World Cup Squad Selector: Monreal

A quick look at Vicente Del Bosque’s selections at left-back over the past year in both competitive and friendly matches would suggest there are three contenders under consideration for what will probably be, at the most, two tickets to Brazil.

Barcelona’s Jordi Alba, who at the time of writing is in the early stages of recovery from a hamstring injury, looks likely to fill one of them so long as he shows signs of returning to fitness by the time the 23-man squad is announced. The other candidates in the frame, whose presences in the squad are far less certain, are Sevilla’s Alberto Moreno and Arsenal’s Nacho Monreal.

The latter’s superior experience arguably give him the edge for a role in Rio. Born in the Basque town of Pamplona, the 28-year-old was signed up by Osasuna’s youth academy as a youngster, where he remained and rose through the ranks before eventually making his debut for the Rojillos B team in 2005.

The upward trajectory of his short career continued when, on October 22 2006, he made his maiden appearance for the first team in Osasuna’s 1-0 La Liga defeat to Valencia at Mestalla. It was something of a breakthrough season for the young defender, who went on to make another nine League appearances and also played a part in the club’s European campaign, which extended over both the Champions League and UEFA Cup.

He cemented his place as a first team regular the following season and, over the next few years, established a reputation as one of La Liga’s best attacking left-backs. His progress did not go unnoticed by La Roja, with Del Bosque handing him his first international call-up for Spain’s 3-2 away win over Macedonia in a friendly in August 2009.

Though he missed out on a place in the World Cup-winning squad of 2010, Monreal’s stock continued to rise on the club scene and he was signed by big-spending Malaga in the summer of 2011. He formed an integral part of the Boquerones team who secured Champions League qualification for the first time in the club’s history and his form was good enough to attract the interest of Arsene Wenger, who took the player to Arsenal in January 2013 in a deal worth £8.5m.

There he has remained ever since but he has cut a frustrated figure at times this season. Niggling injuries and the presence in the Gunners’ squad of Kieran Gibbs have contrived to limit Monreal to less first team action than he would have liked or anticipated, something he himself has recently admitted.

That being said, Monreal is still clearly at the forefront of Del Bosque’s thoughts and he started in Spain’s relatively recent 1-0 friendly defeat to South Africa, as well as featuring in his country’s World Cup qualifying and Confederations Cup campaigns.

He may well have enough credit in the bank to see off the challenge of Moreno in La Roja’s pecking order of left-backs, but he will be conscious of the fact that Del Bosque only selected one specialist in his position, Alba, in his Euro 2012 squad. Should that happen again, he would surely miss out on Brazil.