by Tom Lees - 3rd February 2016
With the 2016 European Championships now just a few months away, here at FanFormation, we will be taking a close look at each Nation competing and how they fare once the big event in France kicks off. As part of our pre-tournament preview, we will be going through each Country and highlighting three of the youngsters, on the fringes of selection, who will be hoping to make their Nations final squad.
Today our attention is on the current European Champions Spain, as Vicente del Bosque’s side attempt to win their third European Championships in a row, and return to form after a dismal World Cup performance in 2014.
After an early exit from the 2014 World Cup, Spain will be looking to bounce back in style during the summer in France and will be relying on their experienced squad players to see them through. Although the likes of Puyol, Xavi, Xabi Alonso, David Villa and Fernando Torres have disappeared from the frame, Casillas, Pique, Ramos and Iniesta still remain in a squad that is full of quality. David Silva, Juan Mata, Jordi Alba and Diego Costa are at their peak, and the incorporation of the next generation into the setup has already begun.
David de Gea, Thiago, Bernat, Carvajal, Koke, Paco Alcácer and Álvaro Morata are all exceptional talents approaching their mid-twenties and will be huge figures for La Roja during the coming years. Also Spain have a young star in Isco who will be a selection doubt for the tournament bizarrely due to his club opportunities at Madrid, a player who would be guaranteed selection for any other nation, Isco will be hoping for selection but it is not a guarantee.
The strength in depth at Spain’s disposal is frightening for opposing nations, but who are the players on the fringes that could make del Bosque’s final selection. Here are our three players to look out for.
Young Atlético Madrid midfielder Saúl has already been given the opportunity to train with the national team in a 2015 summer get together, although he has yet to earn full international recognition. A great hard working midfield talent, Saúl has the ability to play in any midfield position with a high level of quality. A great reader of the game and technically sound, he is seen as a player that will be part of the Spanish midfield setup for the next decade.
Although not necessarily a player with great flair, his composure on the ball and ability to contribute at both ends of the pitch make Saúl a very difficult player to leave out of a side. At Atlético he is often called upon by his coach Diego Simeone for the big fixtures and both current and future national team management will utilise his ability in a similar way.
Competition in the midfield for Spain is high, but Saúl’s performances at club level and for the international youth sides have put him right into contention for selection. His Spanish debut is not too far away and once involved in the squad the young midfielder will prove to be a very difficult player to dislodge.
If there is one player in Spain that deserves a call up to the national team it is Barcelona’s Sergi Roberto. It was only a year ago that his club career was being called into question and many feared the talented youngster was not going to fulfil his potential. Through hard work, determination and taking an unexpected opportunity in an unfamiliar position, Sergi Roberto has transformed himself this season and has become a fan favourite at Camp Nou.
One season does not make a man, however Sergi has performed at the very highest level for Barcelona in a number of different positions on the pitch. Right back, left back, holding midfield, offensive midfield, the performances have been impressive at all times. Although he has never been close to senior international recognition in his career, his current form and impressive adaptability would make him a great squad player to take to a tournament finals. He has proven his quality in high pressure situations, with the world watching his every move, his high energy classy displays for the team have given him a real chance of making selection. It’ll be a reward for hard work and never giving up, a player who fully deserves the opportunity, whether or not he is given it could come down to others misfortune.
Everton’s pacey wide man will be very eager to impress at club level as the season comes to a conclusion, after a difficult loan spell in Seville, Deulofeu has rebuilt his career back on Merseyside and will be desperate to add to his solitary cap. A player with limitless potential, Deulofeu has it all, pace, skill, determination, unpredictability, the quality to pick out a pass or cross, he can terrify a defence.
The Spain setup isn’t directly geared towards Deulofeu’s style of play however, with a more passing possession based approach, the only pacey direct options are that of Pedro and Jesus Navas. Instead the full backs are asked to join the attack in wide situations so there isn’t a direct necessity to take Deulofeu to the tournament, however it would be nice to have that option to turn to. I feel that the La Masia product is in direct competition with Jesus Navas for selection, and as both compete in England’s Premier League it could be set for a straight shoot-out between the pair. Navas currently holds the shirt, has the experience and proven class, however Deulofeu is the future, is more unpredictable and exciting and ultimately has a better final product.
If a pacey wide man is selected by del Bosque I would like to think that Deulofeu would be his choice, skill at pace is a rare and beautiful thing, he still has a lot of rawness to his talent but is learning fast. With a strong end to his campaign at Everton don’t be surprised to see Deulofeu in France this summer, the perfect player from the bench to change a game.
OTHER PLAYERS OF NOTE
Iker Casillas and David de Gea are the top two goalkeepers that Spain can choose from, the third spot in the squad has been shared between a number of names, most recently Kiko Casilla, Sergio Asenjo and Sergio Rico. Young Sergio Rico of Sevilla will be hoping for the nod from del Bosque and look to make his international debut during the warm up games. Espanyol stopper Pau López will have a hopeful eye on a call up, but recent goalkeeping acquisitions at his club may hamper his playing time as the summer gets closer.
The full back spots for Spain are looking pretty much set, especially at left back where Jordi Alba and César Azpilicueta have both proven more than capable. Juanfran is the usual right back selection, but Mario Gaspar of Villarreal has impressed when filling in for the veteran. Dani Carvajal, Juan Bernat and Alberto Moreno will also be pushing for a place, Bernat’s positional flexibility giving him a slight advantage. So it looks as though the immensely promising full backs José Luis Gayá and Héctor Bellerín will both miss out. The future for both is bright, but this will be a tournament too soon I feel.
Central defence is perhaps Spain’s weakest area, Pique and Sergio Ramos are World Class but beyond them the other options are not quite up to scratch. Marc Bartra of Barcelona has been utilised, but he struggles for games at club level and Spain will be looking for more. Young Sporting Gijón defender Jorge Meré has been having an impressive run in La Liga, and could be a real wildcard selection for the squad. Still a teenager and with a lot to learn, his inclusion would be a surprise, but he has a big future for the national team and could be a player chosen to gain experience.
In midfield Spain have outstanding players at their disposal and another batch ready to break through from the younger sides. Amongst this next generation starlets Óliver Torres and Denis Suárez have both shown enormous potential, but are still gaining experience at club level during this point in their respective careers. International call ups are not far off for either, but in the time left before the tournament it’ll be a surprise if their names are in the final selection shake up.
Performing brilliantly for Athletic Club, young pacey forward Iñaki Williams will be high on del Bosque’s list of offensive options, especially with a potential option to play for Ghana instead. But the attacking positions for the tournament are going to be hard for the youngsters to break into, Alcácer, Morata, Costa, Pedro and Nolito are currently in line, Williams has a lot to do before he can oust one of those names. The same can be said for Santi Mina at Valencia and Munir of Barcelona. Munir has started to rediscover his form at Camp Nou as of late, but still hasn’t done enough to warrant selection.
So there we have it, these were the young players that we’ve pinpointed as selection hopefuls for Spain. Who do you think will make the final selection? Can the Spanish retain their title and banish the World Cup disappointment from memory? Let us know in the comments section below.
Spain have been drawn in Group D, alongside Turkey, Croatia and the Czech Republic, beginning their tournament on June 13th against the Czech’s in Toulouse. La Roja will be expected to dominate their group and go right to the latter stages of the tournament, a strong start will be required to prevent nerves returning from the 2014 failure.