By their high standards, Spain’s last-16 exit at the World Cup was a poor finish. In reality, La Furia Roja were always fighting a losing battle in Russia. Head coach Julen Lopetegui agreed to join Real Madrid just a few days before the start of the Russia 2018.
The decision to fire Lopetegui led to Fernando Hierro’s temporary appointment as head coach. Spain made it out of the group stages, only to lose in last-16 after a defeat by host nation Russia on penalty kicks.
Since the World Cup, former Barcelona boss Luis Enrique has been appointed as the new national team boss. La Furia Roja faces England in the Nations League on Saturday, a game which they are odds of 17/10 odds to win.
Players retiring from the international game
The Spanish squad has undergone many changes since the end of the World Cup. A number of influential players from the golden years have decided to retire from international duty, including centre-back Gerard Pique, and midfield creators Andres Iniesta and David Silva.
All three players were big players for the team. Pique’s position in the team divided opinion in his homeland due to influences outside of football.
Iniesta is quite simple a football icon, although he is now in the twilight of his career and plying his trade in Japan. Silva has been through a lot in the last year, so his retirement is understandable.
Rather strangely Enrique has also omitted Barcelona left-back Jordi Alba and Atletico Madrid midfielder Koke from his squad for the upcoming games.
Spain needs the next generation to step up
Spain has never been short of talented young players coming through the youth ranks. Enrique now has to integrate the younger players into his team and replace their retired compatriots.
One such player who looks primed for a promotion to star performer is Real Madrid playmaker Isco. In fact, in recent years he has become increasingly influential at both club and international level. The former Malaga star has for too long been underrated. Maybe now he can go on and become the teams mainly creative hub.
Another promising player who could attempt to fill the massive gap left by Iniesta and Silva is Real Madrid attacking midfielder Marcos Asensio. The 22-year-old has been on the scene for a while, but the last few seasons he has started flourishing.
The exit of Cristiano Ronaldo from Real Madrid may allow the likes of Isco and Asensio to thrive. If they thrive at club level, then it will only be good for the national side.
Enrique can keep Spain at the top level
Although Spain seems to be going through a transitional period in terms of players coming in and out of their squad, boss Enrique has the coaching ability to keep Spain at the top level of international football.
Enrique has his own way of doing things and he has reportedly already taken a hard-line stance with his new charges. The 48-year-old was immensely successful at Barcelona and is still relatively young for a head coach.
Despite the exit of such high-profile players, the Spanish squad is unlikely to fall apart under the stewardship of Enrique as they still have a squad full of quality players. It will take the former Barcelona boss awhile to instil his ideas and rebuild his squad. However, Enrique seems made for the job and he should turn out to be a very good appointment for La Roja.
Is Luis Enrique the right man to move the Spanish team forward?
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