Two years ago when Spain lifted the European title in Vienna, a Brazilian-born defensive midfielder was widely regarded as the team's unsung star.
With all the focus on the goalscoring feats of David Villa and Fernando Torres or the silky skills of Andres Iniesta and Xavi, Marcos Senna still managed to attract as many plaudits for his vital role in helping the rest of the team tick. He was also named in UEFA's squad of the tournament.
But after a poor and injury-plagued season in Spain, the 33-year-old was left out of coach Vicente Del Bosque's FIFA World Cup™ squad. Instead, Del Bosque turned to 21-year-old Barcelona midfielder Sergio Busquets and neither player nor coach have looked back since.
"I feel good, I'm very young but I'm feeling better all the time. I get to train with some great players," said Busquets, ahead of Sunday's FIFA World Cup Final against the Netherlands. "I'm very happy with my form but the important thing is the team, without the help of my team-mates I wouldn't be at this level."
Busquets's rise through the ranks has been lightning quick these last two years. When Spain lifted the UEFA EURO 2008 trophy, Busquets had yet to make his debut for Barca's first team, playing instead for their reserves. His league debut came in September that year and incredibly, despite competing for a mifdfield berth with the likes of Yaya Toure and Seydou Keita, Busquets had nailed down a regular place in the team by the end of the season and even started the UEFA Champions League final against Manchester United in Rome.
Just a month earlier, he had also made his international debut for Spain, coming on as a substitute in a FIFA World Cup qualifier against Turkey in Istanbul. Apart from Spain's first game, a 1-0 loss to Switzerland when he was taken off just after the hour mark, Busquets has played every minute of the Iberians' progress to the final.
And since that first game, it is Busquets and not his fellow defensive midfielder, the vastly more experienced Real Madrid star Xabi Alonso, who has been the more trusted by his coach. Busquets was the one left on the pitch against Paraguay in the quarter-finals when Del Bosque needed to make an attacking substitution, and when he wanted to shore up his defence late on against Germany in the semi-final, it was again Alonso who was sacrificed for a defender.
It is perhaps unsurprising that Busquets should be such a talented player given that he comes from footballing stock. His father Carles was a goalkeeper at Barcelona, although much of his career was spent as back-up to Andoni Zubizarreta and later Vitor Baia. But he was at Barca when they won their first European Cup crown in 1992, meaning that when Sergio lifted the Champions League in 2009, they became only the third father-and-son pairing to win Europe's premier trophy with the same club.
Perhaps having a father with such experience has helped Busquets mature quickly. He even shrugged off falling victim to thieves ahead of the semi-final against Germany. "No-one likes being robbed, there's nothing to say about it. It happened the morning of the Germany game but we couldn't let it distract us," he said. "In any case, I'd gladly swap my wallet for the World Cup."