A LOOK AT LA LIGA
One huge order of humble paella is on order for those of us who dared to question Luis Enrique's first Spain squad.
The Spain national team celebrated victories against two World Cup semi-finalists as the new manager initiated his ‘evolution not revolution’ approach to rejuvenate the team.
He was like a skilled cosmetic surgeon; ironing out the wrinkles, cutting off the fat and unveiling a more youthful and exuberant model that everybody likes the look of.
It was a brave operation as he chose to ignore the likes of Jordi Alba and Koke who are players still in their prime. He also had to find a solution to life without Gerard Piqué, David Silva and Andrés Iniesta.
The solution was instant as he gave the kids a chance and stamped his own identity on a team that ultimately played with a previously familiar style.
This looks like a very exciting next generation with Saúl Ñíguez, Marco Asensio, Dani Ceballos, José Luis Gayà and Rodri who are all aged twenty-three or under.
Saúl, the star of the previous summer’s Under-21 European Championships, was strangely overlooked at the 2018 World Cup. He responded with goals against England and Croatia. You can see why his club Atlético signed him to a nine-year deal.
We all know that Asensio is going to be a superstar of the future, but for both club and country it appears he’s always having to wait for the chance to fully establish himself.
Against Croatia, Asensio ran the show. He scored one goal, should be able to claim a second that cannoned in off the goalkeeper’s back and assisted in three of the six scored. Just as Xavi Hernández was succeeded by Iniesta, Asensio can inherit the throne for the next generation.
Despite flooring Croatia with six stunning goals it wasn’t a perfect performance. There were a few uncertain moments in the opening quarter of an hour when Sergi Busquets, of all players, got himself in a tangle. He was bailed out by David De Gea who was back to his world-class best in both games.
Even Busquets, the pillar of the Spain midfield isn’t certain of his position in the reign of King Luis. He was the only Barcelona representative in the starting line-up and Rodri pulled off an uncanny impression of the tall, ball-winning anchor man when he was introduced to the position.
The future of the empire has been questioned as there have been problems with the constitution. Luis Enrique has rightly ascended, he understands the rule of succession. The establishment was thrown into chaos in the summer with the Lopetegui chapter and a nation is left collectively asking “what if?” The outgoing leader departed undefeated but left the team without leadership.
The new man has grasped the situation immediately and as he states, it isn’t a revolution but an evolution.