Juan Bernat made his La Roja debut back in October 2014, coming off the bench in a 0-4 win against Luxembourg and even getting on the scoresheet. He couldn’t have made a much better impression as the type of attacking full-back that Spain need, but the 23-year-old’s international career has not took off in the way he would have hoped after earning his first cap.
There have been starts against Germany, Netherlands and Costa Rica in friendlies, but the former Valencia player has only started one competitive game for Spain in a Euro 2016 qualifier against Macedonia, and that actually happens to be his most recent call-up in October of last year. Unfortunately, the fantastic form of Mario Gaspar at right-back has meant that Cesar Azpilicueta has become Vicente del Bosque’s second choice left-back, which is the position he plays in for Chelsea. Therefore, despite a recent flurry of appearances for Bayern Munich, Bernat has fallen down the pecking order for his country, and it is now unlikely that he will travel to France in the summer.
The Valencian is the archetypal, modern-day full-back, which is one of the reasons why Pep Guardiola made sure he joined him in Munich when he was appointed as Coach of the Bavarians. Bernat plays with a lot of energy and is constantly on the move, a trait which suits the trainer’s famously-fluid style of play. He has operated at both left-back and left wing-back during his time in Germany, and his ability to run his channel of the pitch relentlessly has certainly allowed him to excel and improve under the next Manchester City Coach.
When speaking with Marca last summer, the man from Cullera was asked to compare his current Coaches for club and country.
“Every coach has their quirks,” he said. ‘You could say Pep is more approachable, but I haven't had that many call-ups to the national team. I don't especially like comparing them anyway. Del Bosque likes to play a 4-3-3 and Guardiola has used that system before too, although on occasions he's opted for three centre-backs and two wing-backs. Honestly, though, I can adapt to any system.”
Bernat’s strengths lie mainly in his attacking contribution; marauding runs forward with and without the ball and short, intricate passes to maintain the circulation of play are the main features of his game. His end product in the final third needs improvement, though, with no goals and only two assists in this campaign. Moreover, his lack of height can sometimes cause problems when marking forwards of a greater stature. This is shown with only a 48 percent success rate in his aerial duels this term.
Another problem for Bernat is that, despite playing a lot of games under Guardiola, he wouldn’t usually be a starter, and with Mario playing week in, week out for high-flying Villarreal and taking his chances when called upon with La Roja, Del Bosque simply cannot ignore him. Azpilicueta’s ability to play at either right or left-back also means he will probably be going to France, and those reasons combined will probably see him out of the squad. However, at 23 years old, he definitely has a future in the Spain set-up.