5 contenders vying to be Spain’s first choice right-back in the 2018 World Cup
The competition for places on the right-hand side of the defence for La Furia Roja is one of the more interesting sub-plots that will gain traction as the World Cup, Russia 2018 draws nearer.
Coach Julen Lopetegui has a welcome headache as he has quite a number of right-backs performing well who are in the right age bracket for fullbacks in the modern game; 18-29 years.
Given the way Spain play, the fullbacks are an essential part of the system as they are expected to be on the move for 90 minutes providing defensive cover and extra ammunition going forward.
It is doubtful that players like Javier Manquillo (Newcastle United), Hugo Mallo (Celta Vigo) and Kiko Femenia (Watford) will even be in consideration given their places in the pecking order.
The World Cup may have come too early for players like Ignacio “Nacho” Vidal (Valencia) who should be looking to stake future claims for the shirt.
#5 Mario Gaspar (Villarreal)
A product of the youth system at Villarreal, Mario will be an outside choice for the right-back position.
With over 200 games for hometown club, the 26-year-old combines athleticism and a panache for going forward with sound defensive skills being good in the air and a more-than-capable tackler who possesses excellent crossing abilities.
He has been capped thrice and has a hugely impressive goals record, bagging two goals in these games.
His acrobatic overhead kick against England in a friendly in 2015 earned him a nomination for the FIFA Puskas Award for Goal of the Year.
He has remained consistent for El Submarino Amarillo (The Yellow Submarine as Villareal are known) and if he makes coach Lopetegui’s Russia 2018 team, fans can expect 100% effort and commitment from Super Mario.