A number of injuries to senior members of the Spain squad have forced Luis Enrique to seek alternatives in his latest national team selection for the upcoming games with Croatia and Bosnia. Espanyol’s impressive start to the season has seen Mario Hermoso receive a call-up while Real Sociedad’s Diego Llorente is also included. Celta Vigo’s 21-year-old attacking midfielder Brais Méndez also makes the squad for the first time, much to his surprise.
An integral part of Espanyol’s unlikely rise to the higher reaches of the La Liga table, Hermoso is a centre back who brings quality in both boxes. Signed by Real Madrid at the age of 10, Hermoso never made a first-team appearance for Los Blancos and, after a season on loan at Real Valladolid, the defender left the capital for Catalonia.Embed from Getty Images
The 23-year-old made 24 appearances in all competitions for his new club last season and has featured in every league game this campaign, scoring two goals. His partnership with David López at the centre of defence has been a crucial cog in Espanyol’s machine this season, with Rubi’s side currently sitting in 2nd in the table. Hermoso’s form has inevitably seen him linked back with Real Madrid in recent weeks.
The youngest member of Enrique’s squad is 21-year-old Brais Méndez of Celta Vigo. The attacking midfielder hails from Galicia and has enjoyed quite a rise in the last couple of seasons. Despite his club’s difficult start to the season, Méndez has been a consistent performer and two goals and one assist in his last two games have earned him a call-up to the senior squad for the first time.Embed from Getty Images
Méndez admitted afterwards, “I didn’t even know if I was going to make the Under 21 squad”. His inclusion has come to some surprise but there is no doubt he is a talented player with lots of potential. Spain’s biggest clubs are already circling around the youngster who possesses exceptional ball control and a rare eye for goal.
Villarreal’s attacking midfielder was called up to the senior squad in 2016 at the age of just 20. Like Diego Llorente, he made his one and only appearance for Spain against Switzerland in St. Gallen. Fornals was a part of Villarreal’s academy before leaving for Málaga at the age of 16. After breaking into Málaga’s first team, Fornals moved back to Villarreal in the summer of 2017. Fornals has been in terrific form so far this season and wowed La Liga fans with a spectacular goal away at Athletic Club in September. A move to Arsenal has been mentioned across the Spanish press in recent weeks.Embed from Getty Images
Another former Madrid product is Diego Llorente, who has controversially been included by Luis Enrique. Llorente has only played four games in all competitions so far this season for Real Sociedad but his inclusion has been viewed as a boost to him following an ankle injury that kept him out of action for two months. Llorente left Real Madrid for La Real in 2017 having spent two seasons on loan and making just two first-team appearances. The central defender has been capped once by Spain before, back in 2016 against Switzerland under Vicente Del Bosque but injuries and a lack of opportunities have seen his progress stutter.