MADRID (dpa) – Vicente del Bosque has been unsure about which strikers to use practically from his first day as Spain coach back in 2008.
He has been fairly clear-minded about his goalkeepers, defenders and midfielders these past six years, but has never seemed confident about his forwards, chopping and changing them frequently.
He controversially took Brazil-born Diego Costa to the World Cup, to the chagrin of Fernando Llorente, Alvaro Negredo and Roberto Soldado – and despite Costa clearly not being fully fit.
Costa has looked completely out of place playing for La Roja, uncomfortable with the team’s “tiki-taka” and yet to score in five caps.
Costa has made a good start with at Chelsea with nine goals in seven Premier League games since a summer move from Atletico Madrid, but if he fires blanks again for Spain in Thursday Euro 2016 qualifier in Slovakia Del Bosque appears to have a Plan B up his sleeve: Valencia youngsters Paco Alcacer and Rodrigo.
This young tandem has taken La Liga by storm, leading Valencia to their best start since 2003. Alcacer, 21, also scored for La Roja in their 5-1 destruction of Macedonia in their first Group C game, in September.
The same as Costa, Rodrigo was also born in Brazil. he has been playing in Spain since 2005 and delighted to have been called up by Del Bosque.
“It is great to be here. I want to enjoy myself and do whatever I can to help Spain,” the 23-year-old said after his first training session with la Roja on Monday.
“This is still one of the best national teams in the world … I know several players from the Under-21 team, so not everything is new for me today.”
The other new face in the squad is midfielder Juan Bernat, who left Valencia for Bayern Munich in July.
Back in the squad is Barcelona defender Gerard Pique which is good news for Del Bosque, given that Sergio Ramos is out with a calf injury.
Pique raised eyebrows in September by playing for Barca straight after telling Del Bosque he couldn’t play for Spain due to a mysterious hip injury.
Pique then caused a furore last week by saying he was in favour of the Catalan independence referendum, which has been outlawed by the Madrid government.
Former Barca team-mate Cesc Fabregas went to Pique’s aid on Monday, saying: “If Gerard really didn’t want to play for Spain then he wouldn’t be here today.