Ten years after the glorious years of David Villa and Fernando Torres, who had led Spain to the coronations at Euro 2008 and 2012 and at the 2010 World Cup, La Roja still does not have its « goleador » for Qatar. This time, the mischievous coach Luis Enrique tried a new move: to summon the « Panda » Borja Iglesias, striker of Betis Sevilla and author of six goals in six league games, only two less than the current leader of the ranking, the untouchable Robert Lewandowski. « Joaquin has just told me: + imagine what state the selection must be in for them to call on you + », joked to the press the Galician, who will know his first call at 29 years old.
With his atypical physique, tall and thin (1.89 m for 86 kg), Borja Iglesias hopes to embody the role of N.9 which has been missing in Spain for ten years. David Villa had finished top scorer of Euro-2008 and co-top scorer of the World Cup-2010, and Fernando Torres co-top scorer of Euro-2012, all rounded up by Spain. Since then, it’s been a dull plain. Spain did not win any major trophy, and chained the center forwards without finding the rare pearl.
Hispano-Brazilian Diego Costa did not bring satisfaction, and ‘Lucho’ has since turned to Atlético Madrid striker Alvaro Morata, leaving out Celta Vigo striker Iago Aspas, Spain’s top scorer in Liga four times in the last six exercises, or the young nugget of Barça Ansu Fati.
Heavily criticized at the start of the Euro last year, Morata was always supported by Luis Enrique, who confirmed him in his position despite his clumsiness in front of goal and despite the eruption of a competitor from Villarreal, named Gérard Moreno. Result, Spain had reached the last four, yielding to penalties (1-1 ap, 4-2 pens) against the future Italian winners, and lost against France in the final of the last League of Nations. « I have already taken exams where I was more stressed than for this one. I don’t feel evaluated. Here, I take pleasure. It’s a chance to be able to show what I can do up close, to try to bring what I can to the team », slipped the striker on Thursday.
« We’ll see what happens in the future, » Iglesias swept aside a possible selection for Qatar in November. « There is still a long way to go until the World Cup. My intention is to bring what I can, to learn, but I will do everything I can to have my chance (to go to the World Cup, editor’s note) », a added the Betis centre-forward on Thursday. His main rivals for the World Cup are Gerard Moreno and Rodrigo, but the Villarreal and Leeds strikers are both injured.
Passed by the youth teams of Valencia CF and Villarreal, turned professional at Celta Vigo, before evolving at Espanyol and Betis, this Spanish football globetrotter will once again tread the lawn of the Romareda stadium, the enclosure of Real Zaragoza, which had been his club in 2017-2018. The « Panda » finds its garden.