Pique: Alba destined for greatness

In Spain's hugely-talented squad replete with European and world champions, Jordi Alba is probably the only relative newcomer likely to start against Italy in Sunday's Euro 2012 Group C opener in Gdansk.

The zippy 23-year-old debuted against Scotland in Alicante in October and has since made the left-back position vacated by Joan Capdevila his own, impressing team-mates such as centre-back Gerard Pique with his exploits in both defence and attack.

Born in the same Catalan town as Spain reserve goalkeeper Victor Valdes, he started out in Barcelona's youth ranks before his current club Valencia snapped him up at the age of 17 for a bargain 6,000 euros.

Roving down the wing, he uses his explosive pace to surge past his markers and deliver inviting crosses and will be a major threat to any opposition as Spain they bid to retain their continental title.

"I really think he is a superb player," Pique told a news conference at Spain's training base in Gniewino on Friday.

"He has surprised me because I saw him playing many times in La Liga and now with the national team but here in training he is really flying," added the Barca defender.

"He is very small but he is super quick and agile, he knows how to defend and attack and he is a player who deserves to be here for sure."

Alba's progress has inevitably attracted the attention of Spain's heavyweight clubs and Pique said he was more than capable of making the step up from Valencia to a team like Barca, with whom he has been linked in Spanish media.

The Catalans are looking for a left-back to replace Eric Abidal following the France international's liver transplant earlier this season.

"I certainly see him playing at a big club," Pique said.

"Valencia is also an important club but maybe he is capable of more and let's see what happens.

"We hope he is focused on the national team and the European Championship and for sure he will be and later he needs to take a relaxed decision about his future."