At the time of writing, Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Barcelona’s Luis Suárez are even in the Pichichi race (La Liga top scorer) with 19 goals apiece. Of course, you’re used to seeing Lionel Messi in the running, but because of his knee injuries this fall, he’s slightly behind the curve with 12. Barcelona won’t mind, though. Neymar has picked up the slack this season and has recorded 16 of his own league goals, just like Karim Benzema has grabbed 18 for Real Madrid. Though Gareth Bale has had fitness troubles of his own, he’s still managed 13. And there you have it, the league tallies for both your BBC and MSN of Real Madrid and Barcelona respectively.
However, like so many years in recent memory, none of the best forwards from Spain’s top teams are, in fact, actually Spanish. I know better than to forget Diego Costa’s contribution to Atlético de Madrid’s audacious title-winning season in 2013/14, but how Spanish is he really? He wasn’t a player molded in Spain and has only ever scored one goal for the national team… against Luxembourg. Matter-of-factly, some might dare to say that Spain is no longer producing world-class strikers like the Raúls of old. Maybe Álvaro Morata is the exception. But what if I told you that in La Liga this season there are four Spaniards that have scored just as many, if not more, goals than Lionel Messi? Better yet, they share only one cap between them.
Vicente del Bosque, manager of the Spanish national team, has, at times, resulted to playing without a recognized center forward – the enigmatically titled “false nine” formation. It lended to Spain’s strengths, after all. Tiki-taka at its height didn’t demand poachers and marksmen. It instead preferred meditation and transcendence through metronomic passing, sanding down a defense until its thin shell cracked. The nifty, well-poised, even diminutive midfielder in many cases was well positioned to thrive, rendering the national team’s historic nickname, la furia roja, practically ironic. But if we learned anything from the last World Cup, it’s that tiki-taka is no longer the solve-all tactic it once was, and that the very approach itself is what ultimately inspired its own antidote. The trouble is many feel Spain have been reluctant to outgrow the game plan that once decimated the world. Perhaps Del Bosque feels that playing like everyone else, with a true sniper, is too rudimentary for the regal reputation Spain earned in their years of unquestionable dominance.
Can that explain why the following domestic forwards have been simply excluded from the selección? Imanol Agirretxe, this Real Sociedad frontman has twelve La Liga goals to his name this season. What about Artiz Aduriz? This a man, though 34, that has 25 goals in all competitions this season for Athletic Club (only 6 less than Luis Suárez, mind you), including a hat trick against Barcelona in the first leg of the Spanish Supercopa. Aduriz earned his only cap in 2010 in a win over Lithuania; he has 13 goals in La Liga. Then there’s the journeyman, Lucas Pérez, who after stints in the Ukraine and Greece, has returned home to his native A Coruña to become the people’s champ. At 27, he’s scored 14 goals in the league for Deportivo. Last but most, is Eibar’s (yes, Eibar’s…) Borja Bastón, the 23-year old on loan from Atleti for the fifth season in a row. Borja is currently the highest scoring Spaniard in Spain’s top division this season with 15 goals.
Now, with players like Diego Costa fluffing their lines in a national team shirt and Pedro having a poor season at Chelsea, who can Del Bosque rely on to lead the Spanish line in the buildup to Euro 2016? Regular call-ups like Paco Alcácer can’t boast the form some others have this season. Maybe Spain needs some fresh blood. Who do you think deserves a call up to the Spanish National team?