Today Vicente del Bosque named his 23 man squad which is heading to the European Championships this summer, and as expected there is much to debate. Here are some explainations behind the presence of each player, and of course those who will be absent.
Iker Casillas: Spain’s superb number one will be appearing in his seventh international tournament and there is nothing to dispute his place. He’ll be one of the leaders in the dressing room.
Víctor Valdés: There isn’t a better backup goalkeeper in the tournament, simply put.
Pepe Reina: Shaky at times this season for Liverpool, and questions as to whether he is actually that good anyway. His lively and absorbing personality within the squad is being cited as being one of the main factors behind his inclusion.
Juanfran: The new boy. Juanfran’s situation is an incredible one. Fantastic at Osasuna in an advanced right midfield position and was bought by Atlético Madrid to play exactly there. However, injuries came about and he had no qualms about dropping into right-back. He’s never looked back and has been outstanding a consistent performer all season, adept in both defence and attack.
Álvaro Arbeloa: The Real Madrid man has been solid, and never anything more. Arbeloa’s experience will be what Del Bosque’s looking to extract as the defence will reply upon cohesion and familiarity given Puyol’s loss. Can also play either full-back position.
Raúl Albiol: Incredible that he still remains in this Spain squad. Carles Puyol’s injury probably benefitted him most. Average centre-back whose only job should be to carry the teams luggage at the airport and hotel.
Sergio Ramos: The silly games are over; it’s time for the Andalucían to become a man. It’s time for him to become a Puyol. Tremendous at real Madrid in a central role, with aggression and assertiveness, he’ll need to offer the same and perhaps more here.
Gerard Piqué: A poor season, that’s clear. However, on his day few are as imperious and composed. If Del Bosque can find the real Pique, then Puyol’s absence will not be felt. Moves out of defence gloriously as first part of Spain’s attacking approach.
Jordi Alba: Quick, confident, skilful, dynamic. The youngest pup in Spain’s squad will be decisive to attacking forays when things become bogged down centrally. For those who have watched him regularly, he’s a very capable defender too.
Javi Martínez: Listed as a midfielder on the RFEF’s website, he’s probably going as a defender. Physically imposing and technically gifted, Xavi’s words – not mine. He’s an outstanding player who had developed massively over the season, and will be an incredible resource to call upon. Versatility for Del Bosque.
Sergio Busquets: The player that Del Bosque would like to be. He’s had an amazing season and has only grown further in stature. Will be the linchpin in midfield breaking up attacks and maintaining the flow of possession.
Xabi Alonso: Along with Busquets he’ll be the safety net for the defence, and the tired legs in advanced midfield when the attack is working hard. Watch out for his moves to the channels, as Jordi Alba’s presence gives him a new outlet to spray those passes into. Another leader.
Xavi: Without the presence of his friend Puyol, the midfield genius will be looking to impose himself more so as a leader. On the field, fatigue is a concern. Pep’s made attempts to preserve him this season, and the legs are beginning to go. The vision and intelligence will never leave though. Key figure.
Andrés Iniesta: Spain’s hero, will be looking to write a new chapter in his already glorious career. The man tasked with opening teams up, with his darts between the lines on and off the ball. His combinations with Alba as he drifts to the left will be intriguing.
Santi Cazorla: A fine season with Málaga, he could be key if the tiredness creeps in for Xavi and co. A fine runner who views the game wonderfully.
David Silva: It’s like I get to see Juan Carlos Valerón in the Spain team over and over again when Silva plays. An immense figure in Manchester City’s title glory, he’ll pick holes in the defences and spin gracefully around those who try to smother Spain. Said on Spanish radio recently his injury is now all fine. I sure hope so.
Juan Mata: Could be a serious outlet in the wake of Villa’s injury. Spain needs a breaker who can operate between the lines and offer a pillar to keep things in motion. Mata can work deep, or play out wide and drift in. Outstanding debut season at Chelsea.
Cesc Fàbregas: Another who provides versatility? Could be the man in midfield dictating from deep when the fatigue kicks in, but could also be the spark between the lines, making those late runs to devastating effect. Injury could rule him out of the opener.
Jesús Navas: Width is something that Del Bosque has emphasized often in the run-up to the tournament thus far. It makes sense then, that the best Spanish winger is included in his squad. Navas is coming off the back of his best ever season at Sevilla, and his traditional wide play coupled with his maturity is an essential tool.
Pedro: Should he really be here? The Barcelona man is one of a number of contentious issues in regards to Spain’s attack. He’s suffered from injury and loss of form at Barça, and he’s a slight surprise in this squad. Or is he? He provides the width that Del Bosque strives for and can be an excellent impact player, who understands the style of play incredibly well. Needs to find sharpness quickly.
Álvaro Negredo: The hustle in attack. He’ll roam into the channels, hold up the ball, bring others into play while bouncing off centre backs and of course, score goals. Unplayable at times given his physical approach and style, he’s clearly a favourite of Del Bosque. 1 goal every 149 minutes since World Cup 2010.
Fernando Llorente: The only striker without a question mark over his inclusion. Now, only fitness can hold Llorente back. An outstanding season with Athletic, he’s developed his all-around game of which could be huge benefit to La Selección. Aerial prowess, yes, but he can also play a bit. Back to goal, getting in behind, dropping off; none of this is a problem to ‘El Rey León’. 1 goal every 150 minutes since World Cup 2010.
Fernando Torres: Del Bosque’s loyalty is key to Torres’ inclusion. ‘El Niño’ spoke recently of lacking belief but in the Spanish camp he can find the environment to breathe again. Showed glimpses of what he can offer in latter stages of the season, but for the majority it’s difficult to justify his selection. 1 goal every 276 minutes since World Cup 2010.
THOSE WHO MISSED OUT
David de Gea: Still has work to do with the youth categories. Will take his place with the U-21′s at the end of the month against Estonia in a qualifier, before building his reputation further at the Olympics. Still only 21, he has plenty of time. This season in England has been the making of him, even the bad…especially the bad.
Andoni Iraola: Spoke with Del Bosque after the Copa del Rey Final, and was clear he couldn’t compete. Ankle and pubis injuries due to an accumulation of fatigue prevent him from being in Poland and Ukraine. Desperately sad, he’s given everything this season and is not getting any younger.Hold a poll in Spain as to who should start at right-back, he’d finish first every time.
Adrián: Desperately unlucky that he missed out. Over the course of the season he’s been incredible, never relenting in both La Liga and Europa League. Industry and endeavour, even some flair, his ability to pull away defenders and open up central areas of the field would’ve been a nice weapon to have at the tournament.
Thiago: Injury…was in the thought process of Del Bosque though.
Roberto Soldado: This is the one that has stirred up the most controversy. Soldado’s goalscoring achievements have been common knowledge and he’s the second highest Spanish scorer after Llorente in the past season – it seemed enough to get him on the plane. Plus, Del Bosque spoke of players going on merit. The sporadic spells of scoring, questionable on-field demeanour and poor form going into the final stretch of the season have seemingly conspired against him though. Del Bosque has never been convinced, even after that hat-trick against Venezuela. 1 goal every 125 minutes since World Cup 2010.
Iker Muniain: Fatigue strikes down another Athletic player. The Basque club apparently told the RFEF they didn’t want him to feature in two competitions, so the one it will be appears to be the Olympics. His form dipped badly towards the end of the season, and fatigue kicked in heavily. Tried to battle through it, typically of his character, but it was not to be. Like his good friend De Gea he has time on his side. Still, a shame.