Born in the south east of Ireland, Simon put his life-long love of football to good use when he started a successful independent blog in 2010. That opened up an alternative route to a career in journalism, and having had work published across a number of sites and publications, Simon joined the staff at Spotlight Sports Group in 2018.
Spanish fútbol finally makes its comeback later this week when La Liga breaks free from postponement to return to pitches and screens from June 11.
After almost three months on the sidelines, the league’s biggest and brightest stars will be itching to get back to competitive action, and with everything still to play for at both ends of the table, the La Liga’s remaining fixtures should be an enthralling watch.
While much of the attention in Spain tends to be focused on the division’s three biggest clubs, Barcelona, Real Madrid and Atletico, dozens of players plying their trade with clubs outside that traditional big-hitting trio have been putting in some sparkling displays this season.
To help shine a light on those under the radar stars, we’ve compiled a list of five players to watch from outside the division’s big three when Spanish fútbol resumes. Check it out below.
Remember – we’ll be covering all of the Spanish top-flight football extensively on our La Liga predictions page.
Ferran Torres – Valencia
20-year-old winger Ferran Torres was schooled at Valencia’s academy from the age of six and graduated to make his first team debut with Los Che as a teenager in 2017.
At over six feet tall, Torres has the physicality to match his accomplished technical skillset, and the wide midfielder regularly leaves defenders with twisted tibias and red faces.
Torres has already notched six goals and six assists in 27 starts in all competitions for Valencia this season, though his influence is expected to increase with experience.
The rapidly developing right-sided midfielder will hope to feature on Friday when Valencia host Levante in the Derby del Turia.
Mohammed Salisu – Real Valladolid
Ghanaian powerhouse Mohammed Salisu has played a starring role at centre-half during his debut La Liga campaign with Real Valladolid in 2019/20.
The 21-year-old, who has already been linked with moves to Manchester United and Real Madrid, has been dubbed “the wall of Valladolid” by the Spanish media, and cites Barcelona’s Samuel Umtiti as one of his idols.
Salisu started 26 of Los Blanquivioletas’ 27 league matches this season and his 5.0 clearances per game average is the highest at the club and the joint 5th highest in La Liga overall.
Martin Ødegaard – Real Sociedad
Norwegian schemer Martin Ødegaard’s ability to see passing lanes where others see dead ends has made him one of La Liga’s most potent creative forces this season.
Only Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi (2.5) has played more key passes per game on average than Ødegaard (2.3) in 2019/20, and the blossoming 21-year-old has been tipped to make a splash when he returns to parent club Real Madrid from Sociedad later this summer.
Even though he has relatively few miles on the clock, Ødegaard wields the tempo dictating intelligence of a seasoned midfield veteran, and the ex- Strømsgodset starlet is destined for the very top.
Marc Cucurella – Getafe
Getafe activated a €6m buy clause in Marc Cucurella’s loan contract to sign him permanently from Barcelona in March, though the Catalonian giants might regret letting the rapidly developing La Masia product slip through the net.
The tough tackling left-back has been earning rave reviews for his all-action performances this season, and the swashbuckling 21-year-old, who fits the profile of the modern-day, forward-thinking fullback, has one goal and four assists in 26 La Liga appearances since August.
Nabil Fekir – Real Betis
Real Betis pulled off a major coup when they managed to persuade attacking midfielder Nabil Fekir to join the club from French outfit Lyon ahead of a lengthy list of other suitors last summer.
Combining some effortless close control with a genuine eye for goal, Fekir comes armed with bags of star quality and should continue to thrive at the Estadio Benito Villamarín
The €19.75m Los Verderones parted with to wrangle the playmaker across the border from France already looks like money well spent, and the seven goals and three assists Fekir has delivered in his first 21 Spanish top-flight starts have made him a firm fan favourite.
Fekir will be again key to his team’s chances of victory this week when Real Betis travel across town to take on local rivals Sevilla in the El Gran Derbi.
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