El Centrocampista

Spanish FA sell out as La Roja become their most valuable asset

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CARLOS JASSO/REUTERS

International friendlies are now a regular fixture of modern day football, and it represents a chance for fans from smaller countries to witness some of the world’s best players – and this was no different in Spain’s tie with Panama on Wednesday night.

The game itself finished 5-1 to Spain with Barcelona’s Pedro bagging a brace, whilst debutant Markel Susaeta of Athletic Bilbao marked his first appearance with a goal. Sergio Ramos and David Villa also got their names on the scoresheet as La Roja predictably won at a canter.

Real Betis midfielder Benat also continued his fledging international career, but many Barcelona players – Victor Valdes, Jordi Alba, Villa and Pedro – were reduced to shortened appearances as the game is once again a signal of the gross misuse of Spain’s new found success.

Since winning Euro 2008, Spain have done nothing but win. The 2010 World Cup soon followed, and this summer’s Euro 2012 triumph simply cemented their position as the best international team in the world.

The reaction has been to send Spain all over the globe on money-spinning ventures, parading them to the corners of the earth as fans around the world clamour to catch a glimpse of the dominating force in international football.

In the past year, Spain have visited England, Costa Rica, Puerto Rico and now Panama to play friendly matches. A team noted for their brilliance have seldom shown that in those friendly games as defeat to England at Wembley was followed with a tepid 2-2 draw with Costa Rica, where Villa needed to score an injury time equaliser to spare their blushes.

In their most recent transatlantic journey, Spain edged out minnows Puerto Rico 2-1 in another disappointing display. Murmurings of discontent in the Spain camp were rife, as the players reportedly starting to feel like objects for RFEF (Real Federación Española de Fútbol) to parade around the world

Despite the reports that the players were against the idea of so much travelling, David Villa noted how much he enjoyed being reunited with the national team recently, having just returned from a terrible injury that has kept him out of the international picture for almost a year.

“I’ve missed all this and really suffered while being out injured all these months. It’s not just the matches you miss but the fun of being with these lads and it’s great for your confidence to get back and enjoy it again.”

However, their clubs don’t quite take the same view as Villa. The players return from long trips exhausted and jet-lagged, rarely in peak physical condition to face the league match that follows. The particularly ‘large’ clubs in La Liga, such as Real Madrid and Barcelona, often feel the force of this situation as so many of their stars are called up for international duty.

The pandemic has now been labelled “the FIFA virus”, and many will be paying close attention to how the players can bounce back from their travelling this weekend. Barcelona face a home game with Zaragoza, whilst Real Madrid entertain Athletic Bilbao. Both games should be routine wins, but will the FIFA virus strike again?

It’s great for nations like Panama to watch the world’s best in front of packed stadiums – Estadio Rommel Fernández Gutiérrez was almost full for last night’s game – but RFEF need to start considering the opinions of their clubs and players rather than just their bank balance.




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