Before the Confederations Cup Spain striker Fernando Torres boldly claimed, “Spain are the new Brazil”. His comment was in reference to how today, much like Brazil in the past, it seems there is an endless conveyor belt of talent coming out of Spain. Few would argue with Torres on this point.
From Andres Iniesta, David Silva, Xavi to Thiago Alcantara, Isco and Juan Mata there are just so many wonderfully talented Spanish footballers today. Where over the years Italy has been famed for producing great defenders or, in the case of Brazil, brilliant strikers, Spain’s archetypal player of today is that of a technically gifted midfielder, who possess speed, vision, passing ability or the ability to score. Some have all four attributes and one of these players is Iker Muniain.
Now 21-years-old, Muniain exploded on to the scene in the 2011-12 season. His five goals in the Europa League led his club, Athletic Bilbao, to the final in Romania. Making such an impact in what was just third season in Athletic’s first team, he soon received a phone call from Spain head coach Vicente Del Bosque. In February of 2012 against Venezuela, he made his debut for the national team.
Unfortunately for Muniain, he has not appeared again for Spain. After the success of making the final of the Europa League, Marcelo Bielsa’s project in the Basque country went belly-up. Along with the team’s fortunes, those of the club’s best players suffered too.
The unsavoury situation saw Javi Martinez and Fernando Llorente force rather exits from the club in search of greener pastures. But, some stayed. Muniain was one of them. In hindsight it was a good decision. With Ernesto Valverde returing to Bibao now as a coach, the good times have been brought back and Muniain has again been excelling.
Rico, Aritz Aduriz, Ibai Gomes and Ander Herrera have all bettered their records of goals scored in a single La Liga season. Muniain has done it also. Their goals have helped Athletic ensure that next season they are returning to the big time, the Champions League.
Muniain’s stellar campaign has again seen him linked with various top clubs, including Manchester City and Juventus. After a difficult 2012-13, things are really starting to look up again for young and exciting attacker. Only a recall to the national team is what is now lacking and with Brazil just over a month away, it might be too late.
Yet, still considered one of Spain’s best promises for the future, if part of Del Bosque’s plans in the samba nation is to not only compete but help build for the future beyond the summer, then Muniain certainly needs to go. Once dubbed ‘The Spanish Messi’ for his ability to score goals, Muniain can also play deeper in the midfield and this attribute of versatility surely would be useful for aWorld Cup campaign.
The problem for Muniain however, is that competition is just so fierce. The likes of Isco, Mata, Koke and Santi Cazorla are all pushing for a place and given that this is only to be a substitute for the likes of Iniesta, Navas or Cesc Fabregas, there simply might not be enough space. But, if Del Bosque could just find the space for he surely will not regret it.