BBC BLOGS - Phil Minshull
« Previous | Main | Next »

Spain and Del Bosque enjoy calm before the storm

Post categories:

Phil Minshull | 16:37 UK time, Thursday, 27 May 2010

Spain's national coach Vicente Del Bosque can still only talk about Real president Florentino Perez through gritted teeth, but this week he has probably been silently thanking his former adversary and nemesis.

The construction magnate gave the beloved former Real player his marching orders as the Spanish giant's coach back in 2003 after deciding not to renew his contract just a day after he won the club its 29th league title.

The incident remains a sore point with Del Bosque which a good run at the World Cup will only partially erase.

However, thanks to Perez, the gaze of the Spanish media has been partly diverted from La Roja's World Cup preparations at the Spanish federation's training centre in the western suburb of Las Rozas, by all the hysteria just a few miles across the city in the vicinity of the Santiago Bernabeu stadium.

Vicente Del BosqueSpain coach Vicente Del Bosque conducts a training session at Las Rozas

The sacking of Manuel Pellegrini and imminent arrival of Jose Mourinho has given Del Bosque a bit of a breathing space at a time when he needs it.

Despite being the reigning European champions and a decent bet at any bookies to end the European nations' record of never having won the World Cup on another continent, the fitness of several players and Spain's ability to fulfil those heady predictions of global success is under severe scrutiny.

After getting a unexpected break at the right time, Del Bosque has been able to commence preparations for the World Cup in something approaching relative tranquillity, at least by Spanish standards.

The likes of Fernando Torres and Cesc Fabregas limped into the Spanish football federation's training facility on Monday, still facing a barrage of television cameras and photographers but there was nothing like the sense, as there has been so often in the past, that they were the only story of the day.

In fact, Spain's biggest newspaper, the sports daily Marca, almost unbelievably waited until page 12 of its edition on Tuesday before getting seriously into its World Cup coverage.

It certainly has proved to be a blessing for the Spanish players, many of whom are still bearing the scars of a long season either in La Liga or the Premier League.

It took until Thursday morning for the entire 23-man party to gather on the pitch with their boots on all at the same time.

Torres managed to train for 45 minutes for the first time this week before ambling off to get some physiotherapy.

Earlier this week, he said: "I'm sure I'll be 100% by the first game in South Africa and hope to play some minutes in the friendlies."

This reassured some people but lead to other, perhaps more astute, commentators to ponder the fact that, despite Torres being an all around 'bueno tio' - good guy - he had been known to provide some overly optimistic assessments of his own fitness on several occasions this season.

The squad now depart for Austria on Friday and play Saudi Arabia in Innsruck on Saturday before a slightly more testing encounter with South Korea on 3 June.

Much of the attention in Spain has so far been, apart from a few walking wounded, on the new men in the squad.

Last week, Del Bosque announced a contingent that had only had a handful of changes from the one he took to South Africa last summer for the Confederations Cup.

He named three uncapped players but even then there were only two genuine surprises.

The current form of Barcelona's Pedro got him the nod over Fenerbahce's Daniel Guiza, the latter admitting that he was the Spanish equivalent of 'gutted' and had no inkling that he was the one that was about to get the axe.

By contrast, Athletic Bilbao's Javier Martinez had resigned himself to going on holiday to California with his mates this week and was expecting Villarreal's Marcos Senna, Spain's hero from two years ago and arguably the most outstanding player at Euro 2008, to hold his place despite - like Torres and Cesc - not being currently fully fit.

Manuel PellegriniRumours abound as to where sacked Real Madrid coach Manuel Pellegrini will end up

Instead, it was Senna who cut a dejected figure last Thursday when the squad was announced, revealing that Del Bosque had sympathetically told him that his handful of club games this season were just not quite enough to maintain his place.

Javi Martinez, by contrast, has spent most of this week with a grin permanently etched across his face and, as the Spanish like to say, being as happy as a child with new shoes.

As an aside, it's impossible to resist repeating some sort of speculation about the future of Pellegrini now that his fate has been sealed.

In the aftermath of his sacking on Wednesday, there is talk that he will return to South America and take on a national team job after the World Cup. Argentina? Chile? Uruguay? You can take your pick from the rumours.

Pellegrini also made the interesting comment late on Wednesday night that: "I haven't talked to Perez since last August."

Pellegrini didn't elaborate much further on his relationship with Perez but this doesn't seem to me to be the way to develop a strong bond with the coach of your club. It does make me wonder how things will function between Perez and Mourinho.

Comments on this blog in the space provided. Other questions on European football to: I don't need your full address but please put the town/city and country where you come from.

I've been saving this question for a few weeks as I knew at some stage I was going to be blogging on Spain's World Cup squad.

Q) With such an envious list of talent it begs the question is Spain's starting XI nailed on? What is your take on players such as Jesus Navas for example - surely he is a precocious talent and would flourish on the right hand side of a traditional midfield or a triumvirate? Also, from reading your past blogs, people have been mentioning Busquets as possibly usurping Xavi in the starting line up?
Carl Harvey, Walton-on-Thames, UK

A) As I see it, much depends on the fitness of Torres and Cesc. Since Del Bosque took over from his predecessor Luis Aragones after Euro 2008, Cesc has become a key figure in the starting line-up.

In the last year or so, with the emergence of the Barcelona pair Gerard Pique and Sergio Busquets, Del Bosque has often opted for a 4-1-2-3 starting line-up that looks something like this:

Casillas, Sergio Ramos, Puyol, Pique, Capdevilla, Busquets, Xavi, Xabi Alonso or Cesc, Villa, Torres, Iniesta or Silva.

If Torres and Cesc still have question marks about their ability to last 90 minutes then we could see Del Bosque changing his tactics around to a 4-1-4-1 with Villa acting as a lone target man and Iniesta playing a bit deeper.

Busquets generally plays a little deeper with Spain than he does at Barca so there is no question of him 'usurping' Xavi.

As you say, Jesus Navas is a precocious talent and he fully deserves his place in the squad but my feeling is that he is likely to be playing a back-up role down the right flank to David Silva.


or register to comment.

More from this blog...

Topical posts on this blog


These are some of the popular topics this blog covers.

Latest contributors

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.