Pedri, Gavi, Ansu, and Spain’s future roster
Pedri, Gavi, and Ansu, are the Spanish National Football Team’s currently emerging stars and its future leaders.
Spain’s uber generational talent, that one which won the 2008 Euro, 2010 World Cup, and 2012 Euro, with the likes of Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta, David Villa, Fernando Torres, Iker Casillas, Gerard Pique, Carles Puyol, Sergio Busquets, Sergio Ramos, Cesc Fabregas, David Silva, and Xabi Alonso is now all but retired from top-level football. The few who remain are senior citizen guides on coach Luis Enrique’s new project to foment a new look Spanish National Team. That new cast will be representing Spain in World Cup 2022 in Qatar.
In place of that uber-stellar cast come their current replacements, a number of single-name stars who are in their late teens to early twenties and yet have been tempered via regular play at club and national team duties. We are talking about three teenagers, midfielders Pedri and Gavi, and striker Ansu, and their peers, none over 22 years of age, strikers Yeremy Pino and Nico Williams, defender Eric Garcia, and midfielder Ferran Torres. Spain’s starting keeper, Unai Simon, is 25 years old and their elder.
Of the 25 players Enrique employed in his last call-up, only seven are currently not playing in Spain and of those seven two are nearly unused backup keepers, and two are rarely-used veterans brought on board for ballast. That leaves Alvaro Morata (29), Sergio Busquets (34), Dani Carvajal (30), and Koke (30) as the only real elders still on the squad who see some playing time. There are nine Barcelona players (more than from any other three teams combined), three from Atletico Madrid, and only two Real Madrid players, the same number as from Athletic Bilbao, Valencia, and Villarreal.
Pedri is a 19-year-old, Canary Islands-born midfielder who has featured in Spain’s U17-U23 teams and is now a starter on Barcelona and the senior national team. He was the 2021 Kopa Trophy winner for the best-performing player in the world under the age of 21. He played in the 2020 Summer Olympics and Euro 2020, both played in the summer of 2021, a year in which he played 73 games. He was voted the Euro 2020 Young Player of the Tournament having played all but one minute of Spain’s six tourney matches. The Spanish media see him as a mix of Xavi and Iniesta, possessing the passing ability and vision of the former with the quickness and scoring ability of the latter. Look up his passing accuracy stats sometime.
Gavi is an 18-year-old Andalusian-born midfielder who has featured in Spain’s U15-U18 teams and is now a starter on Barcelona and the senior national team. He is the 2022 Kopa Trophy winner. He played in the 2021 UEFA Nations League becoming the youngest player to ever represent Spain at the senior level and he promptly scored becoming the youngest player to ever score representing Spain at a senior level. Also compared to Xavi and Iniesta, Gavi is very technically gifted but also a tough defender and a quick study when sizing up opponents and in-game opportunities.
Ansu is a Guinea-Bissau-born (Spanish citizen) 19-year-old striker who wears the number 10 jersey and has featured for Spain’s U21 team and is now a sometime starter on Barcelona and the senior national team. He has suffered several long and debilitating injuries since joining Barca in 2019 yet has managed 50 appearances and 17 goals. Fast, agile, and strong with a ferocious shot, Ansu Fati is a star in the making and has simply been awaiting his chance to shine once healthy. In his four appearances for the senior national team, he has scored once and assisted twice.
This Spanish team is of Enrique’s own making, and they have been tried and tested via international competitions at the highest levels—they seem ready for the ultimate test at the World Cup. The only question is will the coach risk playing his youngsters as a block or will he continue to break up the lines with veterans? In the past, he has erred on the side of playing his young guns too long and having to play catch-up, but in the UEFA Nations League he came up with an ingenious ploy to oust Portugal.
Enrique started his veterans and asked them to play keep away for sixty minutes, running the Portuguese starting line-up ragged, then he brought in three of his young stars and they ran circles around their older and now tired opponents. The discipline and constancy of their very technical and fast play were something to behold and once they established dominance, around ten minutes after entering the match, the game’s conclusion was inevitable. If Enrique can get them to play that well again, Spain’s new generation will have a jump start on their golden elders and the national team’s return to global prominence may not be far off.
Photo: Pedri, Shutterstock ID 2139716353 by Christian Bertrand