Alba shows himself worthy successor to Capdevila
Spanish left back Jordi Alba only made his debut last year for La Furia Roja - but the 23-year-old has come on leaps and bounds to show he is a worthy successor to Joan Capdevila, a veteran of the Euro 2009 and 2010 World Cup victories.
If there had been any doubt before the tournament that Spain might miss 34-year-old Capdevila, whom Benfica all but put out to pasture last season even though he only moved there last summer, Alba has managed to lay them to rest.
He was the creator of Xabi Alonso's opener against France and turned in a strong all-round showing as he dealt adroitly with defensive and attacking duties alike.
Taking advantage of a slip by rival Mathieu Debuchy, who whipped in a cross which Alonso dispatched into the net to put the holders on the way to a semi-final meeting with Portugal.
"I saw Xabi Alonso was on his own at the far post so I crossed and he met it just right," said Alba, who may leave Valencia - most probably for Barcelona - after the tournament ends.
Of the 11 starters against the French only Alba was not in the victorious World Cup squad.
Capdevila was a regular throughout the glorious Euro 2008 and World Cup campaigns but after losing his way at Benfica, where Brazilian Emerson was generally preferred, he was unable to show coach Vicente Del Bosque he could still perform with the national side.
In 2010, he was the only regular neither to play for Real Madrid nor Barcelona.
But at 34, age has caught up with him with the new kid on the block 11 years younger.
So it was that on October 11 last year Alba made his debut in a win over Scotland in Alicante in a Euro 2012 qualifier and now here he is holding down the position as his own.
"From the first day we got here I have felt great and been really enjoying it. There is a super atmosphere and everything is fine in the dressing room - the others treat me just as one of the lads.
"I hope I can play many more matches with the team," Alba told Cope radio.
His obvious quality has not been lost on Barcelona, who are keen to knock Real Madrid back off their recaptured Liga pedestal, although Valencia are to ask for 15 million euros for their man if he is indeed to head to the Camp Nou.
In fact Alba is a product of Barcelona's famed youth system but left their fabled La Masia centre aged 16 for regional side Cornella, where he spent two years before Valencia brought him on board in 2007.
He made his debut early in the 2009-2010 season.
In keeping with several of the Spanish players Alba is hardly a giant - he stands only 1m70 tall - leading Valencia fans to nickname him El Enano (the dwarf).
Barca originally felt he was too frail to make the top grade.
"They didn't want him as they felt he was too small and that as such he wouldn't make the grade in the first team." says Jose Pinar, chairman of Atletico Hospitalense, a team near Barcelona where Alba played as a youngster.
As they prepare to write a sizeable cheque for his services after seeing confirmation of his ability at the highest level here, Barca now know their initial judgment was off the mark.
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