Spanish football is currently in its golden age. A plethora of talent – whom to play and whom to leave out?
In an era where squad depth is the moolah to success, Spain possesses depth in plenty. And along with the depth comes quality in abundance . The golden generation has befittingly done no harm to its reputation by winning all international tournaments of note in the past 4 years. But, beneath this star studded layer, lies another spread of exquisitely talented players who have unfortunately been outshone by the current crop.
Let’s find out and know more about 5 such players:
An academy graduate from Sevilla, Jesus Navas was and is one of the better wingers the La Roja have produced in recent memory. Diminutive in size, silky with the ball, a quick turn of pace and immensely talented Navas is a great example of perseverance and resilience on the pitch. He is famously nicknamed as ‘El Duende’ - a term that describes the “chills and thrills” that one gets by listening to an expressive performance .
But, with great talent come great obstacles. Home sickness and panic attacks while away from the Ramon Sanchez Pijuain plagued Navas often and hence, the tricky winger regularly missed the club’s pre-season tours. Until a couple of years ago, Navas’ psychological issues were the reason for his exile from the La Roja squad. But, subsequent physiotherapy and treatments helped Navas get back to his stride which led to his selection by Del Bosque for a couple of small scale friendlies. Since then, Navas has majorly been overlooked by Del Bosque. The reasons for this snub are plenty – Del Bosque initially preferred Iniesta on the right for the 2010 World Cup, and then shifted focus to Silva and Mata for a berth on the wings.
Given his current stature and burgeoning reputation, there wouldn’t be many teams who would turn down the chance of having a player of Jesus Navas’ caliber among the ranks.
A central midfielder by trade, Michu has been playing as a striker for the English version of Barcelona – Swansea City, and has been mercurial to say the least, scoring 6 goals in 9 league appearances.
Last season, he played in an attacking role for Spanish surprise package Rayo Vallecano and was the epitome of everything Rayo got right, scoring 11 goals along the way, besides raking up assists in plenty. The decision to snub a move to heavyweights Real Madrid portrays the character of the Spanish midfielder -he takes pride in the jersey he wears every weekend, and not the lure of money or the opportunity to play with better quality of players. That was evident to see against Real last season when his passion got the better of him, seeing him sent off in the process. As a stereotypical Spanish midfielder, Michu has flair and creativity in abundance, and precision to go with it.
The flamboyant No. 9 of Swansea has been terrific so far, and if he continues in this vein of form, the footballing world would definitely get to see more of Miguel Perez Cuesta.
The fact that a striker of Negredo’s caliber is probably 4th in Del Bosque’s pecking order for strikers is testimony enough to the depth in talent La Furia Roja possess.
Strength, agility and supreme heading make Negredo a complete centre-forward many teams in the world currently crave for. While the spotlights of the media and fans alike have been on the duel between Ronaldo and Messi, and the dark horse in Radamel Falcao, Alvaro Negredo has quietly gone about his job at Sevilla; and as things stand, Negredo has netted 7 goals in 9 appearances this season. Not a bad return at all.
One would certainly pity Negredo’s fortunes when it comes to the National level. At first, he had the likes of Villa and Torres to contend with. With Villa breaking his leg and Torres losing his touch, Del Bosque shifted focus from the Traditional 9 to the False 9, hence snubbing the clan consisting of Soldado, Llorente and Negredo. And with Villa slowly regaining fitness, one would not be overly optimistic about Negredo’s chances with regards to the national team.
Fate can be very cruel on and Negredo is a prime example of those who have been its victims.
Another player whose talent has been overshadowed by the cruelty of fate is Andoni Iraola.
The Athletic Bilbao general, who has been indispensable to his club down the years, has surely not held the same regard when matters regarding the National team came up. Overshadowed by the dynamic Michel Salgado and Sergio Ramos early in his career, Iraola now faces stern competition from the likes of Alvaro Arbeloa and the young Cesar Azpilicueta and Del Bosque clearly does not favour the former.
A tireless runner, Iraola has considerable pedigree on both ends of the right flank, but his stepovers and dummies down the attacking end take the cake. A prime example of his ball-control is something that didn’t make it to the scoreboards, but did to YouTube – the mazy run, riding the challenges of 3 Manchester United defenders before skimming it just past the near post. The perfect definition of a prototype current full-back; a heterogeneous mix of a steadfast defensive player and a rampaging attacker, with an eye to feed the number 9 in the box, Iraola has just seen one red in over 300 games for Bilbao up to date.
Given the current crop of full-backs, it is sad to see that a player of his calibre has represented the National team on a petty 7 occasions.
Is he a Marcos Senna in the making? Maybe.
A product of Atletico Madrid‘s cantera, Gabi is an attack-minded defensive midfielder, with a renowned prowess for his goal scoring! How rare is that?
Though of late, he has been restricted to perform his defensive duties only by coach Diego Simeone, Gabi has always been at his best when given the freedom to make his trademark darts into the final third, making up the extra numbers in attack. Besides his goal-scoring, Il Capitano offers a lot more – his fitness and work ethic are immaculate.
In the period between 2008-2011, Gabi never missed a match due to injury. A true leader on the pitch, Gabi’s career high return of 11 goals in the 2010-11 season, helped his team escape the clutches of relegation. In the subsequent window, home side Atletico Madrid came calling, and Gabi did not turn down the opportunity. He is the current club captain and a regular starter beside another academy graduate- Mario Suarez, who now shoulders the attacking responsibility, with Gabi playing anchor.
The rise of Sergio Busquets has been the major factor in Gabi’s exile from the national team- the all-action midfielder was widely tipped to displace an ageing Marcos Senna post the Euros in 2008. But fortune was not have it that way – Busquets’ rapid rise to the top has left Gabi’s chances of playing for Spain, in tatters.
Spain’s golden generation is not limited just to the first team of the National Squad or Barcelona and Real’s domination of world football. The mauling of then English Champions Manchester United by a ‘mediocre’ La Liga team, which was made up of only the Basque country natives, reflects on the river of talent that is currently coursing through the country. Every team has its fair share of talent- and it is sad to see that players who would probably made the cut elsewhere, are not even getting a look into the larger picture.