Spaniards in Russia
Although La Roja were knocked out of the World Cup in Russia, some Spaniards remain. The biggest name is Belgium coach Roberto Martínez, from Lleida, Catalonia, a defensive midfielder in his playing days who plied his trade, with differing fortunes, at Wigan, Walsall, Motherwell and Chester City, before moving into coaching and impressing with his approach at Swansea, Wigan and Everton. I met him while he was at the Toffees, through Guillem Balagué. At that time he had Deulofeu in his squad, and I remember him warning us about this unruly talent returning to Spain prematurely. And he was right. After his spell at Everton he was picked up by the Belgium national side.
Martínez works with two other Spaniards, Bergara, his goalkeeping coach, and Jesús Seba, whose time with Martínez goes back to his Wigan and Everton days. The three make up a distinguished trio of Spaniards still in Russia, although we do also have Paulino Granero, a physio with a Russia side with the record for the team to have covered the most ground in the tournament. Granero joined CSKA Moscow in 2010 after being recommended by Juande Ramos on his way out of the club, and was instated by Fabio Capello during his time with the Russia national team.
The Spanish 'shipwreck'
The four mentioned above, if I’m not mistaken, are the beacons of the Spanish shipwreck, and we can also add referee Mateu Lahoz and assistant referees Roberto Díaz and Pau Cebrián. The remnants of the ‘Spanish Armada’ which set out for Russia with Napoleonic faith and sank, not into the snap of the General Winter but into the trap of its own confusion. The World Cup goes on, however, and in Roberto Martínez and his fellow countrymen, who have all gone their own ways, our image remains intact. Given that there are also twenty-five LaLiga players still competing – the highest number of any league – we continue to be glued to our screens.