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What next for Spain after Alonso's goodbye?

Published: Wednesday 27 August 2014, 20.31CET
With Xabi Alonso having joined Xavi Hernández in retiring from Spain duty, Joseph Walker ponders five midfield lineups for La Roja in UEFA EURO 2016 qualifying.
by Joseph Walker
from Madrid
What next for Spain after Alonso's goodbye?
Xabi Alonso scores his final goal for Spain − a penalty against the Dutch at the 2014 World Cup ©Getty Images
 
Published: Wednesday 27 August 2014, 20.31CET

What next for Spain after Alonso's goodbye?

With Xabi Alonso having joined Xavi Hernández in retiring from Spain duty, Joseph Walker ponders five midfield lineups for La Roja in UEFA EURO 2016 qualifying.

Three weeks after Xavi Hernández retired from international football, his midfield partner for Spain, Xabi Alonso, has followed suit.

The Real Madrid CF linchpin earned 114 caps for the Roja, scoring 16 goals, and was part of the side that sandwiched victory at the 2010 FIFA World Cup in between 2008 and 2012 UEFA European Championship successes under Luis Aragonés and Vicente del Bosque. He made his final appearance in a 3-0 victory over Australia at the World Cup two months ago.

"The hardest thing is knowing when to say goodbye, and after thinking about it, I think that my time with the national squad has come to an end," said the 32-year-old former Real Sociedad de Fútbol and Liverpool FC player in an open letter.

"It has been a glorious period with the Spanish team that started more than 11 years ago and I have formed part of a historic generation that fulfilled the dreams of millions of fans. I wish good luck to all those who will continue working and fighting for this jersey. You will all achieve new successes."

With this changing of the guard in mind, UEFA.com ponders five possible midfield lineups for Spain in their UEFA EURO 2016 qualifying campaign, which begins on 8 September against the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

Sergio Busquets – Koke – Thiago Alcántara
The fans' choice. FC Barcelona's Busquets has been a fixture in the national side for a number of years, while Koke, 22, played no small part in Club Atlético de Madrid's Liga triumph last season and has been widely touted as Xavi's successor. FC Bayern München's Thiago suffered World Cup heartbreak when he sustained a knee injury in May that is likely to keep him sidelined until October.

Busquets – Koke – Cesc Fàbregas
Used primarily in a 'false nine' role by Spain, Fàbregas will be hoping that his new deep-lying central position at Chelsea FC will persuade Del Bosque into deploying him there. Given Thiago's injury he might have an early chance to stake a claim.

Busquets – Koke  Ander Iturraspe
A surprise inclusion in Del Bosque's 30-man preliminary squad for the World Cup in Brazil, Iturraspe won his first cap in a friendly against Bolivia in May.

Busquets – Koke – Isco
Alonso's club-mate Isco impressed greatly during his debut campaign at the Santiago Bernabéu last term, and his performances for the Under-21s have led to him being touted as a future senior international. However, he faces a tough task claiming a starting berth at Madrid before his international aspirations can be realised.

Busquets – Koke – Gabi
It is not Atlético captain Gabi's fault that he was born in the same generation as Xavi, Alonso and Marcos Senna, but just turned 31, there is perhaps still time for him to join Koke at the heart of the Spain midfield.

Last updated: 27/08/14 20.59CET

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