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What does Luis de la Fuente’s appointment as Spain coach mean for Real Madrid?

He has worked closely with Marco Asensio, Dani Ceballos and Jesús Vallejo in the past

Spain U21 v Japan U21 - International Friendly Photo by Fran Santiago/Getty Images

Spain’s World Cup elimination meant the end of the Luis Enrique era with the Spanish national team. The former Barcelona coach had the fewest Real Madrid players in a Spain World Cup squad since 1950 and only 12 months ago failed to include a single Madridista in his squad for the European Championships, the first time that such a lack of representation from the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu had ever happened for a tournament.

His replacement is Luis de la Fuente. The RFEF man who has been with Spain’s youth teams from the under 19s to the under 21s and also led the country’s team at the Olympic Games in Tokyo in 2021.

He’s a man who enjoys a far stronger relationship with Real Madrid than the one-time Real Madrid midfielder Luis Enrique. He has frequently turned to the club for players for his squads at all levels, and that could be set to continue with the senior team.

Here, we’ll take a look at how the change in coach could impact Real Madrid’s Spanish contingent. For some, it could be great news, but for others, perhaps not so much.

Japan v Spain: Group E - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Photo by Etsuo Hara/Getty Images

Marco Asensio

Asensio would be within his rights to be the only Real Madrid man to feel a little frustrated by Luis Enrique’s departure. Operating in the false nine position, as well as out wide, he played in nine of Luis Enrique’s final 10 matches in charge of Spain, starting six of them.

However, De la Fuente’s arrival is not necessarily bad news. He was the coach who gave him his Spain under 19s call-up while with Mallorca in 2014, and then went on to get some of the best form that Asensio has had in a Spain shirt. In 11 matches at under 19 level, he scored eight goals and provided three assists. Impressive.

With the under 21s, De la Fuente once again called upon Asensio and there were only two matches where Asensio did not play for De la Fuente’s team while available between 2015 and 2017, when he got his senior breakthrough.

Again with the Olympics squad, Asensio played in every game as one of the team’s over-age players. De la Fuente clearly has huge faith in Asensio and what could be intriguing is to see whether Asensio continues in the false nine role, a tactic De la Fuente has used at times, or reverts to his more familiar right-wing position. Given De la Fuente’s usual preference for a more traditional number nine, the latter may seem more likely.

Dani Carvajal

At 30 years of age, Carvajal is probably just young enough to not fall into the group of veterans for whom it would seem an era has come to an end. The likes of Sergio Busquets, Jordi Alba and possibly even Cesár Azpilicueta have seemingly made their last appearance for their country.

Carvajal’s case is different. In part, that is thanks to the fact that there are few younger alternatives. Sporting CP’s Pedro Porro is the most obvious candidate of a younger generation, while Girona’s Arnau Martínez is a promising talent but still raw.

FBL-WC-2022-MATCH43-JPN-ESP Photo by JAVIER SORIANO/AFP via Getty Images

That means that Carvajal will likely have the lead as Spain’s starting option should he continue at international level. Such a possibility seems more likely thanks to the improvement in relations between the national team and Real Madrid.

What is likely is that we will continue to see Carvajal prioritise his club football. When he played in consecutive games against Portugal in the Nations League in September and the warm-up friendly against Jordan, it was the first time that he featured in back-to-back Spain fixtures since 2018, and it’s clear that he’s managing his fitness to be available for Los Blancos.


When Real Madrid fans aired their grievances with Luis Enrique’s squad selections, one of the most-frequently referred to names was that of Nacho. Now, though, it seems that it may be too late.

At 32 years of age, it would be a surprise to see De la Fuente call upon him to bring him into the squad now. Speaking on his decision to exclude then Real Madrid captain Sergio Ramos from the Olympics squad, he explained that “I wanted to count on players who have earned it, with whom I have worked and who I know perfectly well.” That would seemingly leave Nacho out.

While he does have 22 caps to his name, he played only three times under Luis Enrique, all coming in three of his first five matches in charge, and has not been included in a Spain squad since October 2018.

Dani Ceballos

Of all the players who could be deemed winners by this appointment, Dani Ceballos stands to benefit more than almost anyone. The midfielder is a personal favourite of De la Fuente, who has called him up to his squads both at under 19s, under 21s and Olympics level, through his time at Real Betis and Real Madrid, including while out on loan.

“I don’t know what Luis Enrique will decide,” he said ahead of the coach’s announcement of the squad for Euro 2020, “but I know that Dani Ceballos is a player who can make the difference.”

That same summer, De la Fuente did include Ceballos in his Olympics’ squad, and though injury prevented him from playing a major role, De la Fuente opted to keep him in the squad. “Any other player would be ruled out, but Ceballos is an example, knowing his attitude and his great work with the medical team, I hope we can have him back,” he said.

Ceballos was one of the first names on his team-sheet alongside Real Sociedad’s Mikel Merino, with Martín Zubimendi playing in the holding role. Pedri and Gavi have now leapfrogged Ceballos and Merino, but with a generational change likely to see Busquets, Koke and others move on, there will be places in the squad up for grabs.

A surprise?

That leaves the likes of Lucas Vázquez, Álvaro Odriozola and... Jesús Vallejo. With a grand total of 17 minutes played this season, it seems hard to imagine that Vallejo would come anywhere near De la Fuente’s consideration, but the coach is a huge fan of the 25-year-old defender.

Vallejo captained his Spain under 21s team and was selected for the Olympic Games in 2021 after a decidedly average loan spell at Granada. De la Fuente clearly has great faith in the centre-back, which could see him come back into the picture should he head back out on loan or move on in the future.

Spain v Germany - 2019 UEFA European Under-21 Championship Final Photo by Alessandro Sabattini/Getty Images

Another two are two players who De la Fuente already gave international debuts to. Ahead of the European Championships in 2021, a Covid-19 outbreak hit the Spain camp and the decision was taken for the under 21 squad to step up to play a friendly against Lithuania in Leganés. The 4-0 was counted as a full international, but saw De la Fuente take temporary charge with two Madridistas in the side.

Today, both of them find themselves out on loan. Brahim Díaz is the most obvious candidate and has played under De la Fuente with both the under 19s and under 21s before his senior debut. His form in Milan could see him come into the picture, particularly for a coach who likes wider, more vertical wingers, unlike Luis Enrique who would tend towards players like Dani Olmo or Ferran Torres who would look to cut in.

The other player is Antonio Blanco. The midfielder, out on loan at Cádiz, has not been a regular for De la Fuente at any level, despite his four under 21 appearances in addition to his full debut against Lithuania.

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