10 La Liga stars on the verge of special things in 2016/17
1. Theo Hernandez (Alaves, on loan from Atletico Madrid)
What Hernandez packs is searing pace, and from a full-back role he’s a destructive presence
After a series of stunning displays on loan at Alaves, the hype around Theo Hernandez is growing. And rightly so.
Younger brother of Atletico Madrid's Lucas, Hernandez Jr. isn’t that far removed from his big brother. Theo plays in an uncompromising style at centre-back, showing his strength and imposing figure when up against opposition strikers. But what Theo packs is searing pace, and from a full-back role he’s a destructive presence.
There are shades of Gareth Bale in his full-back days, combining both elegance with sheer power. La Liga could well have the next great footballing brothers in their ranks.
2. Marc Roca (Espanyol)
Espanyol loaded their squad with experience over the summer, but it’s a young player who's taken he spotlight so far this season – and as a bonus he's one of their own.
Marc Roca has been a pleasant surprise under Quique Sanchez Flores, showing his ability to control and dictate the pace of games despite his tender years. At just 19 the midfielder is showing signs of basing his game on Xabi Alonso, who's a pretty good role model really.
— Héctor Farrés García (@hector_fg35) August 27, 2016
The boy from Penedès, home of some of Catalunya’s finest wine, is maturing.
3. Marcos Llorente (Alaves)
Llorente is showing why he could well be a future Real Madrid great – and potentially a player that they need now
There are few greater Real Madrid players than Francisco Gento. Imagine, then, for a young player to be related to him. The pressure must be immense, and it’s exactly what Marcos Llorente is dealing with.
Out on loan at Alaves this season, however, the 21-year-old is showing why he could well be a future Real Madrid great – and potentially even a player that they need now. Llorente is a multi-faceted midfielder who is able to help out defensively and win back possession, but also threaten on the front foot and support his attack with smart, incisive passing.
4. Kepa Arrizabalaga (Athletic Bilbao)
Athletic Bilbao have produced some outstanding goalkeepers over the years, and the latest has come along just in time.
Kepa Arrizabalaga has been touted for a first-team push at the club for some time now, and this season it has finally arrived. Athletic coach Ernesto Valverde has vowed to use Arrizabalaga regularly, and so far there hasn’t been a slip-up from the 22-year-old goalkeeper who's reminiscent of David de Gea. He’s particularly agile, able to use his feet well and offers incredible levels of athleticism in goal.
5. Mikel Oyarzabal (Real Sociedad)
What Oyarzabal possesses of most value is his ability to change a game
Could Real Sociedad have the next Antoine Griezmann on their hands? Quite possibly. The Frenchman was a product of Real Sociedad’s excellent academy, and in Mikel Oyarzabal they might just have their next star in the making. The 19-year-old has been turning heads after a string of scintillating performances last season and 2016/17 could see him establish himself as a big-league player.
Oyarzabal boasts a creative touch to his game but also a goalscoring one, hence the Griezmann comparisons. Overall, his biggest value is an ability to change games.