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Sunday May 4 2014
World Cup Squad Selector: Juanfran

In a so-called weak spot in Spain’s starting XI, Atletico Madrid's Juanfran is fighting to be La Roja's right-back, Henry Chard writes...

With such a talented pool of players available to the World champions, players that would walk into other country’s starting XI miss out on being part of the squad, let alone a place in the team.

Weaknesses in Vicente Del Bosque's side are hard to find and the first-choice team almost picks itself, but if you were to scrutinise Spain, then right-back would be the closest thing to a problem area.

Following Sergio Ramos' move to the centre of defence, Real Madrid's Alvaro Arbeloa took over at right-back for the successful defence of the European Championship in 2012, but in the last year the position has opened up to a number of candidates.

Under the tutelage of Diego Simeone, Juanfan has undergone an astonishing transformation. The Real Madrid youth product's career came to life at Osasuna, where he was a regular in the side. Known back then as a fast right winger full of tricks, he scored some memorable goals for the Pamplona side, including a stunning volley on the final day of the season against Real Madrid to secure La Liga safety for Los Rojillos.

It is for that reason that the transformation to a battling right-back could never have been predicted. Juanfran earned his move to Atletico in January 2011 for €4m and it was at the beginning of the following season that Gregorio Manzano clearly saw something in Juanfran that would make him a good defender.

With the arrival of Simeone he has gone on to become one of the best right-backs in the League. A clever, tenacious and quick wing-back with tricks up his sleeve and a good delivery, Juanfran’s versatility could give an edge over his competitors.

His rise in stock meant he was part of the winning Euro 2012 squad despite not making an appearance. This season Juanfran has been an almost ever-present member of the meanest defence in La Liga and is on the brink of historic domestic and European double. His form for his club has seen him be handed more opportunities with the national side as Del Bosque considers his options for Brazil this summer.

The 29-year-old has certainly grasped his opportunity with both hands, even notching his first goal for his country this season. Juanfran has become a fixture in the squad but much will depend on the fitness of Alvaro Arbeloa. If Arbeola is fit then Juanfran could miss out as it is likely to be a straight choice between Juanfran and Cesar Azpilicueta for the other spot.

If Del Bosque is to go on form, though, it will be between Juanfran and Azpi two for a starting berth in Brazil. Juanfran's attacking edge may give him a slight advantage over the Chelsea man.

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