July 26, 2021

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Euro 2020: Spain is united behind maverick coach Luis Enrique

In Luis Enrique Martinez we trust – that’s the attitude Spain are taking into their Euros campaign, kicking-off tonight against Sweden

Their maverick coach goes his own way on most things and, for now at least, the country is right behind him.

Spain coach Luis Enrique has certainly done things his own way ahead of Euro 2020

Spain coach Luis Enrique has certainly done things his own way ahead of Euro 2020

Spain coach Luis Enrique has certainly done things his own way ahead of Euro 2020

Spain come into the tournament united behind Enrique and his methods and could spring a surprise given few are tipping them to perform very well

Spain come into the tournament united behind Enrique and his methods and could spring a surprise given few are tipping them to perform very well

Spain come into the tournament united behind Enrique and his methods and could spring a surprise given few are tipping them to perform very well

  • He left out Sergio Ramos despite the fact that the record-breaking defender seemed to believe he could get fit to play a part in the finals.
  • He braved the Madrid-leaning press by not picking a single Real Madrid player for the first time ever.
  • He asked for Aymeric Laporte to be nationalised despite the fact some fans and pundits think he’s as French as Zinedine Zidane and struggle to accept him in a Spain shirt.
  • He left out Jesus Navas despite the fact that the Sevilla right-back had another superb season and the team is so bereft of options in that position that a midfielder (Marcos Llorente) and a centre-back (Cesar Azpilicueta) will contest the role instead.
  • He left out Iago Aspas despite the nation, almost as one, believing the former Liverpool forward is the best striker the country has to partner Gerard Moreno.
  • He also omitted defenders Nacho and Raul Albiol and midfielder Sergio Canales despite them having excellent seasons.
  • He picked 24 players when he could have picked 26.
  • Then, when he had to call up six in reserve because of Sergio Busquets’ coronavirus positive, he was asked did he regret picking 24 and he said: ‘No, I should have picked 23 that way it would have been one less in danger of becoming infected.’
  • No one knows what his best XI is and he still wont say who his goalkeeper is. He was asked on Sunday and he said it will definitely be either Unai Simon, David de Gea or Robert Sanchez.
'You have to believe it' said the headline on the front of Monday's Marca ahead of the Euros

'You have to believe it' said the headline on the front of Monday's Marca ahead of the Euros

‘You have to believe it’ said the headline on the front of Monday’s Marca ahead of the Euros

There is a clear sense that the Spanish public are backing Enrique - at least for the time being

There is a clear sense that the Spanish public are backing Enrique - at least for the time being

There is a clear sense that the Spanish public are backing Enrique – at least for the time being

All of this will be thrown at him if Spain fail but as the team has slowly bonded over the Covid crisis the tide of opinion has gently changed – just maybe Luis Enrique being his own man is the biggest thing they have in their favour.

This is a young team of players who not only lack tournament experience but, in the case of the likes of Ferran Torres and Eric Garcia, didn’t even get much club experience last season. But they are Luis Enrique’s men.

He has put his reputation on the line for them by picking them ahead of household names, if they repay him then it just might work out.

Aymeric Laporte (right) was nationalised as a Spaniard ahead of the tournament

Aymeric Laporte (right) was nationalised as a Spaniard ahead of the tournament

Aymeric Laporte (right) was nationalised as a Spaniard ahead of the tournament 

Laporte is in but Sergio Ramos wasn't selected in the final squad following injury problems

Laporte is in but Sergio Ramos wasn't selected in the final squad following injury problems

Laporte is in but Sergio Ramos wasn’t selected in the final squad following injury problems

One seasoned Spanish journalist, who has seen the rise and fall of Spain with years of underachievement followed by three straight tournament wins, and then three big disappointments, said last week: ‘This Euros is strange, so strange that there will probably be a strange champion and we are a strange side.’

A lot will have to come right for Spain to go all the way but maybe 21-year-old City winger Torres, the under-rated Leipzig winger Dani Olmo who is only 23, and 18-year-old Pedri can become stars of the tournament and help them over-achieve.

So much has happened to Spain since that hat-trick of tournament wins from 2008 through to 2012.

They were already in meltdown in Brazil in 2014 with an ageing squad of champions trying and failing to have their last hurrah. 

Spain were brilliant World Cup winners in 2010 - the centrepiece of three tournament wins

Spain were brilliant World Cup winners in 2010 - the centrepiece of three tournament wins

Spain were brilliant World Cup winners in 2010 – the centrepiece of three tournament wins

Spain added another European Championship title in 2012 but it's been all downhill since

Spain added another European Championship title in 2012 but it's been all downhill since

Spain added another European Championship title in 2012 but it’s been all downhill since

The Brazilian Diego Costa was brought in to bolster a failing forward line and failed to score. 

It was more of the same in France two years later, and at the Russia World Cup their plans were in shreds on the eve of the big kick-off when Real Madrid announced they had signed Spain coach Julen Lopetegui and the Spanish Federation reacted by sacking him just hours before the first game.

This time the pre-tournament drama came a week before the kick-off with Busquets contracting coronavirus and the squad going into lockdown in the final week of preparations.

Diego Costa (left) and Spain flopped miserably at the 2014 World Cup, heading home early

Diego Costa (left) and Spain flopped miserably at the 2014 World Cup, heading home early

Diego Costa (left) and Spain flopped miserably at the 2014 World Cup, heading home early

Spain crashed out to hosts Russia on penalties at the 2018 World Cup in more disappointment

Spain crashed out to hosts Russia on penalties at the 2018 World Cup in more disappointment

Spain crashed out to hosts Russia on penalties at the 2018 World Cup in more disappointment

Players had to train alone and eat their meals and get through downtime alone as contact was minimised to avoid any spread of the virus.

It’s not been ideal but Luis Enrique has emerged as a leader capable of navigating a young crew through the storm. He was a winner at Barcelona lifting nine trophies and his teams play quick incisive football.

This side doesn’t have any stars and they are not the favourites but after the failings of the last three tournaments that feels like a help not a hindrance. 

The real star is Luis Enrique and for now there is belief that he can deliver.