The decision to postpone Euro 2020 for a year in order to allow domestic seasons to be completed has largely been met with a positive reception by world football in order to protect the integrity of the competition.
It will give some international teams more preparation time ahead of the major tournament, while others – especially those in the midst of a hot run of form – will have been left privately disappointed that they won’t be able to compete for continental glory this summer.
But which camp do Spain fall into? After qualifying for the competition in unbeaten fashion, many pundits fancied Jose Enrique’s men to go somewhat under the radar and deep into the tournament, as they weren’t seen as one of the heavy favourites on William Hill sportsbook and other betting platforms.
However, there are cracks in the façade, and, like many other teams in the competition, a year’s grace might just be what the doctor ordered, with players either injured or out of form.
So how will the year-long delay of Euro 2020 impact upon Spain’s hopes of lifting the trophy?
The last thing you need heading into a major competition are question marks about the identity of your head coach.
It’s fair to say that Luis Enrique was doing a solid enough job with what is a less-than-stellar vintage of Spanish footballers, but personal circumstances meant that he had to step aside for a while.
Hie erstwhile assistant, Robert Moreno, stepped into the breach, and by all accounts did an outstanding job to guide La Roja to serene qualification from Group F ahead of Sweden and Norway. And then came the awkward moment when Enrique felt ready to return to the hotseat. It’s no secret that some of the players wanted Moreno to stay, and a falling-out between the two was so bitter that Enrique ended up sacking Moreno for perceived ‘disloyalty’.
That is not what is needed to steer a steady ship into big competition football, and an extra year to let old wounds heal is welcome.
A Question of Form
Some of the Spain squad were absolutely flying during the 2019/20 campaign.
Thiago was at the heart of a red-hot Bayern Munich side, Saul Niguez scored in Atletico Madrid’s two-legged victory over Liverpool in the Champions League and Mikel Oyarzabal emerged as one of the finest domestic talents in quite some time.
Mikel Oyarzabal: Has scored more goals (20) than any player under the age of 23 since the start of the 2018/19 LaLiga season ⚽️
— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) January 19, 2020
Even some curveball picks, such as Pablo Sarabia at PSG and Adama Traore at Wolves, were playing some of the best football of their careers. But to suggest all was well in the Spanish squad would be wide of the mark.
Both David de Gea and Kepa Arrizabalaga, the likely custodians between the sticks for Spain in Euro 2020, found themselves out of form, while former stalwarts such as Sergio Ramos, Dani Carvajal and Sergio Busquets have struggled to capture their best.
Other issues prevail in 2020 too. There isn’t an obvious centre-forward to lead Spain into battle – not even in the tradition of the ‘false nine’ that the La Roja have favoured in recent tactical developments.
Time, as they say, is a great healer, and it would also allow new stars of Spanish football to emerge.
Another Year Older
More time will allow those who flourished during 2019/20 to consolidate their elevated status in the game.
Take Gerard Moreno, for example. The Villarreal man has always had the talent, but consistency has been the factor that has prevented him from reaching his best on a continuous basis. But he seems to have come of age during this campaign, and at 27-years-old he still has plenty of time on his side.
The aforementioned Oyarzabal will benefit from another full season of La Liga football under his belt, as will the improving Mikel Merino and Sergio Reguilon, who is seen by many as Jordi Alba’s long-term successor.
The future is bright for Spanish football, and with an extra year to work with prior to the rescheduled Euros, perhaps these exceptional young talents can flourish on one of the biggest stages of them all next summer.