Just over a month after being appointed as the new head coach of Spain, Julen Lopetegui has named his first squad, from which there have been three extremely notable omissions.
Specifically the former Porto manager has overlooked Iker Casillas, as well as the Chelsea duo of Cesc Fabregas and Pedro, for Spain’s upcoming matches against Belgium and Liechtenstein next month.
Lopetegui designs new Spanish squad
In total Lopetegui has made nine changes from his predecessor Vicente Del Bosque’s last squad, as the 49-year-old aims to guide Spain to qualification for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
As well as deciding not to select either Casillas, – who is his country’s record appearance holder with 167 caps – or the experienced pair of Fabregas and Pedro, Lopetegui has also left out of his maiden squad another half-a-dozen players who were members of Del Bosque’s Euro 2016 group. Those players are Aritz Aduriz, Hector Bellerin, Juanfran, Mikel San Jose, Sergio Rico and Bruno Soriano.
In place of those players, Lopetegui has invited into his squad nine others, who either did not feature regularly or at all, for Spain towards the end of Del Bosch’s era.
Whilst recalling Marcos Asensio, Dani Carjaval, Diego Costa, Javi Martinez, Juan Mata, Pepe Reina, Sergi Roberto and Vitolo, Lopetegui has also included in his 24-man squad the uncapped pair of West Ham goalkeeper Adrian and Saul Niguez, who is a 21-year-old midfielder for Atletico Madrid.
Del Bosque succeeded by Lopetegui
As such, there is a distinctly different look to Lopetegui’s squad from the one which Del Bosque last named, which represents the start of a new era for La Rioja, after their disappointing Euro 2016 campaign. Although that campaign began positively with group stage wins over both the Czech Republic and Turkey, it derailed thereafter.
Specifically whilst Spain lost their final group stage game to Croatia, when Del Bosque’s players appeared to lose much of their composure and confidence, they were then eliminated from the tournament in the second round by virtue of being comprehensively beaten 2-0 by a tactically superior Italian side.
Almost in the immediate aftermath of that defeat Del Bosque resigned, just as he announced his intention to do at the end of 2015, as Real Federacion Espanola de Futbol begun their search for the 65-year-old successor.
That search ceased last month when Lopetegui, who has previously coached Spain’s U-19, U-20 & U-21 teams, was confirmed as the new manager of Spain, for whom the former Barcelona goalkeeper played once in 1994, at which time he was excelling in goal for Logrones.
Lopetegui’s modest managerial career
After retiring as a player in 2002, the next year Lopetegui assumed the role of assistant to Spain’s U-17 manager Jan Santisteban, whilst also taking charge of Rayo Vallecano. Nevertheless his managerial reign of the Madrid-based club lasted just six months.
Lopetegui’s next managerial job was with Real Madrid Castilla, of whom he took charge for the 2008-2009 season, before going on to coach various Spanish youth teams from 2010 to 2014. In the middle of the latter year, Lopetegui was appointed head coach of Porto, although he was relieved of that duty in January, after being unable to guide the Portuguese giants to win a single piece of silverware during his season-and-a-half in charge of the club.
Therefore given his relatively limited managerial experience, the world of football will observe the evolution of Lopetegui’s era as manager of Spain with the utmost interest.