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On Alexia Putellas
I had originally thought that today’s email would be about the England v Austria game which will open the Euro’s tonight, but actual news has scuppered that plan. (Although I did write about the selection decisions I still thought Sarina Wiegman had to make after the Switzerland game here if you are interested). So instead this is going to be about Alexia Putellas.
It was announced yesterday evening that Alexia Putellas had torn her ACL just three days before Spain’s first game at the Euros. Leaving aside the bizarre decision from the Spanish federation to turn one of the darkest moments of a player’s career into some social media content, Alexia’s long term absence from the game is a big blow, for Spain fans, Barcelona fans and just anyone who appreciates good football.
2021’s Ballon D’Or winner has been exceptionally talented for literally years but her centrality to Barcelona’s performances in Europe in recent seasons has seen her recognition soar.
Understandably therefore she is an incredibly influential part of this Spain team, both on and off the pitch. Spain have been the bookies’ favourites to win the Euros for months but the Spanish mood around the team has been a lot more pessimistic.
Spain had already lost their all-time top goal scorer Jenni Hermoso to injury which set off a surprising chain of events when it came to manager Jorge Vilda’s squad selection.
Instead of calling up Amaiur Sarriegi, the second highest Spanish goalscorer in the Primera Iberdrola behind Alexia last season, Vilda picked the uncapped Salma Paralluelo. When Paralluelo also withdrew from injury, midfielder Teresa Abelleira was called up. Ironically, Sarriegi has now made the squad due to Alexia’s injury, but the whole charade has led to concern about Vilda’s decision making ability.
Vilda’s reliance on Alexia is undeniable. When Spain were losing 1-0 to Italy in last week’s warm-up game, who pops up to head in the equaliser? Alexia. She has started all but one of Spain’s matches since September 2021. Now he will be forced to come up with a solution.
One seemingly obvious option would be to simply put Claudia Pina in midfield. The 20 year old Pina is a ridiculously versatile player who has been tipped to be one of Spain’s main stars of the future. This would have the benefit of keeping Vilda’s rehearsed front three of Mariona Caldentey, Lucía García and Esther González intact.
However, despite including her in the squad, Vilda seems reluctant to use Pina, not playing her in either of Spain’s warm up games. It feels hard to imagine she is suddenly now going to come in and play a starring role. It seems more likely that Mariona will move into Alexia’s position, with Athenea del Castillo coming in on the left. Athenea impressed when she was used by Spain during the Arnold Clark Cup. She won player of the tournament despite having only been called up following an injury to Mariona Caldentey and then featuring in 1.5 games. She might be a similar beneficiary here.
To be fair to Vilda, there are not many international sides who could lose their all-time goalscorer and all-time record caps holder in Jenni and Alexia, and still be thought of as favourites. The lingering question now is that if Spain do not do well, where will the blame lie? Vilda has already been handed a contract extension to 2024 by the Spanish FA. It is entirely possible that Spain would underwhelm even with Alexia in the side, but if that happens now, Vilda will have a ready made excuse waiting.