As this footballing hiatus continues to drag on, people have been forced to fill the void in different ways. Be it reading that book you never got round to, learning a new language or counting how many steps it takes to get from your bedroom to the toilet.
However, none come even close to the endless joys (and often frustrations) the latest instalment of Football Manager can bring.
Whether you’ve racked up more virtual seasons than Guy Roux spent in charge of Auxerre (1961-2005) or you’re an utter novice, everyone is also on the lookout for the next big thing. Alongside the talents of Serie A, the Bundesliga and the Premier League, La Liga has some of the most exciting youth products just waiting to be snapped up in your new save.
With Ansu Fati, João Felix and Martin Ødegaard already enjoying a high-profile status, here are some of the lesser known young talents in the Spanish top flight.
Unai Simón (Athletic Club) – At just 22, Simón is practically embryonic for a goalkeeper, yet in reality he has already cemented himself as Athletic’s number one. Tall, agile, athletic, the only problem you may encounter is tempting him away from the Basque country.
Dani Martín (Real Betis) – The 21-year-old may be forced to bide his time before becoming Real Betis’ first-choice, but why let him play understudy in Seville when he can blossom into formidable talent at your new club?
Pedro Porro (Real Valladolid, on loan from Manchester City) – Technically Porro is a Manchester City player on loan at Real Valladolid, but Pep Guardiola’s club have a history of letting young talent slip between their fingers (i.e. Jadon Sancho) and if the attacking right-back can be secured, there shouldn’t be any hesitation.
Jean-Clair Todibo (Schalke, on loan from Barcelona) – As a Barcelona player, Todibo may be at the more expensive end of the spectrum, but the elegant centre-half, who is comfortable in midfield, has been forced to go on loan to the Bundesliga in search of minutes. In the virtual world, your new side could act as his source of first-team football.
Adrià Pedrosa (Espanyol) – In a bleak campaign threatened by relegation, one of the few bright sparks for Espanyol has been the development of the 21-year-old full-back. The utterly rapid Spaniard would provide endless running and an outlet on the left.
Mohammed Salisu (Real Valladolid) – Dubbed ‘the wall of Valladolid’ by El Pais, the 21-year-old cuts an imposing figure at 6’3, but is more than comfortable with the ball at his feet. In reality, Salisu is the target of Real Madrid and Manchester United, but you may be able to secure his signature at a smaller club if you act as swiftly as the Ghanaian strides about the pitch.
Emerson (Real Betis) – The Brazilian boasts a highly-sought after commodity in Football Manager – versatility. Emerson has thrived on the right of defence in both a three and four-man defence and further up the flank with seven goal contributions to his name this season.
Nehuén Pérez (Famalic?o, on loan from Atlético Madrid) – Comfortable playing in a high pressing system, Pérez is always keen to nip in ahead of an opponent, and although the loaned-out Atlético Madrid centre-back may be 19, he’s one who could slip straight into a starting XI.
Marc Cucurella (Getafe) – Once you get past the hair – which does take some doing – it’s impossible to miss how good this industrious wide midfielder is. Cucurella can operate anywhere down the left flank and often acts as a startlingly effective one-man press.
Lee Kang-in (Valencia) – A player who is never far from this type of list, Valencia’s attacking midfielder has been short of minutes in reality this season but would still prove an exciting option in your next save.
Fran Beltrán (Celta Vigo) – Slight, small but tactically astute and fiendishly hard to pin down, the 21-year-old Beltrán could serve as the passing metronome in the heart of your midfield for years to come.
Ilaix Moriba (Barcelona) – The ‘Paul Pogba of Barcelona’ has everything to his game – at least, as much as you can when you still aren’t allowed to drink until next year. Moriba has been bullying opponents in Barcelona’s youth team so why not see what damage the intelligent midfielder can do when given a chance in a senior side.
Óscar Rodríguez (Leganes, on loan from Real Madrid) – Seven goals from attacking midfield for the lowest scorers in La Liga should go some way to highlighting the threat Rodríguez would bring to your squad.
Ander Barrenetxea (Real Sociedad) – It’s certainly easier to watch the Real Sociedad youngster than it is to pronounce his name and Barrenetxea has gradually been breaking his way into the first team for the surprise Champions League challengers this season.
Takefusa Kubo (Real Mallorca, on loan from Real Madrid) – There was bound to be an ‘[insert nation here] Messi’ in this list somewhere and the 18-year-old Japanese winger has been burdened with this moniker before. But an impressive season on loan with Mallorca this campaign has gone some way to reduce the lunacy of the comparison.
Asier Villalibre (Athletic Club) – The striker may not look 22 and the Basque youngster certainly plays beyond his years. If he can be pried away from his boyhood team Villalibre would serve as a reliable option through the middle.
Samuel Chukwueze (Villarreal) – Probably the most expensive option on this list, the mercurial, heavily left-footed winger is worth the hefty price tag he could demand given how greatly he would improve your squad.
Pedri (Las Palmas, on loan from Barcelona) – Described as ‘scandalously good’ by his Las Palmas manager Pepe Mel, the 17-year-old winger has been lumbered with a scandalous release clause of €400m when he joins Barcelona’s first team in the summer. However, the tricky winger would be a great loan option as the Catalans undoubtedly look to grant him some first-team minutes elsewhere.
Diego Lainez (Real Betis) – The teenage Mexican forward can operate on either wing or behind the striker but has rarely been featured in any position since moving to Europe in January. That is, until he reaches his full potential in your new save.
Cucho Hernández (Real Mallorca, on loan from Watford) – The stocky 21-year-old striker has routinely worked his way into golden scoring opportunities over his last two seasons with La Liga strugglers Huesca and Mallorca, proving he can be a threat even in teams lacking quality.