It’s getting on for two and a half years since Luis Enrique took charge of the national team. It has to be said that there was a brief period when Robert Moreno was at the helm (an episode which ended badly), it’s also fair to say that while he wasn’t physically present, he was there to instruct his deputy from the sidelines. In all of that time, we have yet to see a fully established team. There is no fixed XI whose names can be reeled off with ease – those days have gone, but neither is there is a concrete group of 16 to 18 players who can flit in and out of the side depending on who is available; and while it is open to the odd, emerging promise (for instance Pedri, and before him, Ansu Fati), but overall, there is no solid squad of core players and that has caused a feeling of unease.
Spain's next generation
Luis Enrique explained it to reporters in his usual, sardonic way: “I don’t select the team based on what Pepe, Manuel and Lucas think”. By Pepe, Manuel and Lucas, he means us; for years it has been said that in every Spaniard lurks a national team coach. It was his way of hiding his own doubts - understandable ones. After the generation of players who triumphed in South Africa, there was the Under-21 side who were crowned European champions in 2013 – that side was tipped to eventually take up the baton but ended up falling by the wayside. Since then, there have been glimpses of promise but neither the first-choice players, nor the second-choice or even the most recent arrivals have managed to interconnect to form a strong, solid unit. And what we are left with is a kind of mixed-breed beast, with Sergio Ramos as their figurehead.
Luis Enrique yet to find the right combination
So Luis Enrique has been mixing and matching a group of around 40 players. Those who were at South Africa are getting old, many of the next generation haven’t reached the heights expected of them (Isco, Illarramendi, Asensio...) and the rest have yet to break through. Whatever position you look at, Spain has a number of decent players but hardly ever someone who you could classify as an undisputed first choice. And Luis Enrique’s own doubts aren’t helping some players to produce their best. That’s the situation as things stand - caught between the determination to qualify for Qatar 2022 and knowing which players will be at Euro 2020. For the time being, I would be pleased if he sticks with the Jordi Alba-Pedri-Olmo combination on the left. Let’s hope more solutions appear along the way.