BARCELONA (AFP) – With the days ticking down until the World Cup, Spain are still searching for a striker they can trust to lead the line – and La Roja to glory. Enter Borja Iglesias.
The Real Betis forward has been included in the squad for Spain’s Nations League games against Switzerland today and Portugal on Tuesday and could be the answer to his country’s long-term problem question.
David Villa finished as the top scorer at Euro 2008 and was the joint top scorer at the 2010 World Cup, while Fernando Torres was joint top scorer at Euro 2012, all of which Spain swept in an era of glittering success, but those days are gone.
Since then Spain have failed to win a major trophy and used a variety of strikers without any convincing, leaving supporters pining for the goals of Villa and Torres, or even iconic duo Raul Gonzalez and Fernando Morientes.
Although fittingly, it was Andres Iniesta’s goal which won Spain their first and only World Cup against the Netherlands in South Africa, with midfield domination the key to their success.
Spain have tried a strikerless 4-6-0 formation in subsequent years, along with using players like Ferran Torres as a false nine, or even convincing Brazilian-born Diego Costa to switch allegiance to try and capitalise on his superb club performances for Atletico Madrid and Chelsea.
Curiously Luis Enrique has not leant on Celta Vigo striker Iago Aspas, the top Spanish scorer in La Liga in four of the past six seasons, but has instead shown a preference for Atletico Madrid striker Alvaro Morata.
The former Real Madrid and Juventus forward helped Spain reach the semi-finals of Euro 2020, although he was criticised for his erratic finishing during the tournament.
Despite Luis Enrique’s impassioned defences of Morata and Villarreal’s Gerard Moreno as another technically gifted option, there is still an opportunity for a player to take the situation by the scruff of the neck and the ‘Panda’ may be the man to do it.
Iglesias, whose nickname comes from the hip-hop song Panda by Desiigner, is strong, hard for defences to handle and has an eye for goal.
With six goals in La Liga this season, only Barcelona’s summer arrival from Bayern Munich, Robert Lewandowski, has scored more. However, Iglesias is not feeling the heat.
“When I first turned up for tests I was a lot more nervous, but now I’m enjoying it a lot,” said Iglesias on Thursday. “I don’t feel examined. It’s a chance to show close-up what I can do, to try to bring to the group what I have.”
As Morata will testify, once he pulls on the Spain shirt that may all change. “I wish people would put themselves in the position of seeing what it is to receive threats and insults to your family, like ‘I hope your children die’,” said Morata during the Euro.
The forward failed to net in the opening game against Sweden, a 0-0 draw which highlighted the issues Spain have in front of goal, but did go on to score three times, at least partially repaying Luis Enrique’s faith.
Iglesias can consider himself warned, but his dream is to do enough during this international break to get the call come November.
“My intention is to bring what I can to the team, to learn, and we will see what happens in the future, but I will try to do everything I can to have a chance (of going to the World Cup),” added the striker.