Last summer, we saw the likes of Eric Bailly, Lucas Perez and Fernando Llorente complete their move from Spain to England, with all three individuals currently enjoying their time in the Premier League.
Considering that the players who have made the switch in recent years are now thriving within one of the best leagues in Europe, many other talents will be linked with the big clubs soon or later.
Here are the nine Spanish players who could complete a potential move to England this summer…
Jorge Mere – Sporting Gijon, Centre-back
Despite playing for a side that is currently in the relegation zone and doesn’t seem to be moving out of the bottom three anytime soon, Jorge Mere is already proving to be one of the best young centre-backs in the league.
At the age of 19 and standing at 6ft 1, he has 45 La Liga appearances under his belt and has become integral to Sporting Gijon’s back line. Alongside his no-nonsense tackling and dominance in the air, he can also comfortably progress further up the pitch whilst in possession.
Although it might be too early for Mere to make a move to English football, he certainly has the potential to establish himself as one of the finest players in his position before the big clubs come chasing his signature.
Premier League clubs he would suit: Everton, Southampton.
Yeray Alvarez, Athletic Club, Centre-back
Since partnering with Aymeric Laporte at the heart of defence, Yeray Alvarez has been making the most of his debut season in La Liga after being promoted from the reserve team to the main squad in the summer of 2016.
Stepping up when the side needed him the most, the 22-year-old has been impressive whilst under pressure and is starting to overshadow his partner, who was linked with several teams including the likes of Manchester City and Manchester United during the previous summer transfer window.
Considering that this is his first year of top-flight football, it might seem unlikely for Yeray to leave San Mames, but he has all the tools in his locker to become a solid centre-back and will be recognised as a wanted man before you know it.
Premier League clubs he would suit: Liverpool, Arsenal.
Jonny – Celta Vigo, Full-back
Regarded as one of the best full-backs in La Liga, Celta Vigo’s Jonny is seen as a fantastic defender who puts on an impressive shift on both sides of the pitch. From completing the regular tackles and interceptions to creating chances in the final third, he does it all.
Managing over 150 league appearances since the start of the 2012/13 campaign, Jonny has become one of the few club players that are simply adored by the fans, especially since he is a product of the club’s youth system.
Premier League clubs he would suit: Manchester City, Manchester United
Ander Capa – Eibar, Full-back
Linked with a few Premier League clubs during the January transfer window, Ander Capa was close to leaving the Basque side but nothing transpired. Being a regular starter for the team one year after he was promoted to the main squad, he played an important role in the back line for Eibar during the 2013-14 season, when they finished as champions of the Segunda Division.
Capa was recognised as an all-out winger before he was converted into a right-back by manager Jose Luis Mendilibar. He has completed the most interceptions (57), second most tackles (47) and third most key passes (23) at Eibar in the league this season.
Given that he is about to go into the final year of his contract, Eibar would ideally want to offer him a renewal before the season comes to an end if they want to receive a tidy sum if he leaves the Ipurua Municipal stadium.
Premier League clubs he would suit: Chelsea, Southampton
Dani Ceballos – Real Betis, Central midfielder
One of the most complete midfielders in La Liga, Dani Ceballos can pretty much play as a defensive midfielder as well as a central attacking midfielder and is starting to become a key playmaker for Real Betis. He’s also renowned for his unbelievable work ethic and mentality.
Still only 20 years old, the versatile star has been running the show for Los Verdiblancos in recent months. Since the arrival of manager Victor Sanchez last season, Ceballos has flourished and has been one of the side’s main positives this campaign, despite currently sitting in 14th place.
Given that he loves Real Betis to bits and is still young, Ceballos is certainly in no hurry to complete a move away from the club that took him into their youth academy when he was 13. However, he’s definitely caught the eye of a few English sides.
Premier League clubs he would suit: Everton, West Ham United
Ignacio Camacho – Malaga, Central midfielder
At 26, defensive midfielder Ignacio Camacho has already proved that he is one of the best in his position in the league over the past three seasons.
Failing to succeed at Atletico Madrid due to injury problems, the Zaragoza-born player completed a fantastic revival under Manuel Pellegrini who gave him a pivotal role in his time and Camacho simply delivered in return.
Known for his dominant presence in aerial duels, Camacho utilises it to his advantage, making him an important figure when it comes to defending set-pieces as well as being a threat from them. Contributing to six of the side’s goals in the league this season, he is starting to prove himself worthy at both ends of the pitch.
Premier League clubs he would suit: Manchester United, Liverpool
Mikel Oyarzabal – Real Sociedad, Attacking-midfielder
Rising to prominence in 2015 during a difficult era under David Moyes, Mikel Oyarzabal was one of Real Sociedad’s only positives as they finished ninth that season. He is now evolving and has six league assists under his belt this campaign.
Already being compared to Atletico Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann, both individuals have a similar style of play. Also posing huge danger from the wide areas, three of his six assists have come from direct crosses.
It would be ideal for the winger to stay put and reject any potential offers that come his way so that he can develop into the finished article.
Premier League clubs he would suit; Manchester United, Southampton
Samu Castillejo – Villarreal, Attacking midfielder
Putting his end product to one side, Samu Castillejo is a manager’s dream when it comes to a fast and powerful winger. Despite being a threat in the final third, his conversion rate is the only thing that is preventing him from meeting his potential.
Since the start of the campaign, he has completed the second most assists (3) and produced the second most key passes (29) at Villarreal in the league. Possessing the ability to play on both flanks, he thrives on the counter-attack.
Castillejo has the talent to beat a defender and is blessed with superb movement on and off the ball.
Premier League clubs he would suit: Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal
Santi Mina – Valencia, Centre-forward
Since being promoted to Valencia’s main squad, Santi Mina has frequently been mentioned as the next David Villa, who created his own legacy at the Mestalla by bagging 107 goals in 166 matches.
When utilised as the lone forward, which is arguably his best position, Mina has the capability of playing within tight spaces as he makes the most out of his movement and sharp awareness. His versatility allows current manager, Voro, to take up different approaches for home and away fixtures.
With the problems that Valencia are currently facing on and off the pitch, a move away from the club might be ideal for Mina, who has been in and out of the team. The fact that January signing Simone Zaza has been a regular starter since his arrival could leave Mina with no option but to leave in the summer.
Premier League clubs he would suit: Manchester United, Tottenham Hotspur
Robert Lewandowski and Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang are two of the most prolific scorers in Borussia Dortmund’s history.
Aubameyang recently scored his 75th Bundesliga goal for Dortmund, which took him past Lewandowski’s mark for the club, and the Gabon striker has scored his goals at a quicker clip – taking 117 games for his 75 goals while Lewandowski needed 131 appearances for his total of 74.
With Lewandowski now at Bayern, Aubameyang can put some distance between himself and the Polish striker in the Dortmund record books.
Which striker has been more valuable for Dortmund?
For all his medals won at Real Madrid and Chelsea, what will forever hang around Claude Makelele’s neck is how he personalised an entire position.
‘The Makelele Role’ is assigned to any energetic defensive-minded midfielder who sits deep, protecting the back four, while offering next-to-no impact in the final third. See also: Sergio Busquets, Daniele De Rossi and latterly N’Golo Kante.
Perhaps over time, Xabi Alonso’s legacy will be defined in a similar manner. The Spaniard, who announced his retirement this week, has enjoyed a phenomenally successful career winning 12 major trophies for club and country (which will surely be improved come June), including two Champions League crowns, three league titles and the World Cup and two European Championships.
But remembering Alonso merely in terms of trophies won is like measuring the impact of one of his favourite band, the Velvet Underground, in record sales. The American band shifted a mere few hundred albums in the late 1960s, but their influence on guitar music is almost beyond comparison.
Indeed, Alonso’s impact goes beyond the tangible as he has defined how to play as a holding midfielder in the post-Makelele world (Andrea Pirlo can also lay claim to such grandiose proclamations but there are subtle differences, with the Italian offering more in attack and never as effective a defensive player as his Spanish contemporary).
Visually, it looks easy. Collecting possession from your defence, moving it on to a team-mate with minimal fuss or spraying passes all over the field at will.
But, in reality, it’s far from that and only a few have been able to play with with such class and consistency as Alonso. Just ask David Beckham who tried and failed for England in their ill-fated 2005 game against Northern Ireland despite being, at the time, among the very best long-range passers in the world.
It’s no coincidence five of the foremost and influential managers in the game since 2000 – Rafael Benitez, Vicente del Bosque, Jose Mourinho, Pep Guardiola and Carlo Ancelotti – made Alonso the fulcrum of their respective teams, which went beyond just being able to pass sideways. And if he was five years younger, Guardiola would undoubtedly be trying to sign him for Manchester City.
Put simply, Alonso’s ability to maintain possession and dictate tempo made his colleagues better. It’s an often overlooked quality, but much like a good point guard on the basketball court, Alonso shapes the ball around the field, involving everyone by giving them touches, keeping them engaged, focused, confident and adhering to whatever gameplan had been laid out.
The way he would always make himself available to receive the ball in space also alleviated pressure on any team-mate in possession. He gives you the ball when you want it and takes it off you when you don’t.
No wonder so many love playing alongside him.
His range of passing meant he could slow the play down, move it quickly with short exchanges, or go direct with one of his trademark raking balls over the top or from one side of the field to the other.
His adaptability and variability has meant he’s fitted in seamlessly in Europe’s top three leagues – each possessing its own style and pace of play – and at the continent’s biggest clubs. And the fact he settled so quickly in England, Germany and at Real Madrid speaks volumes not only for his technique, but also his temperament.
Key to his longevity has been the fact so much of what he does is with his brain as opposed to any great physical attributes. Rampaging box-to-box midfielders will eventually burn out and fade away, but Alonso’s understanding and reading of the game is why he’s remained at the very top for so long.
As Guardiola said upon signing him for Bayern Munich in 2014: “We need a player with his quality and vision. I know he’s 32 but that doesn’t matter in this position, where you need intelligent players, rather than the legs and stamina for the flanks.”
Just as Alonso improved teams and those he shared the pitch with, they also became significantly worse and less cohesive upon his departure; supporters of Real Sociedad, Liverpool and Real Madrid will all attest to that.
Gerrard said on Thursday in tribute: “I missed you every day from the moment you left the Reds.”
Come the summer, football will also have to start to miss him. But his influence on the position he made his own could be eternal.