Five key Spaniards for 2016

Sports Mole picks out out five players that could star for Spain in Euro 2016.

Despite the fact that no European team had ever won the World Cup on South American soil, Spain entered this summer's tournament as one of the favourites to triumph.

Their standing as one of the leading candidates had been earned following their 2010 success and indeed recent European Championship triumphs.

Vicente del Bosque's men struggled to make an impact in Brazil, however, and were surprisingly dumped out in the group stages, with Netherlands and Chile advancing from Group B.

It has been questioned whether Spain's recent dominance is over, but here, Sports Mole has picked out five players that will give La Roja reasons to be cheerful in the future.

1. Jese Rodriguez (Real Madrid)

Had Jese not picked up a serious knee injury in March, the Real Madrid attacker may well have made Del Bosque's final 23-man squad for this summer following a brilliant campaign with Los Blancos.

The 21-year-old scored eight times in 31 appearances for Madrid last season, with his form either side of Christmas making him one of the most exciting youngsters in European football.

In terms of position, Jese is quite similar to Madrid teammate Cristiano Ronaldo. He likes starting from a wide area, but has the talent and indeed intelligence to influence games in central areas.

It appears certain that the youngster will be part of the qualification campaign for the 2016 championships and if he continues to progress at the level expected, he will surely become a first-choice starter for Spain in Euro 2016 - if La Roja indeed qualify.

Pace, power, invention, trickery, intelligence – Jese has absolutely everything to forge a long and prosperous international career.

Real Madrid's forward Jese Rodriguez Ruiz celebrates his goal during the Spanish league football match Valencia vs Real Madrid at the Mestalla stadium in Valencia on December 22, 2013© Getty Images

2. Koke (Atletico Madrid)

Koke was arguably the best midfielder in La Liga last season as the 22-year-old inspired Atletico Madrid to the Spanish title. He was given minutes at this summer's World Cup, but will surely become Spain's first-choice central midfielder for Euro 2016 and beyond.

Barcelona's and Manchester United's interest in the midfielder this summer was not much of a surprise, but the youngster has recently signed a new long-term deal with Atletico.

One of Koke's biggest strengths is his versatility – his ability to play as a central midfielder in a two, or in a three as the most advanced. He was also used as a number 10 by Atletico boss Diego Simeone for periods of last season.

It would be quite premature to compare Koke to Barcelona pair Andres Iniesta and Xavi, but he does seem to possess the best attributes of those two.

Koke is more 'right now' than the future, but in two years he should have matured into a more rounded player. At this rate, he is well on his way to becoming one of the best.

Atletico Madrid's Koke celebrates after scoring the opening goal against Malaga during their La Liga match on January 4, 2013© AFP

3. Thiago (Bayern Munich)

It had been questioned whether the La Masia graduate would secure regular playing time at Bayern Munich after swapping Barcelona for the Allianz Arena last summer, but Thiago became the linchpin of Pep Guardiola's midfield in the early part of the 2013-14 campaign.

Injury forced him to miss the latter part of the season and indeed the World Cup, but there is little argument that, alongside Koke, Thiago will be first choice for Spain in 2016, especially with Xavi and Xabi Alonso both expected to step away from international football.

Thiago has form for his country after scoring a hat-trick for the Under-21s in their European Championship success over Italy last summer, but he has just five caps for the senior side.

His ability to work the ball in close spaces and incredible eye for a pass will be key for Spain moving forward. He will be 25 by the time Euro 2016 comes around and therefore entering the prime stages of his career.

Spain's Thiago Alcantara in action against Italy during the final of the UEFA European U21 Championships on June 18, 2013© Getty Images

4. David de Gea (Manchester United)

De Gea might have had a shaky start to his Manchester United career after moving to England from Atletico Madrid in 2011, but those days are long gone.

The 23-year-old is now well on his way to becoming one of the best goalkeepers in European football following a couple of brilliant seasons in the Premier League.

His form last season, in what was a poor campaign for United, earned him the double Player of the Year Award and ultimately a spot in the senior Spain squad for this summer.

Injury meant that De Gea did not feature at the World Cup, but with Iker Casillas and Victor Valdes both entering the latter stages of their respective careers, De Gea is the future for La Roja.

His shot-shopping ability was never in question, but his distribution and presence in the box have both improved to such an extent over the last 18 months.

David de Gea celebrates a Manchester United goal on August 11, 2013.© Getty Images

5. Gerard Deulofeu (Barcelona)

Another talent to come through the famous La Masia academy, Deulofeu spent last season on loan in the Premier League with Everton.

The attacker scored an impressive 27 times in 68 games for Barcelona B, before making the step into the Catalan outfit's first team in 2011.

Last season's spell at Everton brought the 20-year-old on leaps and bounds, with his dribbling ability and pace giving a number of Premier League defences nightmares.

Everton wanted to extend that loan, but Deulofeu will form part of Barcelona's first-team squad next season.

There is no question that he has the talent to be a star for Spain and he is expected to play a part in their qualification campaign for Euro 2016. Impress there and it would be a big surprise if he did not travel with the squad to the tournament in France.

Everton's Gerard Deulofeu in action against Real Betis during a friendly match on August 11, 2013© Getty Images

Members of Spain's national team pose for the team photo prior to the Group B football match between Spain and Chile in the Maracana Stadium in Rio de Janeiro during the 2014 FIFA World Cup on June 18, 2014
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