Spain squad: Jordi Alba issue reflecting badly on Luis Enrique
Like everyone else, I could only sit back and admire Jordi Alba - the quality of his play, the form he's in, his enthusiasm - as I watched him at Wembley. Lionel Messi's partner-in-crime-in-chief, he's a top-class left-back who, on top of the tools required at the highest level in his role, is blessed with that extra bit of pace and vision. Yet he's out of the Spain fold, having again been omitted by Luis Enrique, whose second squad as La Roja boss features two and a half left-backs in Marcos Alonso, José Luis Gayá and Jonny Otto. Two and a half: it rather smacks of overpopulating the position to mask the striking omission of the obvious first choice, a lad who has filled the role, and always done well, since Vicente del Bosque's tenure.
I like the job Luis Enrique is doing - except for this...
I like everything that Luis Enrique is doing as Spain coach. Except this. And he's clearly uneasy about it. When he was asked about Alba, he said he wasn't going to talk about players who weren't in the squad (!?). Soon after, however, he was asked about Joaquín - who's a universally popular figure but dropped out of the Spain picture more than ten years ago - and on this occasion he did play ball, offering the appropriate words of praise for the Betis idol, who fully merits them. When someone pointed out the contradiction of his willingness to discuss Joaquín and his side-stepping of the Alba question, he shrugged it off by saying he'd make sure to do better next time. And well he should. He didn't get that right at all yesterday.
What makes the situation so distasteful is the ominous inference that Luis Enrique has brought problems he had with Alba in his previous job into his new one as national coach. The magnanimous, intelligent thing to do would surely have been to declare all that water under the bridge. It would be less of an issue, I suppose, if the long-time incumbent of Spain's left-back berth were on the way down, in poor form, dogged by injury or something of that sort. But Alba is in thoroughly superb nick, so much so that Luis Enrique can't bring himself to say - as he could, and even should - that he thinks Alonso, Gayá and Jonny are simply better bets in the position. But he hasn't said that, and tries to hide the truth with fudged responses.