La Roja rejects: Coral’s superb alternative Spain squad
Holly Thackeray | May 19, 2016
Wouldn’t it be nice to be Spain? To name a squad bursting to the brim with so much top talent that as coach you can leave out a handful of arguably deserving stars. Much more than a handful, in fact, but a team of La Roja surplus that could challenge at Euro 2016 itself.
There are more than a few notable absentees from Vicente del Bosque’s final picks for France, so Coral have come up with an alternative Spain XI from those left on the sidelines that we reckon could more than hold their own in continental competition. Let us know what you think in the comments below!
Goalkeeper: Sergio Asenjo (Villarreal)
Clearly it is difficult to argue that Asenjo should beat any of long-serving captain Iker Casillas, promising Sevilla stopper Sergio Rico or top class Manchester United keeper David de Gea to a goalie spot this summer.
However, the 26-year-old Villarreal post protector will more than do for us, having worked his way back into Yellow Submarine contention recently with two clean sheets in four comeback La Liga appearances after unluckily suffering a cruciate injury.
Right back: Hector Bellerin (Arsenal)
Undoubtedly Spain have an abundance of right back depth with Dani Carvajal, reliable Juanfran and adaptable Cesar Azpilicueta all able to operate there. With the latter Chelsea man on La Roja’s roster, it seems unlikely bright young thing Bellerin misses out due to displaying his talents abroad.
Yet, the 21-year-old has a much higher ceiling than the Blues boy, at least in his capacity to stretch teams down the flank, so he seems a surprise omission after a superb season in which the still uncapped Gunner kept Calum Chambers out of the Arsenal line-up and saw Mathieu Debuchy shipped off on loan. Still, his time for Spain (9/2 with Coral to win Euro 2016) will surely come.
Centre back: Raul Albiol (Napoli)
Despite 51 caps, Italy-based defender Albiol’s international experience was still not enough to catch Del Bosque’s eye, with the soon departing tactician instead opting for much greener Mikel San Jose and Marc Bartra to play back-ups to established duo Gerard Pique and Sergio Ramos.
If there is an injury this could prove questionable, as Albiol starred 36 times in Napoli’s successful Serie A season, which ended in a second spot finish, an automatic Champions League place and 32 goals conceded in 38 games – the second best defensive record after champions Juventus.
Centre back: Javi Martinez (Bayern Munich)
Lanky but strong, intelligent and languid on the ball, Martinez’s injury woes this season with Bayern Munich have meant the Basque centre back misses out, having only managed 16 league appearances for Pep Guardiola.
A summer of rest and recuperation could be just what the 27-year-old former Athletic Bilbao star requires, though his adaptability to also plug the anchorman hole will be a loss to La Roja, with the intuitive defender having previously been included in World Cup and European Championship squads.
Left back: Juan Bernat (Bayern Munich)
Another Bayern boy left out in the cold is marauding full back Bernat, as Jordi Alba and Azpilicueta have his position covered. In and out of Guardiola’s team at the end of the Bundesliga campaign, after injury also disrupted the defender’s rhythm, there will be further chances for the 23-year-old in future. For now, he can man our left flank instead.
Right wing: Jesus Navas (Manchester City)
In the same way that the buzzing style of the midfielder mentioned below might not suit Spain, Navas is another whose directness isn’t exactly a La Roja requisite, with his blistering pace and inclination to stick to the flanks far more fitting for England.
Real Madrid’s Lucas Vazquez is the surprise wing recruit for the Spanish, having only broken through at the Bernabeu this season age 24, pipping Manchester City’s winger to the post after helping see off Navas’ side in the Champions League.
Centre midfield: Ander Herrera (Manchester United)
At the age of 26, Herrera should have broken into the Spain squad (who are 15/8 to at least make the Euro 2016 final) by now, or at least grabbed a cap, but Del Bosque has never seemed to sit up and take notice of the Basque.
The Bilbao-born midfielder at his best is nippy around the pitch, with a nose for a late burst into the box, tidy passing and the willingness to snap at opposition heels. If Herrera, somewhat of a cult hero at Old Trafford, wants to garner international recognition he may have to move on from Manchester United.
Centre midfield: Santi Cazorla (Arsenal)
Converted deep playmaker Cazorla is another who has been unable to take part in a large portion of his club’s season, but the silky conductor is now back fit and ready to fire on all cylinders.
Unfortunately, though his technical skills are not in doubt, Cazorla’s Arsenal return seems to have come too little too late for the 31-year-old, with Villarreal’s Bruno Soriano and Atletico Madrid’s Saul Niguez having shone at domestic level enough to warrant inclusion, while Cesc Fabregas’ sudden return to form arrived just at the right time to keep Cazorla at bay.
Left wing: Juan Mata (Manchester United)
Operating wide and drifting centrally may not get the best out of former Valencia and Chelsea maestro Mata, but the composed and quiet character has done a job there for Man Utd this season despite less than ideal circumstances.
The slight attacking orchestrator is perhaps the biggest name not on Spain’s Euro 2016 list, with the playmaker’s decent stats of six Premier League strikes and seven assists this term perhaps not enough to overshadow his lack of dynamism and explosiveness. With David Silva and Isco on the books though, it is tough to see Spain truly missing Mata’s magic.
Support striker: Paco Alcacer (Valencia)
It appears six goals in 13 for Spain plus scoring 13 in La Liga as Alcacer skippered a struggling side was not enough to impress Del Bosque.
The 22-year-old Valencia forward appears has lost out at the expense of 35-year-old Aritz Aduriz’s rather belated, but recently rapid, rise. Though, Alvaro Morata has had far from a sensational season at Juventus, leaving this omission somewhat of a head-scratcher.
Centre forward: Fernando Torres (Atletico Madrid)
If Spain had to select another veteran sharpshooter, they could have done worse than plumping for resurgent AC Milan-owned Atleti attacker Torres, who has played on all the big stages before and shown real glimpses of his old goal gobbling self.
Having been a key cog in Atletico’s push for a Champions League final place, phoenix-style frontman Torres has hit 11 in La Liga so leads our line ahead of Brazilian-born Diego Costa, whose term with Chelsea has been tumultuous and ended in an injury that looks to have halted his Euro 2016 hopes.
Substitutes: Kika Casilla (Real Madrid); Aleix Vidal (Barcelona); Mario Gaspar (Villarreal); Vitolo (Sevilla); Sergi Roberto (Barcelona); Diego Costa (Chelsea); Roberto Soldado (Villarreal).