An all Premier League-based Spain teamPosted: February 22, 2013
Spain. They’re pretty darn good at football, no? Almost to the point that ‘Spain’ and ‘football’ have become synonymous, perhaps. Perhaps not, but they’re still very good at kicking balls in nice ways. So good that six of the recently elected members to the FIFA World XI hail from the country. Iker Casillas, Gerard Piqué, Sergio Ramos, Andrés Iniesta, Xabi Alonso, and Xavi Hernandez are the six, and all of them, as well as the remaining five players who make up the World XI, play in Spain’s La Liga.
Vicente Del Bosque, another Spaniard, took the accolade of Manager of the Year after guiding the national team to their third successive international championship after easily discarding of Italy in the final of Euro 2012. And doesn’t he have an incredible pool of players to choose from? That’s not to say that he has an easy job; that’s obviously not the case at all. But if there’s anybody in world football who’s spoiled for choice, it’s Vicente Del Bosque.
Del Bosque is a manager who generally likes to stick to players still playing in Spain. David Silva was the lone starter in a Spanish shirt in their Euro 2012 final vs Italy who didn’t play for a Spanish club. Fernando Torres and Juan Mata were introduced later on in the match, and they too play in England. The rest of the players who featured for the team are all still playing in their native land, and Spain could easily field an incredibly strong side 100% compiled of La Liga stars.
So that brought me to ponder, how good a side could Spain field of players playing only in England? Michu, Mata, and Cazorla have all won the plaudits of many for their outstanding performances so far this season, but they’re only the most obvious examples. With little thinking involved, it’s obvious that an entirely Premier League-based Spain XI would fare rather well if placed in competition. So, here’s our Premier League-based Spain squad:
1. Pepe Reina (Liverpool)
The Liverpool goalkeeper has long been up there as amongst the best net-minders in the world, but has been unlucky to be from a country that can also boast Casillas and Valdes in their ranks. The former Villarreal net-minder has represented his country on twenty-six occasions, and although his national experience has been limited, he, alongside Iker Casillas, broke the record for the longest time without conceding a goal in international football. The pair went 710 minutes without conceding in 2008. Of course, some credit also goes to the defenders.
2. César Azpilicueta (Chelsea)
Chelsea’s right-back joined the Blues last summer from Marseille, in the French Ligue 1. He last played in Spain for Osasuna, his local team in Pamplona, in 2010 when he was 20 years old. In France he got some very valuable Champions League experience that helped the young player’s development a lot, before signing for the winners of the most recent edition of Europe’s top club competition.
Azpilicueta is yet to make his senior debut for his country, but represented the Spain Under-21 side in two Under-21 European Championships, and won the 2011 edition in a squad that also included Thiago Alcántara, Juan Mata, and Iker Muniain.
4. Chico Flores (Swansea)
Virtually unknown to Premier League fans nine months ago, this long-haired centre back was picked up by Swansea City for a paltry £2m. He joined fellow Spaniard Michu at the Welsh club and has helped elevate them to a new level after their first season in the Premier League under Brendan Rodgers last year. He has formed a reliable partnership with Swans captain Ashley Williams and if reports are to believed, then Michael Laudrup will have a battle on his hands to keep hold of Chico with Pep Guardiola rumoured to be interested in bringing him to Bayern Munich in the summer.
5. Javi García (Manchester City)
A versatile midfielder who can also play at centre back, Javi García is a product of the Real Madrid youth set up. Like many members of that set up, he couldn’t force his way into Los Blancos’ team and was forced to find first-team football elsewhere. He found that at Portuguese giants Benfica and there he was able to prove his worth. His hard work paid off as last summer Roberto Mancini saw fit to spent £18.5m on him on deadline day to help add steel to the English champions, and immediately made an impact with a goal aginst Stoke City on his debut. However, injuries to Vincent Kompany have meant that Garcia has been asked to fill in at centre back and this change has not impacted his game in the slighest. He had one cap for the national team before joining City but if he continues his fine form nobody would bet against that being increased.
3. Jose Enrique (Liverpool)
Jose Enrique first arrived in the Premier League at Newcastle via Villarreal for £6.3m and had four solid seasons in the North East before Kenny Dalglish decided to take advantage of his contract situation by paying around £6m for his services. Despite a drop in form at the back end of last season, it looks like it was money well-spent. Enrique’s physical presence along with his positional sense has made him a hit with the Anfield faithful. It has been under new manager Brendan Rodgers where he has shown his versatility when he has been used in a forward position. Several assists for Luis Suarez and of course his first Premier League goal against Wigan has forced Vicente Del Bosque to consider him for selection but with Jordi Alba occupying the left back spot for the Spanish national team at the moment, it will prove difficult for the former Villarreal man to break into the World and European Champions’ first XI.
6. Juan Mata (Chelsea)
Mata has been one of the stars of the Premier League this season with ten goals (four more than all of last season) and twelve assists to his name so far for Chelsea. Mata arrived to the London club from Valencia, where he enjoyed considerable success and was duly awarded for his hard work in 2009 with his first international appearance. 2008/09 was probably the winger’s best season as a professional footballer to date, where he scored eleven goals and offered seventeen assists in a Valencia shirt, but this season he looks very capable of improving on that.
7. Santi Cazorla (Arsenal)
Arsenal fans may not have known what a gem they signed when Santi Cazorla joined their squad last summer. A star at Villarreal for years, the 28-year-old moved to ambitious Málaga for the one season last season after they began to spend big. The winger was vital in Málaga’s ascendency to Champions League football for the first time in the club’s history, but his adventure in the south of Spain would end with that, as the bizarre situation at Málaga involving their Qatari owners financial situation, “significant overdue budget balances,” meant that Cazorla had to be sold. Arsene Wenger was the man to benefit from this situation, and Santi has already notched up nine goals for his current club, as many as he managed last season for Los Boquerones.
8. Michu (Swansea)
Miguel Pérez Cuesta is the surprise package of the Premier League this year. After joining Swansea from modest Rayo Vallecano for only €2M, not many people thought much about this new signing for the likable mid-table Welsh team. Those who followed La Liga closely last season, however, would have known that Michu was more than capable of taking the Premier League by storm, and El Austuriano has done exactly that, with an outstanding eighteen goals in thirty-two appearances for the Swans already, including the first goal of this Premier League season. Last year at the Vallecano club, Michu finished the season as fourth-highest Spanish goalscorer in La Liga – as a midfielder. He managed this feat with fifteen league goals, while Llorente and Soldado both got only seventeen, and Rúben scored sixteen. Interestingly, Michu had the chance to play in La Primera División before his time at Rayo Vallecano. While a player at Celta Vigo, Michu was courted by Sporting Gijón, a Primera División club at the time. However, Michu is a staunch Real Oviedo supporter, and refused to sign for Oviedo’s rivals despite the pay-rise and chance to play at a higher level.
Michu (26) will probably never play international football, as despite the rumours that he would be chosen for the Spanish selection in Del Bosque’s latest squad, Málaga’s young star Isco was instead called up. This was most likely due to Isco being a much younger player (20) and can potentially offer more to the national team.
9. Fernando Torres (Chelsea)
When Fernando Torres was at Atlético Madrid it always seemed inevitable that he would end up in the North West of England. But when Rafa Benitez bought him for £20m he turned out to be the striker that Liverpool had been craving for years, much to the annoyance of Sir Alex Ferguson wh0 had courted Torres before. He became an instant kop hero with over 30 goals in his first season and he became the fastest ever player to score 50 goals for England’s most successful club. He continued to score goals, despite numerous injuries but it all turned sour when he decided to join Chelsea for £50m in 2012. He is clearly not the same player; he seems to have lost pace and his goal-scoring record is not as good as it was, but he still remains a world class centre forward on his day. Despite having a torrid time of late, Torres has still managed to perform for the national team, and helped his country to winning their third major international tournament in a row – a feat managed for the first time in history when Spain won the 2012 European Championships.
10. Mikel Arteta (Arsenal)
Mikel Arteta arrived at Everton from Real Sociedad for £1.5m in 2006 and instantly proved to be integral in David Moyes’ plans from the moment he stepped into Goodison Park. Five years of consistent performances meant that he was linked with a move away from Merseyside, wish numerous clubs reportedly interested. On transfer deadline day 2012 Arsene Wenger decided that he was the man to replace the outgoing Cesc Fabregas in the heart of Arsenal’s midfield for a fee of reportedly £10M. Whilst he is not in Cescs’ class he has proven that he is a capable midfielder at the top level of English football.
11. David Silva (Manchester City)
At one point David Silva and Juan Mata gave defenders nightmares together. Between 2007 and 2010, both were Valencia players tearing Spanish defences apart on both wings. Manchester City decided they wanted Silva in their ranks in 2010, and the decision to purchase the quick Canary Island man proved a great one, as his assists and goals guided City to the Premier League crown last season, as well as an FA Cup the year before.
Silva is one of the best creators in the Premier League, and Spanish national team managers recognise this too, as the former Valencia man has already played 69 games for La Roja and played important roles when Spain captured the last two European championships and the last World Cup.
12 – David De Gea (Manchester United)
13 – Oriel Romeu (Chelsea)
14 – Angel Rangel (Swansea)
15 – Pablo Hernandez (Swansea)
16 – Suso Fernandez (Liverpool)
17 – Ivan Ramis (Wigan)
18 – Carlos Cuellar (Sunderland)
– co-written by Robert O’Reardon and Cillian Shields