The World Cup snubbed XI: Stars not heading to Russia
International managers all have some ridiculously tough decisions to make, although picking a squad for a major tournament is easily among the worst.
Does he opt for a side that is loaded with the best players and hope he can figure a way to make them all work as a cohesive unit?
Or does he choose 23 players that he believes not only gives him the best tactical options, but the best chance at world glory? It is an eternal debate with many different opinions.
In either eventuality, there is always a long list of players to miss out for various reasons and the World Cup in Russia this summer is no different.
Before Pep Guardiola arrived at Manchester City, Joe Hart was firmly established as the number one for club and country.
However, the Catalan questioned his ability on his arrival at the Etihad and so began the downward spiral for the 31-year-old.
Disastrous loan spells at both Torino and West Ham United in the past two seasons have left him completely out of the international picture.
In that time, Jordan Pickford is now established as the long-term option and even should he fail in Russia, there is Jack Butland, Nick Pope or Tom Heaton for Gareth Southgate to call upon.
As a result, Hart will spend this summer watching England from afar and knowing his international career is likely at an end.
Most fullbacks that managed four goals and six assists playing in a title-winning Juventus side, would be almost guaranteed a World Cup place.
Unfortunately for Alex Sandro, he’s Brazilian and manager Tite just doesn’t fancy him.
With Marcelo established as the first choice option at left back, the Brazil boss has plumped for Atletico Madrid’s Filipe Luis as his back up, presumably as an antidote to the Real Madrid fullbacks allergies to defending.
That, unfortunately, means Sandro has been left at home. Perhaps a big money move to Manchester United will soothe the pain of missing out?
Aymeric Laporte would have fancied his chances at getting into France’s squad for this summer when he joined Manchester City for £58million at the end of January.
Working under Guardiola and playing a part in a Premier League title-winning side should have given him the chance of earning his first international call-up.
Instead, the move to the Etihad appears to have further hindered his chances.
He may have finished the season with a winners medal but just nine Premier League appearances have seen him miss out, with Didier Deschamps plumping for Presnel Kimpembe and Benjamin Pavard instead.
The fact that both are two years younger than the former Athletic Bilbao centre-half with far less experience will have no doubt stung.
You have to have something about you to rack up 56 appearances for Brazil and that can certainly be said about David Luiz.
He may be eccentric and a little bit wild at times but at his core, Luiz is a talented player. Unfortunately for him, he wasn’t allowed to show it at Chelsea this season.
After impressing in their title success last season a falling out with Antonio Conte led to him making just 17 appearances in all competitions this season.
That is the principal reason Tite has looked elsewhere and with Luiz now 31-years-old, he’ll be wondering if he’s missed his last opportunity at World Cup glory with his country.
It seems Roberto Martinez is a man who is not impressed by mere numbers alone. If he were, Radja Nainggolan would be in his Belgium squad.
Six goals and 11 assists in a Roma side that reached the semi-finals of the Champions League is an impressive tally by anyone’s reckoning.
What is not so impressive is Nainggolan’s lifestyle away from the pitch, with his smoking a particular issue.
Add in an apparent love of partying and missing his country’s last training session for unexplained reasons and there was enough justification for Martinez to leave him out and plump for Marouane Fellaini instead.
Fabregas is another player who appears to have suffered as a result of Chelsea’s poor second season under Antonio Conte.
He may be 31-years-old now and not quite the player he once was but Fabregas is still a top footballer on his day. He would definitely feel he’s good enough to still make the difference for Spain too.
Unfortunately, on the back of a season that has seen him manage just two goals and four assists in the Premier League, though, his chances were always slim.
Add in the quality of the players that got in ahead of him, namely Andres Iniesta, David Silva, Thiago and Saul and it’s easy to see why Julen Lupetegui has left Fabregas behind.
Four years ago Mario Gotze was a World Cup hero, his goal in the final earning Germany their fourth crown.
The intervening years have not been kind to the one-time wonderkid, though. It didn’t work out at Bayern Munich and his return to Borussia Dortmund has been less than successful.
With just two goals and four assists to his name in the Bundesliga this season and a raft of injury issues, it’s easy to see why Joachim Loew has overlooked the star from Brazil 2014.
Indeed, that final in the Maracaña may be the highest Gotze ever reaches in a career that is now dwindling. At this stage, his international chances are certainly in the dumps.
In just ahead of Antony Martial, Kingsley Coman can consider himself extremely unfortunate to have not made France’s squad.
He had been enjoying a strong season with Bayern Munich, with seven goals and eight assists in all competitions decent enough stats.
Then a ligament tear in February caused him to miss 16 games and put his World Cup place in doubt. He returned in May but Didier Deschamps' doubts saw him looking elsewhere.
Fortunately for Coman he’s 21-years-old and likely to be a regular for the French in future. He can also take comfort in the fact he’s just won his sixth league title in a row and has more trophies than people double his age.
Arguably the most shocking of all the exclusions in this list, the whole footballing world can’t quite get their head around why Leroy Sane is not going to the World Cup.
Sane was nothing short of superb for Manchester City last, bagging 14 goals and 19 assists in all competitions and deservedly picking up the Premier League’s Young Player of the Year award.
He was also far ahead of the man who got in ahead of him, Julian Brandt, especially in terms of numbers. Brandt managed 12 goals and seven assists in comparison.
Yet Joachim Loew went for the latter, suggesting it was Brandt’s working in a recent training camp that put him in front in the ‘head to head’ race between the pair. Nope, we’re not buying it either.
Such is the strength in depth in France’s squad these days; Alexandre Lacazette was always fighting to get himself to Russia.
He did, though, put up a good contest. Finishing the campaign as Arsenal’s top goalscorer with 17 goals in total and also registering five assists was a decent enough attempt at catching Didier Deschamps’ eye.
They were not good enough it seems. Instead, Lacazette will be watching from home like the rest of us.
Having said that he can still consider himself unlucky, especially when both Olivier Giroud and Ousmane Dembele have made it into the squad despite posting worse numbers than Lacazette last season.
In footballing terms, Mauro Icardi should have been a shoe-in for a place in Argentina’s World Cup squad.
29 goals in 36 games in all competitions for a disappointing Inter Milan side is the kind of form that should have made him a cert. But then politics have played their part.
First, there’s the suggestion that several Argentinian players haven’t forgiven him for stealing Maxi Lopez’s wife. Then there’s the belief that he and Lionel Messi just don’t get along.
Those two factors meant his numbers become irrelevant and he has been left out.
Not that Argentina are likely to miss him too much, with a forward line of Messi, Paulo Dybala, Gonzalo Higuain and Sergio Aguero to pick from in his absence.