Spanish clubs are known for their excellent academies and for their willingness to give youth a chance, so it’s no surprise that several teenagers have been given opportunities in La Liga Santander over the course of the 2018/19 season.
Here’s a look at the five youngest players to have made their La Liga Santander debuts this season. Four of them were born in the 21st century, while the other is a high-profile Brazilian who has made headlines around the world.
1. Ander Barrenetxea: 16 years, 11 months, 24 days (REAL SOCIEDAD vs D. Alaves)
There are four players on this list who were born in the 21st century and, despite being the youngest of the quartet, Ander Barrenetxea was the first one of them to make a La Liga Santander appearance in December. Asier Garitano, the Real Sociedad coach at the time, gave the local teenager a five-minute run-out during a Basque derby at home to D. Alaves, which La Real ultimately lost 1-0. The winger is now turned 17 and is his current focus is very much on the Real Sociedad B team, but the fact he has already debuted with the senior side shows just how highly rated he is in San Sebastian.
2. Kang-in Lee: 17 years, 10 months, 24 days (VALENCIA CF vs R. Valladolid)
Kang-in Lee, an attacking midfielder from South Korea, has already racked up nine appearances for Valencia this season. Before making his La Liga Santander debut in January by coming off the bench at the end of a 1-1 draw with Real Valladolid, he had already featured for Los Che in three Copa del Rey matches. By featuring in a total of six of Valencia’s eight Copa del Rey matches this season, he has been an important factor in their run to the final of that competition. In fact, his start to 2019 has been so impressive that he was even called up for the most recent South Korea senior squad, even if he didn’t get off the bench for his international debut during their March friendlies against Bolivia and Colombia.
3. Bryan Gil: 17 years, 10 months, 26 days (SEVILLA FC vs Atletico Madrid)
Bryan Gil is a highly rated winger from the Sevilla B team who has been given a few outings with the senior side this season. The first of those came in Sevilla’s first match of 2019 as they played out a 1-1 draw against Atletico Madrid at home. Gil has since featured five more times for Los Nervionenses and has now racked up an hour of playing time. The fact that Pablo Machin and his successor Joaquin Caparros have both given him opportunities is testament to his clear potential.
4. Victor Mollejo: 17 years, 11 months, 29 days (ATLETICO MADRID vs SD Huesca)
Just two days before turning 18, striker Víctor Mollejo was given an early birthday present as he came on for his first competitive appearance for Atletico Madrid. He had already featured for Los Rojiblancos in a few friendlies, even scoring a goal in an International Champions Cup pre-season match against PSG, but his appearance away at Huesca in a 3-0 win in January was his first La Liga Santander outing and he came very close to marking it with a goal. Another chance against Getafe the next week followed and he is definitely one to watch for the future.
5. Vinicius Junior: 18 years, 2 months, 17 days (REAL MADRID vs Atletico dadrid)
The fifth-youngest debut of the season belongs to Vinicius Junior, the Real Madrid starlet who joined from Flamengo in the summer of 2018. With lots of South American experience already under his belt, the Brazilian arrived in the Spanish capital with high expectations and he has exceeded them. While he was unable to make much of an impact as he debuted in the goalless September Madrid derby, he has gone on to become a leader in attack for Los Blancos. The 18-year-old has made 28 appearances for the senior side across all competitions this season, 15 of which have been in La Liga Santander. The up-and-coming superstar would surely have made even more had he not suffered a serious injury in March.