéu.

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