Spain’s dominance of international football may have been brought to an end in Brazil in 2014 after Vicente del Bosque’s men surrendered their world title with a whimper, but let’s not forget that they dominated it the decade beforehand.
Although they had previously acquired an unflattering nearly men reputation for the majority of their history, the European nation have always had an abundance of talent within their ranks, but converting it into success on the big-stage proved to be problematic.
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The Spaniards finally sorted themselves out and threw down their shackles at Euro 2008 to prove that they weren’t bottlers. Success in South Africa followed and the nation retained their European title in 2012 too.
But it wasn’t just the senior side that started to see a shift towards success rather than failure. The nation’s decision to roll out a unique brand of football, and mirror a style of play throughout each and every youth side, quickly came to fruition.
A year after La Furia Roja had claimed the biggest prize of all at Soccer City in Johannesburg, just over 16,000 spectators filed into Denmark’s Aarhus Stadion to see Spain’s Under-21 side beat Switzerland courtesy of a 2-0 scoreline to be crowned European champions.
The side was littered with talent, but have they gone on to make the step-up to the seniors, or have their careers stagnated? It’s a bit of both.
Manager: Luis Milla
The former defensive midfielder, who represented Barcelona, Real Madrid and Valencia during his playing career, retired in 2001 and began his career in management five years later. He took charge of minnows UD Pucol before going on to become assistant boss to Michael Laudrup at Getafe.
Milla made his mark at international level, taking charge of Spain’s Under-19, 20, 21 and 23 sides, but since then he’s managed UAE outfit Al Jazira Club and Segunda Division sides Lugo and Zaragoza before taking on the Indonesia national team job, which he left in 2018.
Goalkeeper: David De Gea
The goalkeeper made his debut for Atletico Madrid in 2009, and went on to establish himself as first-choice ahead of compatriot Sergio Asenjo at the Vicente Calderon.
He’d attracted a fair amount of interest before the tournament, but his performances during it clearly convinced Sir Alex Ferguson that the spindly shot-stopper was a man he couldn’t miss out on.
Two weeks after the final, De Gea joined Manchester United for £18.9m. After initially struggling to cope with the physicality of the English game, he became one of the world’s top goalkeepers, despite a tough few years.
Right-back: Martin Montoya
The right-back began his career at CF Gava before moving to Barcelona’s famous La Masia youth academy at the age of eight. Montoya moved through the ranks and enjoyed a breakthrough season in the B side, as Luis Enrique led them to the title in Spain’s second division.
A full debut arrived in 2011, but the defender struggled to…