There’s no doubt that 12 months ago, there wouldn’t even have been a discussion on Sergi Roberto’s chances of making Spain’s Euro 2016 squad for this summer in France. The midfielder was only seen as a reserve and often last resort option for La Blaugrana up until this season and many believed that it wouldn’t be long before he was moved on elsewhere as his chances of success at Camp Nou seemed limited and unlikely.
But this season has brought about a revival in Roberto’s career at Barcelona. He’s amassed over 2,800 minutes over the course of the campaign, more than he had managed in the previous four years combined for the first team since making his debut in May 2011. He’s been one of Barca’s standout figures this term with seven assists to his name and certainly the most improved player in the squad, which made his debut call-up and cap in the March friendlies for La Roja a fully deserved reward for his efforts.
Not only has he improved his game with the minutes he’s gotten this year, but he’s also developed a reputation for something he never had before – versatility. Roberto has played in every outfield position on the pitch except centre-back and stiker at some point, including being the first choice right-back for a period, Sergio Busquets’ first choice backup at defensive midfield, and even started an away Clasico on the right wing with Lionel Messi missing.
It’s that versatility which is what maybe formulates his best argument for a place in Spain’s final 23 for the tournament finals, but it still remains unlikely that he’ll end up going. Vicente del Bosque has an embarrassment of riches in both full-back positions with several players who start for top clubs around Europe’s big Leagues to count upon. In central and attacking midfield, he has the likes of Koke, Cesc Fabregas, Andres Iniesta, Isco, Santi Cazorla, Juan Mata, and Thiago Alcantara to consider, none of which Roberto will likely beat out for a place in the roster.
At defensive midfield, there’s the man who starts ahead of him at his own club, Busquets, as well as the recuperated Javi Martinez, who will likely return to the squad for the first time since late 2014 now he’s healthy again. On the wings there are also several players ahead of Roberto in the pecking order, but it’s unlikely he’d be considered there as that’s not where he’s best at anyway.
There’s also the factor that Del Bosque usually only calls upon his most experienced options for tournaments as he’s most comfortable with them. A man of conservatism and little risk-taking, it’s unlikely that Roberto stands much of a chance of making the squad regardless of his current form with the little international experience he currently has.
It’s been a great year for Roberto as an individual and he has made strides in his game that could make him a serious option for Spain in future tournaments, if he can continue to get ample amounts of playing time at Barcelona. But for this summer, it’s too soon and not very likely to happen. Perhaps Russia 2018 with a different Coach at the helm is a more realistic target.