These stars of the future are already top performers right now.

Spanish football’s second tier, LaLiga SmartBank, has now reached the halfway stage of the 2020/21 season. As is the case every year, the second tier has been a place for some of the stars of the future to exhibit their skills in the present. Several youngsters have really stood out and here are just five to keep an eye on as the season progresses:

Umar Sadiq (UD Almería)

UDAlmería are backing youth in their quest for promotion and have the second youngest squad in LaLiga SmartBank, behind only Mirandés. At the age of 23, Umar Sadiq is actually one of the older players in their squad and he has been acting like a leader on the pitch this season.

After arriving from Partizan Belgrade last summer, the Nigerian forward has scored nine goals in LaLiga SmartBank to make him the team’s top scorer. Excitingly, he only seems to be getting better as two of his best moments have come this January. One was the hat-trick he scored in Almería’s 3-1 win over Ponferradina, while the other was when he contributed two goals in his team’s sensational 5-0 thrashing of top division side D. Alavés in the Copa del Rey.

Adrià Pedrosa (RCD Espanyol)

Espanyol’s 22-year-old left-back Adrià Pedrosa already has experience of playing in the top division of Spanish football, having debuted in LaLiga Santander for the Catalan club back in 2018. He already stood out at that level, but now he is thriving even more against the right wingers and right-backs of the second tier.

Although he didn’t start the season as the team’s first-choice left-back, Pedrosa has earned the confidence of coach Vicente Moreno and is now one of the first names on the team sheet for the LaLiga SmartBank leaders. With his speed and willingness to get forward to assist the attack, he is a modern full-back and he is full of fun. Definitely one to watch in the next few years.

Nahuel Bustos (Girona FC)

Girona’s relationship with Manchester City means that various talents on the English club’s books have played on loan at the Estadi Montilivi over the years and Nahuel Bustos is the latest to do so, with the Argentine centre-forward looking to adapt to European football in a setting where the language is familiar.

Although injuries hampered the 22-year-old’s first half of the 2020/21 season, there is a lot to be excited about when it comes to this forward who was named the 2015 standout youth player of the year by the Argentine football federation. This player who could go on to feature for Manchester City’s first team is currently showing what he can do in LaLiga SmartBank.

Braian Cufré (RCD Mallorca)

Braian Cufré was one of the big arrivals for RCD Mallorca last summer, signing from Vélez Sarsfield in his native Argentina on a four-year deal. The 24-year-old left-back was one of the players who new Mallorca coach Luis García Plaza requested and it’s clear to see why.

With outstanding technical ability, Cufré has successfully marshalled the left side of the islanders’ defence and is a major reason why the islanders have the joint-best defence in the division, with just 0.48 goals conceded per game over the first half of the 2020/21 campaign. But he can get forward too.

Manu García (R. Sporting)

Asturian attacking midfielder Manu García came through the Sporting Gijón youth academy several years ago, before making the switch to Manchester City at the age of 16. As well as debuting for the English side’s first team, García spent time on loan at D. Alavés, NAC Breda and Toulouse. In 2019, he decided it was time to return home and this has proven to be an excellent decision.

Back at El Molinón, the 23-year-old has been a leader for Sporting. Last season he scored three LaLiga SmartBank goals and provided eight assists and has already added another goal and another two assists across 17 appearances this campaign. With his versatility, he has been used in almost every midfield and forward position and has a bright future. For now, he can be seen in LaLiga SmartBank, but his future is very much at the top level.

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