Spanish national team coach Julen Loptegui has admitted that Alvaro Morata “deserved” to be included in the 23-man squad that will travel to Russia this summer and was unlucky to be left out.
Morata was not the only Spanish player from the Premier League to be excluded from the World Cup squad. His Chelsea teammates Marcos Alonso, Cesc Fabregas and Pedro also missed out, while Juan Mata of Manchester United and Hector Bellerin of Arsenal were also not selected.
One of the questionable decisions that Loptegui made was to select Arsenal’s Nacho Monreal ahead of Alonso. Other Premier League players that were included include Chelsea’s Cesar Azpilicueta, David Silva and David de Gea.
The three strikers Loptegui opted for were Diego Costa, Rodrigo and Iago Aspas. Many English football fans will remember Aspas for his failed spell with Liverpool. However, he enjoyed a sterling season with Celta Vigo this term, scoring 22 goals in La Liga.
Morata’s exclusion will hit the 25-year-old particularly hard and he was Spain’s joint top-scorer during their World Cup qualifying campaign, with five goals. His last appearance for his country came in November 2017, where he scored against Costa Rica.
Many feel that he should have been included in the squad ahead of Rodrigo. However, based on merit alone during the second half of the season, Loptegui’s decision was about right as he had only been planning to take three strikers, and either Rodrigo and Aspas would have been justifiably aggrieved to have been left out.
Morata ended up paying the price for his poor form since the start of 2018. During 2017, his form for the Blues looked promising but he only went on to score 11 goals for the club and just one since the start of the year.
“They are tough moments for a player. It’s not nice, he deserved to be here,” Lopetegui told a news conference.
“I’ve spoken with those I had to speak to, I’m not going to name anybody. I’ve had various doubts. To make a list of 23 is a difficult decision.
“We’ve opted for three other team-mates who have other conditions. Taking four players in that position is not something we wanted to do. It’s a footballing decision.
“It’s the most bitter taste to leave someone out. They deserve to be there but they couldn’t get in. They helped us and they cannot be here. We have chosen those who can help us the most in this amazing adventure.
“Iago can play centrally and out wide, Rodrigo can play in three areas and always has a great attitude with the team. Diego Costa brings a lot of competitiveness.”