surinenglish

A new reign in Spain

Iniesta, Piqué, David Silva - 358 caps lost to retirement.
Iniesta, Piqué, David Silva - 358 caps lost to retirement. / Agencies
  • A LOOK AT LA LIGA

  • Luis Enrique's new-look national squad has lost a lot of experience and not many of their replacements set the pulse racing

For the first time in over a decade, if you were to pick a combined 'Spanglish' eleven, the balance would probably be tipped to the English.

If you'd asked me a year ago, I would have argued that the Spanish stars would dominate every department with the possible exception of the strike force.

In just a couple of months the whole perspective has changed. Most experts would even favour the current England coach over the uncertain international methods of Luis Enrique.

Since winning the Euros in 2008 there has been an almost seamless transition with the Spain national team at playing and coaching levels. When one celebrated international retired there was always another who had bided his time and was ready to step up.

There was a formula to follow and it worked.

Now there is a great cloud of uncertainty. 'Lucho' Enrique is as far removed from the blazer brigade as you could get and he brings an ambiguous approach to the leadership of his country.

Half of the team from the final game of last summer's World Cup have gone. He can't rely on the old boys network as Gerard Piqué and Andrés Iniesta have retired from international football leaving only Sergio Busquets and the recalled Sergi Roberto as representatives of FC Barcelona.

He obviously bears grudges as Jordi Alba is overlooked, as indeed he was for the main part of Enrique's final season at the Camp Nou. It can't be form related as the flying full-back thrived in the title season that has just passed. Any questions have been met with a stony silence by the incoming coach.

Equally as bizarre is the non-selection of Koke, who was a first choice in Russia and would understand the movement of Atlético team-mate Saúl Ñíguez who is the obvious replacement for another retiree, David Silva.

Just count the number of caps worth of experience that has been lost! Piqué (102 caps), David Silva (125), Iniesta (131), Jordi Alba (66) and Koke (43). That's 358 caps through retirement and 109 caps through managerial preference. Diego Costa (24 caps) is also unavailable for personal reasons.

The players above would have walked into any national team in contrast to the replacements.

Going back to the best combined eleven and you wouldn't be convinced that Diego Llorente, Marcos Alonso, Dani Ceballos, Suso and Rodrigo would make it into Gareth Southgate's plans.

Southgate brought fresh air to the England set-up in contrast to the air of mystery that comes with Luis Enrique.

Maybe he could have used the Catalan connection to give Piqué and Iniesta a send-off which in turn would have eased the transition? Instead he brings an individualistic approach.

I'm not sure that anyone quite understands the entire logic of the new UEFA Nations League but the concept ensures that everything is competitive, especially with England and Croatia as opponents.

At the end of last summer I argued that only Harry Kane would improve the strongest Spain starting eleven. Now there would be a peg for more than half of the England team in the Spanglish changing room.