Gary Neville watched from the stands as his new club, Valencia, managed to snatch a point from La Liga leaders Barcelona on Saturday.
Valencia have a very young and talented squad - the team’s average age against Barca was just 23-years-old. Three midfielders highlight the team’s top prospects, all of whom joined the Bats this summer.
Zakaria Bakkali signed from PSV Eindhoven on a free transfer, Brazilian central midfielder Danilo initially joined on a year-long loan but the deal is expected to be made permanent next summer.
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Then there is Santi Mina, the Spanish winger clinched the equaliser against the Catalan giants - his first goal for Valencia. The newly anointed 20-year-old signed from Celta Vigo and celebrated the end of his teenage years just two days after his goal against Barca.
Bakkali is primarily a left winger and has a goal and two assists from his first 14 Valencia games, none of which have lasted beyond 66 minutes. But the Belgian is still young and is competing with fellow youngster Rodrigo de Paul, who is only two years older than the former PSV man.
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The winger uses his rapid acceleration and close control to attack the box and draw fouls - a style which perfectly suits La Liga.
The pricey Brazilian midfielder Danilo has been played as both a defensive and more orthodox central midfielder. He’s a strong tackler who plays with a lot of confidence. He’ll often attempt to push forward and dribble the ball past the opposition.
Santi Mina is the most exciting of the three young talents. The right winger’s game is centred around his pace and playmaking ability. Much like Bakkali, his tricky feet draw in a fair amount of fouls. For Celta Vigo, he scored 12 goals and set up four more during his 56 game spell at the Balaídos.
Valencia have top young footballers in nearly every position. Those within Neville’s field of expertise are Joao Cancelo and Jose Luis Gaya - the current first choice full backs this season are 21 and 20-years-old respectively.
For whatever reason Nuno Espirito Santo was sacked as manager of Valencia, he certainly did a good job of bringing in some seriously talented young players and setting up the club’s future.
If Gary Neville can keep his job at Valencia for a few years, and utilise the many top prospects at his new club, he’ll have the makings of an incredible team with the potential to eventually contend for the title.
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