Stars in Europe, subs with Spain at Euro 2012
Stars in Europe’s top leagues, they’re just substitutes with the
It’s not easy playing for Spain.
Spain is bidding to win a third straight major title at Euro
2012, and the team faces France on Saturday in the quarterfinals.
Spain coach Vicente del Bosque is expected to start most of the
regulars, Andres Iniesta, Xavi Hernandez and Iker Casillas among
them. That again would leave Javi Martinez, Juan Mata and Fernando
Llorente on the bench waiting for their opportunity.
And when the opportunity arrives, it’s treasured.
”Every one of us knows our role and when our chance comes we
just try to be prepared,” utility player Javi Martinez said
Thursday from Spain’s training base in the north of Poland. ”Those
more than 20 minutes I played against Ireland were a gift I was
able to take advantage of.”
Martinez, who is reportedly being watched by Bayern Munich and
Barcelona because he can play either center back or in midfield,
played 28 minutes in the defending champions’ 4-0 drubbing of the
Irish. In contrast to the little playing time he gets for Spain,
the 23-year-old Martinez made 50 appearances this season to help
club team Athletic Bilbao reach two cup finals, including in the
Mata, a regular starter for Champions League and FA Cup champion
Chelsea, hasn’t played a single minute at Euro 2012 through three
games, while Malaga forward Santi Cazorla – a regular substitute
during Spain’s Euro 2008 title-winning run – has 13 minutes under
The biggest surprise has been Llorente’s absence, with striker
David Villa missing to injury.
Llorente’s 29 goals for Athletic were more than the combined
number scored this past season by fellow strikers Fernando Torres
and Alvaro Negredo – who have both featured at Euro 2012.
”We haven’t used everybody and we need to accept that it can’t
be any other way,” Del Bosque said. ”I like everyone on this
team, Llorente and (Pepe) Reina are no different, but we have to
take decisions and use those we think provide the best
Del Bosque’s overlooking of Llorente remains somewhat of a
mystery, because the 27-year-old striker is training normally
without any apparent injury. Fatigue could be a problem, but that
hasn’t affected the likes of players with similarly long club
seasons like Xabi Alonso, Sergio Busquets and Sergio Ramos.
”(Llorente) is in good spirits. We all want to play considering
the football players we are and Fernando more than most,” Martinez
said of his Athletic teammate. ”He keeps training as best he can
to be in the best shape possible.”
The unused players on Spain’s bench in Poland and Ukraine have
won a combined 49 titles in their careers.
”Ever since I joined the national team I’ve always said that I
know what my role is here,” said Victor Valdez, who has won 19
trophies as Barcelona’s starting goalkeeper, but finds himself
behind Spain’s most capped player, Iker Casillas. ”I’ve always
been professional and I owe that to my teammates and a coach who
trusts in me and that’s my role for the good of the team.”
Paul Logothetis can be reached at: