The Spanish national side have been a dominant force in international football for four years, but a new issue has arisen in the team selection.
After years of the team picking itself, there is a dilemma for coach Vicente Del Bosque. Who should partner David Villa up front?
Villa has been the outstanding Spanish striker for years now, and his continued good form and enhanced all-round play at Barcelona has ensured he will invariably be one the first names on the team-sheet.
Spain usually line-up in a 4-3-3 formation, with one of the attacking slots usually filled by an attacking midfielder, with Premier League stars, Juan Mata and David Silva, set to battle it out for that responsibility.
But one place still remains in the forward roles, and it is up to the glut of strikers that Spain possesses to earn their right to fill that particular void.
We at FootyMatters have a look at the candidates:
This debate would not be happening if he hadn’t had a complete transformation from the player that was destroying all defences in his path two years ago. The Villa-Torres partnership was generally trusted, despite the two players not really having much of a bond on the pitch.
But after Torres misfired miserably at the World Cup in South Africa, his club form has gone south and he has struggled to look like the player he was when he arrived at Anfield with a bang back in 2007. His international form shows a return of only four goals in his last 16 games for the country, spanning two years.
He has, however, shown some recent signs that he is regaining his form for Chelsea with goals in consecutive games, before that rash lunge against Swansea, so Del Bosque might be willing to recall the player that won Euro 2008 for Spain, with the only goal against Germany.
He seems to have often been the striker of choice to replace Torres in the national team after stepping up for Athletic Bilbao. The player nicknamed ‘Superman’ due to his physical prowess is the complete striker package - quick feet, strength, and aerial dominance.
However, 2011 hasn’t really been his year either, as his form has tailed off in the wake of constant speculation linking him with big clubs. Some believe that he gets overawed on the international stage as opposed to the insular world of the Basque nation.
It would appear he needs to leave Athletic to further his international prospects. Otherwise he may well need to settle for the role of substitute on a regular basis, when Spain require a slightly more ugly style of play to get the result.
A fixture in the Barcelona side for over three years now, he always seems to be the forgotten man when discussing the Catalan club. When a side has so many star players, Pedro is rarely spoken about, despite probably being able to walk into any other team.
Every summer, it is spoken about who will be signed to replace him, yet Thierry Henry and Zlatan Ibrahimovic have had to make way, due to the form of the diminutive Tenerife-born forward. The arrival of Alexis Sanchez from Udinese has put his position under threat again, and the return from injury of the Chilean could make things difficult.
But sharp, small and lightening quick he could do damage to any defence in the world, if given the chance to shine. One suspects Del Bosque – a former Real Madrid manager – may not want his side over-populated with Barca players though.
He has started the last three games for Spain, on the back of a fantastic 2011. He ended the 2010/11 season with a career best 27 goals in all competitions, gaining him a recall to the side and a chance to add to his three caps. Those three games have seen him score three times, so he seems to be the front-runner for this position at the moment.
But he is a player known to have hot and cold patches, so one can only wonder how long this purple patch will last. His temper can also be a downside to his game, something that will need to be kept in check if he is keep hold of this much sought after position for La Rojas.
MANU DEL MORAL
Earned call-ups to the national side earlier this summer, on the back of a good season in a struggling Getafe side, which also got him a move up the table to join Sevilla. However, the season has started slowly for him, seeing his spot in the Sevilla side taken by the veteran Fredi Kanoute.
This in turn has seen him fall back out of favour with the national side, and that one substitute appearance against Liechtenstein may well end up a treasured item, as the only cap he earns for the national side.
Once again over-looked for the squad, which is quite frankly a massive oversight in my opinion. Soldado has enjoyed an Indian Summer since returning ‘home’ to Valencia, having been born there before being poached as a youngster by Real Madrid. In fact, he worked under Del Bosque while he was youth team manager, which makes his continued omission from the national team even more bizarre.
After an initial struggle to settle back into the Valencia side, Soldado has enjoyed a fantastic 2011, scoring most of his 18 league strikes last season in the second half of the campaign. He has also continued that form over into this season, netting five goals in his first three league matches, as well as scoring (from the penalty spot) against Chelsea in the Champions League.
If he keeps this form going, he must earn a call-up to the national side next time around, and be given the chance to add to the two caps he won back in 2007. He’s quick, has a natural eye for goal, and has the Tim Cahill-esque quality of being good in the air, despite a distinct lack of height.
Who do you think should partner David Villa up front for Spain? Answers on a postcard…Or in the comments section below if you’d prefer.
Tags: Alvaro Negredo, David Villa, Fernando Llorente, Fernando Torres, La Liga, Manu Del Moral, Pedro, Roberto Soldado, Spain