The omission of prolific Valencia marksman Roberto Soldado from Vicente del Bosque’s Euro 2012 squad is a surprising one that could leave La Roja short of proven goalscorers for the tournament, which gets underway in Poland and Ukraine in less than two weeks’ time.
The Coach has included Chelsea striker Fernando Torres, who showed glimpses of a return to form with his club’s Champions League success, and Athletic Bilbao’s Fernando Llorente, who was inspirational in the Basque side’s Europa League run.
There are also places in Del Bosque’s 23-man squad for in-form striker Pedro Rodriquez, who scored twice in Barcelona’s Copa del Rey triumph over Athletic on Friday, and Sevilla striker Alvaro Negredo, who is given the nod over Soldado to replace the injured David Villa. Barcelona defender Carles Puyol had already been ruled out with a knee injury.
News of Soldado’s omission was an unwelcome 27th birthday present for the former Real Madrid striker. He has by common consent just enjoyed the best season of his career, with 27 goals in 45 appearances in all competitions for Valencia, providing an identical League record of 17 in 32 to Llorente at Athletic. Having hit a hat-trick in Spain’s 5-0 friendly win over Venezuela in February, Soldado was widely expected to be rewarded with a place at Euro 2012.
“Negredo and Soldado are two outstanding players, but they are different,” explained Del Bosque on the inclusion of the Sevilla man, who was on target 14 times in 33 League, Cup and European games for his club. “One is faster, but the other contributes more to the team as a whole. But I have to say, Villa is irreplaceable, for his characteristics and effectiveness no one can do better than him. We feel the same with Puyol, who is also a fundamental loss for us.”
Soldado is thought to have missed out for a couple of reasons, as a neck injury in the second half of the season hampered his recent club form and as his frustration boiled over into a number of angry outbursts in games. Character-wise, Del Bosque is thought to prefer the more mild-mannered Negredo, who has five goals in seven appearances for the national team to his name.
The Valencia forward isn’t the only face whose omission many are debating, as Atletico Madrid striker Adrian Lopez has also been overlooked by the Coach, despite scoring on his international debut in La Roja’s 2-0 win over Serbia in Switzerland on Saturday. There is room for Atleti right-back Juanfran – another debutant against Derbia – in place of the injured Athletic defender Andoni Iraola.
“It’s a selection we have thought about intensely,” added the Coach. “We have looked at what’s best for us, and without taking away the merits of those who have been with us and will stay in mind for the future.”
“There are no special cases,” he added, speaking about those who had missed out. “It’s the same for everyone, Soldado, Adrian and the rest. They may feel upset but they must be good sportsmen. In September, we will make more call-ups so they have to be ready for that. In football, you need to bring in new blood, but not make changes for the sake of it.”
Elsewhere, as expected, Del Bosque’s midfield selection is dominated by the Barcelona quartet of Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas and Sergio Busquets.
Spain will play their three Group C matches at Euro 2012 in Gdansk, against Italy on June 10, the Republic of Ireland on June 14 and Croatia on June 18.