World Cup Squad Selector: Callejon

If Vincente Del Bosque takes Jose Callejon to Brazil where will he play him? This may seem a strange question given Callejon’s well-founded reputation as one of Serie A’s finest right wingers. Yet the fact is he can play in a several positions, including as a striker, which could prove useful to the Spain Coach.

The 27-year-old has been outstanding for Napoli since arriving from Real Madrid last summer but the real question is, can he replicate that form with Spain? Perhaps, but with competition from Jesus Navas, David Silva, Santa Cazorla, and Pedro, who all have experience on the right it won’t be easy, even though only Pedro has scored more times this season.

In Napoli’s 4-2-3-1 system Callejon plays on the right of an attacking midfield trio which includes Marek Hamsik and Lorenzo Insigne behind striker Gonzalo Higuain. His ability to offer both the positional and passing discipline needed, while interchanging almost seamlessly with the others, is one reason why he could fit in well with Del Bosque’s 4-3-3.

Another significant justification is his scoring ability and with 17 goals in 40 games, including 12 in the League, it is more than bona-fide strikers Fernando Llorente, Alvaro Negredo and Fernando Torres. This lack of convincing hitmen can only help Callejon, who has played up front for Espanyol, Real Madrid and Napoli on several occasions.

“I really want to represent my country again,” he emphasised when asked about his World Cup prospects. “I’m happy to play as a striker, I really like it and when I was younger that was my position.”

Other factors in Callejon’s favour are his sheer energy, enthusiasm and his capacity to play through the middle or on either flank. This dexterity was best seen in the 2-0 win over Arsenal in the Champions League.

Starting on the left with Dries Mertens on the right, he attacked the full-backs and set up Higuain’s opener after a sublime exchange with his colleague just outside the box. Callejon then scored the second himself with a glorious finish, flicking the ball over the advancing goalkeeper.

His propensity to press defenders, make menacing runs and maintain motivation throughout games has his club Coach urging for his inclusion in La Roja. “Callejon is working very well,” said Del Bosque’s former assistant Rafael Benitez. “For me, he is good enough to get in the Spanish national team for the World Cup.” 

Of course what counts against Jose is that he has only four Under-21 caps. Furthermore, Spain are well covered in midfield but there is no doubt over Callejon’s obvious talent and desire and he hopes to make a late bid to join Del Bosque’s squad. “It’s a dream of mine to play at the World Cup with Spain,” he has been quoted as saying.

And although it is possible that it will remain a dream, dreams can come true and if Del Bosque grants Callejon’s wish it would do no harm to Spain’s chances.