Despite having had a sometimes-inconsistent season by his own exacting standards, Jordi Alba is certain to feature in Vicente del Bosque’s squad for France this summer. The Barcelona left-back appeared in all but one of La Roja’s 10 qualifiers and is someone the Spain boss has placed his trust in since making his full debut against Scotland back in 2011. Others such as Cesar Azpilicueta, Nacho Monreal, Juan Bernat and Nacho Fernandez have all had the opportunity to dislodge him since then, but Alba has always remained one of the first names on the team sheet.
A fast and skilful player who makes use of his speed and ability to produce marauding runs down the left flank, the 27-year-old’s main asset is blinding acceleration and a style more often that of an out-and-out winger, one who starts things off by bringing the ball out from the back. His goal against Italy in the Euro 2012 final was a perfect example of this, with Alba initiating the move from deep and bursting forward beyond the Italian defence to slot the ball past Gianluigi Buffon.
The Catalan’s tactical awareness has also improved in the last couple of years and, while before he had a tendency to be caught high up the pitch, it is something that rarely happens these days. Nonetheless, Alba is primarily a defender who maybe does not get the credit he deserves, and it is a job he does well despite some insisting he is more of a forward than a full-back.
Adept at preventing opposition attacks materialising, his energetic, all-action style enables him to regularly join in play and he combines comfortably with other players, particularly Andres Iniesta, and the pair’s quick passing and intelligent interchanges have proved a major asset to the national team.
Although he has no apparent flaws, Alba is small in stature and his heading is no more than satisfactory. While it is not weak enough to be singled out as a chink in his armour, it is something that makes him virtually redundant at set-pieces and could be improved upon.
It might also be argued that with better finishing he should score more goals for the amount of time he spends in the opposing box, and there is also a question mark over his temperament. In the past Alba has shown he can be easily upset, but thankfully this only seems to happen at club level and he has an unblemished record with Spain as far as red cards are concerned.
With 42 international caps to his name and six goals, Alba has established himself as Del Bosque’s first-choice left-back since replacing Joan Capdevila, playing all the games at Euro 2012 and appearing three times as Spain crashed out of the 2014 World Cup. It would take a dip in form of monumental proportions for him not to add to this.