“We don’t select the squad through a public vote, however when everybody is saying ‘Aduriz, Aduriz’ then there is something we have to think about,” Vicente del Bosque said back in March.
True to his word, Del Bosque and his staff thought about it long and hard and, after a trial run during the friendlies against Italy and Romania, Athletic Bilbao striker Aritz Aduriz was included in Spain’s 25-man provisional squad for Euro 2016.
Aduriz had impressed in those friendlies, particularly in the Italy match where he not only scored Spain’s goal, but where he was the best man in white, yellow and red on the pitch. Yet that is not the reason Aduriz has been included in the provisional Spain squad. His performances for his club this season are the reason Del Bosque pencilled him in and they are the reason the Spanish public had been demanding his inclusion in the first place.
With 36 goals in 55 matches, Aduriz is having the best season of his career. At the age of 35, nobody expected that to be the case, but like a fine Spanish wine Aduriz is improving with age. He has never been to a major tournament with Spain, but he is so close to making this one and it is fully deserved.
Some have argued that Del Bosque should only take players who will realistically also be going to Russia in 2018, as if Euro 2016 was a merely a World Cup warm-up tournament, but Del Bosque has always been of the ‘win now’ mentality and nobody could argue that it has not served him, and Spain’s trophy cabinet, well.
All Aduriz has done this season is show that he can win matches now, in every tournament. His four goals against treble winners Barcelona in the Spanish Super Cup back in August blasted Athletic to their first piece of silverware in 31 years. His 10 Europa League goals carried Athletic to the quarter-finals and made him the tournament’s top scorer. His 20 League goals helped Athletic finish fifth and made him the top scoring Spaniard in the Primera. Quite simply, he has been phenomenal.
With two men to be cut from Del Bosque’s 25-man squad, there is still a chance that Aduriz will be watching a major tournament from home once again, but it is incredibly unlikely that he is one of the players to be axed. The fact that Diego Costa has not been included in the provisional squad makes it so. Del Bosque was always going to have to take at least one traditional centre-forward and, with Costa’s name missing from last week’s squad list, Aduriz is now the only traditional centre-forward left.
He may not start every match if Del Bosque prefers to opt for a midfielder-cum-striker to lead the line, as he has often done with Cesc Fabregas in the past, but Aduriz will be a useful option from the bench. Given his aerial presence, he is also the perfect forward to play against certain opposition. Expect, therefore, to be seeing plenty of Aduriz this summer and, if this season has taught us anything, expect to see his name on the scoresheet.