Paco Alcacer thoroughly enjoyed Spain’s Euro 2016 qualifying campaign, as he scored five times to be their top goalscorer. His form with Valencia had not been spectacular, but it looked as though Alcacer was on course to be one of those players who shone for their country a little bit more than for their club.
Nonetheless, the 22-year-old has infamously become the only player who was top scorer for their national team in qualifying to not be selected in the squad for the tournament in France. That will definitely hurt, but perhaps Vicente del Bosque was justified in his decision, even if it is an idiosyncratic one.
Alcacer has had a fairly average season on a personal level, with 15 goals in all competitions. After last year’s exploits, a little more was expected from the Valencian in terms of goals, but considering the circumstances that the club are currently in and the small injuries that he picked up along the way, he has given a pretty good account of himself.
His form picked up a little towards the end of the campaign, with a hat-trick at Mestalla against Eibar, but before that he had not scored since January. Gary Neville’s reign at the club did not seem to have the desired effect upon Alcacer – the English Coach seemed to favour Alvaro Negredo as his striker, and attempts to play the two forwards together did not work out.
Huge responsibility was placed on Alcacer’s shoulders, too, when Neville peculiarly replaced Dani Parejo as captain with the young forward. Perhaps it was the correct decision in terms of his origins as a local, but the club needed an experienced head to lead the team in the tough times that they went on to face. Credit must go to Alcacer, though, for speaking honestly about the team’s performances, and he did the best he could amid the turmoil.
Del Bosque is often criticised for picking his favourites, but the 65-year-old has named his strikers, Aritz Aduriz and Alvaro Morata, based on form, and he must be praised for that. Along with Alcacer, Diego Costa, Fernando Torres and a whole host of forwards have missed out.
Speaking to Marca at the start of last season, it was clear that the former Getafe loanee is a hard worker who knows what he needs to do to keep improving.
“I work every week in order to improve,” he said. “If you don't understand that you need to improve then you will take a step backwards. I am a person that wants to grow as a footballer and in life. It's good to know what your strengths and weaknesses are in order to improve. I need to improve on many things but I'm 22 and I've only just started as they say.”
Based on this determined talk, Alcacer’s La Roja career is far from over, and he should be hell-bent on earning his place back for the World Cup in 2018.