It makes for a decent trivia question: Name the one member of Spain’s starting line-up from the Euro 2012 final that didn’t come from either Barcelona or Real Madrid.
Or name the two non-Clasico players from Spain’s victory over Holland in the 2010 World Cup final.
In the first instance, the odd man out was Manchester City’s David Silva and when he was substituted off for Barcelona’s Pedro after an hour of their 4-0 win over Italy, that was a full house.
The Spain line-up for the Euro 2012 final featured six Barcelona and four Real Madrid players. (Back row, left to right) Iker Casillas, Alvaro Arbeloa, Xabi Alonso, Sergio Ramos, Sergio Busquets, Gerard Pique; (Front row, left to right) David Silva, Andres Iniesta, Xavi Hernandez, Cesc Fabregas, Jordi Alba
The Spain team that lifted the World Cup in 2010 was similarly dominated by the Clasico pair
Two years earlier, left-back Joan Capdevila of Villarreal and striker David Villa of Valencia were the exceptions – and even then, Villa had agreed to join Barcelona before the tournament.
It was an era when the strength of Barcelona and Real Madrid domestically and in the Champions League fed directly into the strength of the Spain team, which stylishly won three consecutive tournaments between 2008 and 2012.
Of the 23-man Spain squads for the 2010 and 2012 competitions, 12 players came from the country’s two leading clubs. How times have changed.
Things are a bit more egalitarian in the squad these days – the players picked by coach Luis Enrique for the upcoming friendly against Portugal and the UEFA Nations League games with Switzerland and Ukraine are derived from 18 different clubs, including 10 outside Spain.
There are as many players from Leeds United as there are from Barcelona and Real Madrid amid 10 picked from the Premier League. The days of Barcelona and Real having a vice-like grip on the national team are long gone.
Current Spain coach Luis Enrique has reduced the national team’s reliance on the big two
His latest squad has been picked from far and wide, with 18 different clubs represented
David de Gea (Manchester United), Kepa Arrizabalaga (Chelsea), Unai Simon (Athletic Bilbao)
Sergio Ramos (captain, Real Madrid), Jesus Navas (Sevilla), Dani Carvajal (Real Madrid), Jose Luis Gaya (Valencia), Diego Llorente (Leeds United), Pau Torres (Villarreal), Eric Garcia (Manchester City), Sergio Reguilon (Tottenham)
Sergio Busquets (vice-captain, Barcelona), Rodri (Manchester City), Dani Ceballos (Arsenal), Fabian Ruiz (Napoli), Dani Olmo (RB Leipzig), Sergio Canales (Real Betis), Mikel Merino (Real Sociedad), Jose Campana (Levante)
Rodrigo (Leeds United), Mikel Oyarzabal (Real Sociedad), Gerard Moreno (Villarreal), Ansu Fati (Barcelona), Ferran Torres (Manchester City), Adama Traore (Wolves)
Luis Enrique famously played for both clubs – and managed Barcelona – but has been determined to reduce the dependence on the big two.
Even at the World Cup two years ago, the squad picked by Julen Lopetegui and utilised by interim coach Fernando Hierro featured a core of 10 players – six from Real and four from Barca.
While Luis Enrique has remained loyal to some members of the old guard, including 172-cap Sergio Ramos and 117-cap Sergio Busquets, there is undoubtedly a fresh complexion to his squad.
It isn’t necessarily packed with kids but rather players in good early season form for their clubs who will be given an opportunity in the triple-header to stake their claim with the rescheduled Euro 2020 on the horizon.
A number of stalwarts of the Spain side have made way this time as a result, including Jordi Alba, Alvaro Morata, Isco, Saul Niguez and Koke though most of those remain very much in contention for the Euros.
For now, the contenders have their chance to shine. 17 of the 25-strong squad have 10 caps or less with Levante’s Jose Campana and Adama Traore of Wolves, who has chosen Spain over Mali, uncapped.
There is rightly plenty of excitement around Barcelona’s 17-year-old Ansu Fati, whose career is making progress at a remarkable rate.
But it’s only him and Busquets from Barcelona, and Ramos and Dani Carvajal from Real, this time around.
Pretty much unprecedented is the scope of Premier League players. Manchester United keeper David de Gea is the most obvious, but there’s also Leeds new boys Diego Llorente and Rodrigo, Tottenham’s Sergio Reguilon, Arsenal’s Dani Ceballos and Manchester City youngsters Ferran Torres and Eric Garcia.
While there’s Fabian Ruiz of Napoli and Dani Olmo of RB Leipzig, this latest squad is very much picked from LaLiga and the Premier League – and almost equally.
Leeds United striker Rodrigo is among 10 English-based players called up to the latest squad
Adama Traore of Wolves will be hoping to win his first cap for Spain in the upcoming matches
Sergio Reguilon, recently arrived at Tottenham, is another Premier League player picked
But perhaps all this isn’t very surprising when you look at the make-up of the current Barcelona and Real Madrid squads, which are far more cosmopolitan than a decade ago.
The outstanding Barcelona side under Pep Guardiola that won the 2011 Champions League was infused with a golden generation of Spanish players from Gerard Pique and Carles Puyol at the back through that wonderful midfield of Xavi, Andres Iniesta and Busquets to Pedro and David Villa up front.
The Real Madrid squad from the same season is similar, featuring Iker Casillas in goal, Ramos in defence plus Xabi Alonso, Alvaro Arbeloa and Raul Albiol among others.
Real Madrid’s Sergio Ramos continues to captain Spain, with 172 games under his belt
Barcelona midfielder Sergio Busquets is another of the old guard in a rapidly-shifting squad
Look at Barcelona nowadays and beyond Busquets, Alba, Pique and Fati there are slim pickings. Real has Ramos, Carvajal, Isco, Lucas Vazquez, Marco Asensio and Nacho.
It means the Spain squad has become less reliant on these two clubs and the net has been cast wider.
Luis Enrique appears determined to search out a new generation and it’s refreshing to see.
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