It has been a pretty hectic few days for Vicente del Bosque. After announcing his squad for the final two qualifying games for Euro 2016, against Luxembourg and Ukraine, four players pulled out of the squad due to injury. Sergio Ramos, Dani Carvajal, Bruno Soriano and Inigo Martinez have all either been forced to leave Ciudad del Futbol, Spain’s training base, or not even met up with the squad. Mikel San Jose, Nacho Fernandez and debutants Mario Gapsar and Xabier Etxeita have been drafted in as replacements.
On top of that, Juan Bernat and the already-injured Andres Iniesta and Koke were already withdrawn from the last squad and, of course, the much maligned Diego Costa has been dropped for his actions in a clash with Arsenal players, which has seen him receive a three-match Premier League ban. Alvaro Morata has returned from his injury to receive a recall and the in-form Nolito of Celta Vigo is back in the squad after his first call-up last year.
Evidently, Del Bosque’s hand has been forced a little with the profusion of injuries, but the Coach is not afraid to make changes to his squad, and frequently, new faces appear when he feels that their form and quality is of a high enough standard to make a substantial impact in the team. This could simply be to stimulate and motivate players who have deservedly kept their places in the set-up for a considerable period of time and to erase any hints of complacency in the ranks.
On the other hand, and perhaps in the case of Nolito this time around, who has started the season off extraordinarily well for Celta, Del Bosque could see new additions as potential starters in games to come- that is if they impress when they are given the opportunity. The 28-year-old is certainly dreaming of a place in La Roja’s squad for France in 2016.
“Any player would like to be part of the Euro 2016 squad,” he said. “It's free to dream. I hope to be there. I'll work hard. I’m happy to be back. We have to give our all in each training session in order to be at my best for each match.”
It is also encouraging to see Gaspar called up for the first time. The right-back is adored by fans at El Madrigal, the home of his beloved, Villarreal where he has come through the ranks. It has been a fairy tale start to their season, topping the Primera table for the first time in their history, and Gaspar has unquestionably played a major part in that, often making the right side of the pitch his own in both defence and attack. Unfortunately, with Juanfran and Cesar Azpilicueta also in the squad, Gaspar will struggle for minutes, but he has merited this call-up and will remain an option for La Roja.
The inclusions of Etxeita and Nacho are intriguing too. The latter very rarely appears for Real Madrid, such is the competition in their defence, and at 25, it is bemusing why a move to another club where playing time would be guaranteed has not surfaced. Undoubtedly, if he is to get further call-ups, he needs this to be playing regularly.
Perhaps he could learn off Etxeita, who left his boyhood club Athletic Bilbao for Elche in order to gain playing experience and further establish himself as a professional footballer. He then returned in 2013 and his sustained appearances towards the latter end of last season have continued into this one, earning him his first call-up for the national team despite never representing his country at youth level. That is some achievement.
La Roja only require one point in order to qualify for the European Championships, and with numerous new faces in the group, a certain amount of experimentation might be permitted for the European champions. It would be great to see a couple of debuts being handed out and even better if Nolito takes his chance out on the left wing, terrorising defenders as he has been doing all season for Celta.