Made in Spain, forged abroad

The so-called 'emigres' have brought back experience to the National team. FIFA Rewind : Argentina 1978 WC | Pictures

india Updated: May 31, 2006 12:01 IST

Not verylong ago, Spain began a new era by exporting footballers to other countries, a rather unusual move for this nation. But something that once attracted big headlines has now become quite commonplace.

As a result, the National team now boasts many players who have picked up considerable experience in other leagues, a true 'foreign legion.'

This 'football brain drain' began in 2004 when Rafael Benitez signed for Liverpool, becoming the first Spanish coach to work for a top foreign club. He subsequently persuaded Luis Garcia, Xabi Alonso, Jose Manuel Reina and Fernando Morientes to make the move, and they all are key members of the National team.

Arsenal realised the worth of the Spanish exports and grabbed up Jose Antonio Reyes and a gem called Cesc Fabregas.

“It is positive to move to important teams like Liverpool and Arsenal,” National team coach Luis Aragones stated. “The players are enriched by getting to know a different kind of football."

Traditionally, Spain had been accused of being unable to “read” matches against certain countries, and of avoiding games against opponents known for their physically demanding style.

Aragones hopes that now the experience gathered by so many footballers abroad will permit Spain to deal better with “rough” teams.

Fabregas is a fascinating and unique case in Spanish football. After playing on Barcelona’s youth teams, Arsenal convinced him that he should leave the Catalan club and move to London. That occurred in 2003, when the midfielder was just 16 years old.

“The move to England helped me to mature, personally and professionally. It was a very important decision,” Fabregas said.

One of Fabregas’ teammates is Reyes: Arsenal paid Sevilla 25.6 million euros in January 2004 and signed up one of the most creative players in Spanish football. “In Eng land they showed me how to work," the midfielder from Andalucia said. “I now consider myself a much more complete player.”

The Spaniards in Liverpool appear to have undergone a more satisfactory experience. Luis Garcia and Xabi Alonso played in the Champions League final last year and won a coveted title. Alonso has become a hero in Liverpool and has earned him a place in the Spanish team. “In England, it is a very physical game,” he said.

Aragones has been following these developments in the hope that they will strengthen his team. This has led to the unusual situation that on several occasions there have been more Liverpool players in the team than from Real, Barca or Valencia.

New times for Spain, increasingly international.

Road to Finals

Spain qualified for the 2006 World Cup but the Iberains had to do it by the skin of their teeth. They Spaniards didn’t make it to the finals directly and had to take the play-off route, where they beat Slovakia 6-2 on aggregate.


5-1 beat Slovakia

1-1 drew with Slovakia


1-1 drew with Bosnia and Herzegovina

2-0 beat Belgium

0-0 drew with Lithuania

5-0 beat San Marino

0-0 drew with Serbia and Montenegro

1-0 beat Lithuania

1-1 drew with Bosnia and Herzegovina

1-1 drew with Serbia and Montenegro

2-0 beat Belgium

0-6 beat San Marino

First Published: May 31, 2006 10:51 IST