How can Spain boss Luis Enrique find no place for Chelsea's Marcos Alonso?
Background photo: Vespa, CC: BY-SA-3.0
People who play Fantasy Premier League will tell you Marcos Alonso is the most expensive defender in the League. He also earns the most points (86) for a player in his position. Fantasy Premier League isn’t Football Manager. In FPL, players earn points based on their performance in the Premier League. With an obvious bias towards his attacking abilities, the game hints Alonso could be the most important defender in the Premier League. Luis Enrique remains unimpressed.
What earns a player a national call-up?
National team invites are usually handed to the highest-bidding players. Bidding isn’t made with money (except where corruption thrives). In this case, form, fitness and strength of competition are the currency.
For big football countries, all are important for selection. Smaller countries must compromise by selecting players from lower leagues. We're not talking about Spain, of course. Spanish players outside Europe’s top five leagues can forget about their international career. With the rare exception for someone like David Villa, they won't receive an invitation. Even those who play in the top leagues for average clubs don’t stand a chance. You must be starting and producing consistently. Even then, it's difficult to break into the team. Which brings us back to Alonso.
Spain, like England, favours players in the top domestic teams, Barcelona, Real and Atletico Madrid players typically dominate the roster. Players in foreign leagues are invited if they’re truly exceptional. That explains David De Gea and David Silva. For the World Cup, Alonso, Alvaro Morata and Cesc Fabregas were overlooked. Chelsea’s Mr Consistent, Cesar Azpilicueta, was invited but didn’t play a single minute.
Why Alonso is being ignored
In the Nations League, Luis Enrique is broadening his horizons, summoning fewer players from Spain's top three clubs in favour of auditioning other clubs' stars both within La Liga and without. Morata, Azpilicueta and new Chelsea No.1, Kepa, were called. so was Wolves star Jonny. Marcos Alonso remained persona non grata.
Julen Lopetegui handed Alonso his full debut in March. The manager later blamed the fullback’s omission from Spain’s World Cup squad on Antonio Conte’s system at Chelsea. According to the calamitous former Real Madrid gaffer, Alonso was used to the 3-4-3 formation and wouldn’t fit into a four-man rearguard. It was a lame excuse. Alonso is flourishing in Maurizio Sarri’s back four.
Enrique did call up Alonso in August. He started him in the game against England in September. Spain won. For some reason, he sat out the next match. The return of Jordi Alba's return to full fitness apparently ruled him out for this session.
What’s in Alonso’s international future?
Alonso plays for a big club in Europe. He’s a first-team regular and, to reiterate, in good form. In terms of technique, pace, tackling and goal threat La Roja don’t have a better left back. Alba isn’t the player he once was. The Barcelona man is diminishing by the day and increasing in age. He's already 29.
The good news for Alonso is that Enrique is still finding his feet in his new job. He’s clearly experimenting with most of his selections. Soon enough, he'll wonder if there's something better on the left flank. Alonso isn't in the same position as Mikel Arteta, a fine playmaker forever blocked by Xavi Hernandez, Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas, David Silva, Xabi Alonso and a younger Juan Mata. If the 27-year-old remains steadfast and continues to produce, he should get his chance.