Real Madrid’s Nacho Fernandez declared himself surprised to be called up to the Spain squad for recent friendlies against Italy and Romania, and he might not have been the only one, as the Madrid-born defender has lacked serious game time at Real Madrid this season.
“If we take into account the competition that there is at Madrid, it’s obvious that to get minutes there is more complicated than at other teams”, he said in a recent interview with Spanish newspaper ABC, seemingly defending his selection in the squad.
Despite being one of the few members of the Madrid squad to have come through their academy, his route there has been long and arduous. He’s struggled to make a name for himself at his boyhood club, and at the age of 26, may have to start looking elsewhere for more regular football.
This season he’s featured only 19 times in all competitions, including substitute appearances. The highlight of his season thus far has to be his match winning goal against Paris Saint-Germaim in the Champions League.
When given the opportunity to play, he has often delivered strong performances, an example being the clean sheet in the 4-0 win against Sevilla a few weeks back. Nevertheless, he remains Zinedine Zidane’s fourth-choice centre-back behind Sergio Ramos, Pepe and Raphael Varane. Were he to be picked for the Spain squad he would have to resign himself to a similar back-up role, with Gerard Pique, Sergio Ramos and seemingly Marc Bartra ahead of him.
One rather vital piece of armour which Nacho has at his disposal, however, is his versatility. Not only can he play in a central defensive position but he is also useful at both right and left-back. Such adaptability is extremely attractive to a Coach preparing to cut his squad down to a mere 23 players.
Nacho would therefore constitute a logical choice, providing cover for a number of positions, thus allowing Del Bosque more freedom in other areas. The logic fails, however, if the Coach were not to trust the player enough to use him, were he needed. Yet Del Bosque and Nacho have a special relationship which dates back to Nacho’s arrival at Madrid.
“[Del Bosque] is like my footballing godfather. I will always be grateful for everything that he’s done for me, for the faith that he showed in me from a young age and which he continues to show”, Nacho commented to ABC.
For it was the current Spain head Coach who, in 2001, who signed an 11-year old Nacho for the Madrid academy. That special link may well work in the player’s favour come June. Certainly combined with his versatility, Nacho constitutes a serious candidate for this summer’s squad.