Alvaro Morata has missed out on a place in Spain’s squad for the World Cup in Russia, with Cesc Fabregas and Hector Bellerin also omitted by Julen Lopetegui.
Spain coach Julen Lopetegui has picked a mix of young and experience as he looks to lead Spain to World Cup glory.
The former U-21 boss has shown his faith in continuity with a squad that looks well-balanced and which could go close to repeating the heroics of the 2010 side which won the title in South Africa under the guidance of Vicente del Bosque.
Some members of that legendary side are still present with Gerard Pique, Sergio Ramos, Sergio Busquets, David Silva, Pepe Reina and Andres Iniesta in the squad and all of them likely to be in Lopetegui’s starting 11.
Meanwhile others such as Jordi Alba, Isco and Koke have a host of international experience, as does David de Gea, who has progressed to become one of the best goalkeepers in the world, while the progress from the U-21’s is reflected in young talents such as Marco Asensio, Saul Niguez, Dani Carvajal, Alvaro Odrioloza and Kepa Arrizabalaga.
Others like Nacho Fernandez and Lucas Vazquez have earned their places after excellent seasons with their clubs and to the fact they offer options in defense and attack.
However, there was no place for Chelsea striker Morata, with Isco, Marco Asensio, Lucas Vazquez, Rodrigo and Diego Costa preferred in attack. Morata has struggled for fitness and form since joining the Blues from Real Madrid last summer, and has scored 11 goals in the Premier League since arriving in England.
Lopetegui has opted for versatility in his squad and that explains most of the question marks in defence. Cesar Azpilicueta is selected ahead of Sergi Roberto and company because he can also play as a central defender and has done at the highest level. Nacho Monreal, perhaps the biggest surprise inclusion, has also shown a new solidity in playing centrally as well as on the left. This figures as the main reasoning for his inclusion ahead of Marcos Alonso, who is a technically superior player but unarguably more one-dimensional. Nacho, of Real Madrid, has a lot of experience as a plug-and-play piece across the Bernabeu club’s back four and that will also be his role in Russia.
Spain do lack depth at centre-back in terms of specialists, but should Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique stay fit they are well set in defence. It is in front of them where the biggest injury concern should lie, with Sergio Busquets having no obvious alternative should something happen. Javi Martinez’s absence leaves the already fairly unique Busquets skill set on an island in this squad. But injuries are clearly not at the forefront of a coach’s mind when picking 23 players for a tournament and the rest of the midfield is a stellar list of names. “Busquets is an important player and we know it,” Lopetegui said, underplaying things somewhat. Without him, this team simply wouldn’t be the same.
There’s such a wealth of midfield talent ahead of Busquets – David Silva, Koke, Isco, Andres Iniesta, Saul – that you don’t notice the players missing but for Cesc Fabregas, this likely represents the end of his international career.
Spain open their tournament against neighbours Portugal on June 15 before they face Iran and Morocco in their remaining Group B fixtures.
Goalkeepers: David de Gea (Manchester United), Pepe Reina (Napoli), Kepa Arrizabalaga (Athletic Bilbao).
Defenders: Jordi Alba (Barcelona), Nacho Monreal (Arsenal), Alvaro Odriozola (Real Sociedad), Nacho Fernandez (Real Madrid), Dani Carvajal (Real Madrid), Gerard Pique (Barcelona), Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid), Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea).
Midfielders: Sergio Busquets (Barcelona), Isco (Real Madrid), Thiago Alcantara (Bayern Munich), David Silva (Manchester City), Andres Iniesta (Barcelona), Saul Niguez (Atletico Madrid), Koke (Atletico Madrid).
Forwards: Marco Asensio (Real Madrid), Iago Aspas (Celta Vigo), Diego Costa (Atletico Madrid), Rodrigo Moreno (Valencia), Lucas Vazquez (Real Madrid).