Ask Liverpool fans about Iago Aspas’s time at the club and it is safe to say they do not have the fondest memories of the current Celta Vigo forward. However, it would also be correct to say right now that the 30-year-old is one of the best players in La Liga and the most in-form Spanish striker in Europe, putting him in a very good position ahead of the World Cup in Russia.
Aspas has already scored 15 goals this season, along with four assists - only Lionel Messi and Luis Suarez have scored more. Since his return to boyhood club Celta, he has consistently boasted good numbers, and he is on course to win the Zarra trophy for the second year running - the award for the most prolific Spaniard in the League.
The difference between previous seasons and this one, though, has been the Galician’s inclusion in the national team squad. Julen Lopetegui clearly knows what he is getting from Aspas and since making his debut in October of last year, he has played seven times, scoring three. As La Roja’s most prolific striker, there should be absolutely no questions concerning his inclusion in the World Cup squad, but due to occasional selections for some players not being based on merit, there always seems to be doubts, which Aspas is all too aware of.
“You have to live day by day,” Aspas said regarding his chances of selection on Radio Marca. “I always work with the utmost enthusiasm, hoping to be in the next squad and knowing that there is a group full of players who are doing very well. I want to go to the World Cup and as it goes, play. As they often say, going for nothing is nonsense.”
These words highlight exactly why he has got to where he is today. Playing in the colours of Celta, as a lifelong fan, he thrives, which would probably suggest why he has not excelled at spells at Liverpool and Sevilla. At this moment in time, he is probably as important to Celta as Messi is to Barcelona: Aspas has been involved in over half of his team’s goals this season, and he didn’t even score in the first seven games.
To the naked eye, he might seem to be a little too slender to keep up with the rigours of the modern game, but the forward’s energy, dynamism and tenacity, coupled with his supreme technical ability and sublime finishing puts him on a different level to some of his peers. Throw in the passion that he feels when defending his club and country and defenders have got a serious problem on their hands.
Based on statistics and performances during this campaign, Aspas simply has to be on that plane to Russia. Yes, he might not be a starter, and even though he will not be happy with that, he could play a crucial role coming off the bench when La Roja are trying to kill off an opponent or perhaps even still trying to break them down. This will be Aspas’s last opportunity to go to a World Cup, so he will certainly want to leave his mark, which is something which he has done countless times this season.