Spain have always led by example when it comes to nurturing their up-and-coming starlets, with La Furia Roja’s squad for the U21 European Championships this summer boasting an array of experienced players.
Real Madrid’s Marco Asensio – a goalscorer in the Champions League final earlier this month – and Atletico Madrid’s vastly experienced Saul Niguez are among those in the squad for the tournament in Poland.
Meanwhile, Bellerin – who has played nearly 115 games for Arsenal – is also in the squad, along with Gerard Deulofeu, Sandro Ramirez and Inaki Williams, all players who enjoyed stellar campaigns for their respective clubs.
However, the story is quite different for England, who have often been criticised for their tendencies to fast-track young players into the senior squad – Rashford being a good example after he made just one appearance for the U21’s before becoming a mainstay in the senior squad.
“It’s not about age,” Bellerin said, as reported by the Daily Mail. “If Marcus Rashford is ready for England then he should play. But, sometimes taking it slowly, taking a player through the paces is the best way to keep him wanting more.
“If you’re there from the beginning, what else can you achieve? You can see so many players who people think could be in the first team, like Marco Asensio at Real Madrid and Saul Niguez, who has played more than a 100 games for Atletico.
“It’s a great approach because it humbles you. If you want to be in the first team you have to show how much you’re worth at U21 level. In the first team there’s a lot of great players. What player are you taking out?
“People like Juan Mata, David de Gea and Ander Herrera have won this competition and know what it’s like. They’ve moved into the first team, winning the Euros and the World Cup.”
Spain open up their U21 tournament with a game against Macedonia on Saturday night, whilst England take on Sweden later today.