For the first time ever, no Real Madrid players have been included in the Spain squad for a major tournament. This isn’t just historic, it is an absolutely earth-shattering move from Luis Enrique, who has left out Sergio Ramos, Nacho, Dani Carvajal, Isco and Marco Asensio.
Ramos, the Madrid captain, is the biggest name to miss out, but he has struggled with injuries this term and has only played one game since March. The most surprising omission, however, is that of Nacho, the defender who has been in imperious form for Los Blancos this season. It seems Luis Enrique, a former Barcelona boss, hasn’t been helped by the extended squad, choosing to only name 24 players rather than the maximum 26, in a move that sees Spain look to the future.
Over the past decade, since the successes of 2008, 2010 and 2012, Madrid’s participation in the national team has waned, although it was never as high as you may imagine. In 2008, only Iker Casillas and Ramos made the squad and although Xabi Alonso, Raul Albiol and Alvaro Arbeloa would join them four years later, they were not as omnipresent as their esteemed Barcelona colleagues. That era of success was founded on the Blaugrana rather than the club from the capital.
Fast forward to 2018 and six Real Madrid players were included in their World Cup failure. From those six, Isco and Nacho are now over 30, as is Ramos, injury hit Carvajal has played just 13 league games this season, Asensio has featured regularly but only registered seven goal contributions and Lucas Vazquez is injured. The pool of ageing Spanish players wearing white this term isn’t all that enticing.
Of course, the insult to those from the Bernabeu is that the Spain boss had room to take two more players, but a larger squad isn’t always a good thing. Luis Enrique, with his Barcelona past, was always going to be seen as favourable to the Catalans, but only three have made the squad from the Camp Nou and it seems this time he is trying to rip up a failing squad and start afresh.
For the past three tournaments, Spain have disappointed. Barcelona’s famous midfield of Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets three was so crucial to their success that they left a void which simply couldn’t be filled. Now, a new wave of talent has arrived, including Pedri and Marcos Llorente from Spain’s two biggest cities.
Elsewhere, this squad has gone global. Aymeric Laporte was convinced to switch nationalities while young talents Ferran Torres and Eric Garcia also join the squad from Manchester City. Dani Olmo from RB Leipzig, Pablo Sarabia from PSG and Adama Traore of Wolves are handed call-ups, while there is still plenty of experience in David de Gea, Busquets and Cesar Azpilicueta.
The coach has also cast his eye away from the big three in Spain, although Iago Aspas’ omission is a strange one. Real Sociedad’s Mikel Oyarzabal, Villarreal duo Gerard Moreno and Pau Torres and Athletic Bilbao goalkeeper Unai Simon are all included as Luis Enrique attempts to restore pride to the national team.
Spain needed to hit the reset button this time around and it has taken a manager as brave as Luis Enrique to do so. Having no Real Madrid players may not be the norm, but the norm hasn’t been working for Spain in the last three tournaments. This young, exciting squad should thrill us this summer, with or without Sergio Ramos’ blessing.