Spain coach Julen Lopetegui has left Chelsea’s Alvaro Morata, Cesc Fabregas and Marcos Alonso out of his 23-man squad for the World Cup in Russia but included Arsenal left-back Nacho Monreal.
Morata, who scored five goals in qualifying, had been a regular in Lopetegui’s squads until March, when he was dropped after losing his starting place at Chelsea.
Alonso was widely tipped to make the squad after impressing this season in the Premier League. He had seven goals in 33 league starts, but Lopetegui elected to take Monreal, who plays the same position.
“Monreal has come with us many times,” Lopetegui said at a news conference on Monday. “We know him well and we are convinced he will help us.”
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There are six players from Real Madrid in the World Cup squad, including Spain captain Sergio Ramos and midfielder Isco, a key player for Lopetegui but one who is unlikely to start in Madrid’s Champions League final against Liverpool in Kiev, Ukraine, on Saturday.
“I want to remember those players that were crucial in qualifying and helped us, including Alvaro Morata, Marc Bartra [and] Vitolo, but have not made the squad,” Lopetegui said. “I spoke to those that I thought that I had to speak to.
“It’s not easy to give 23 players and the doubt always exists. In the case of Morata, he’s had a complex season but he could have come. He hasn’t because another player has convinced us more.”
Morata, in his first season at Chelsea following a move from Madrid, has struggled with a back injury and played just four minutes in his team’s 1-0 win over Manchester United in the FA Cup final on Saturday.
Following his omission, Morata sent a message of support to the squad, which read: “The best of luck for the World Cup!! As of right now I will be supporting and cheering until the end as I’ve always done!!”
Lopetegui has included ex-Chelsea forward Diego Costa, who made 20 appearances in all competitions after returning to play for Atletico Madrid in January.
With Costa, Atletico finished runners-up to Barcelona in La Liga and also won the Europa League.
La Liga’s top scoring Spanish players, Iago Aspas and Rodrigo Moreno, are also in. Aspas has scored 20 goals for Celta Vigo and Rodrigo’s 16 goals helped Valencia finish in fourth place and qualify for the Champions League.
Manchester United goalkeeper David De Gea, who kept 18 clean sheets in the league to win his first Premier League Golden Glove, joins Monreal, Chelsea’s Cesar Azpilicueta and Manchester City’s David Silva as the Premier League players in the squad.
Veteran midfielder Andres Iniesta, who played his final game for Barcelona on Sunday and will retire from international football after the World Cup, has made the squad.
Barca teammates Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba have also been included.
Spain, who went unbeaten in qualifying, play a warm-up game against Switzerland at the Estadio de la Ceramica in Villarreal on June 3. They will travel to Russia four days later and take on Tunisia in Krasnodar in their final preparation game on June 9.
“A World Cup is the most beautiful and challenging competition there is,” Lopetegui said. “We only have three games guaranteed. The rest we have to earn it there.”
Spain begin their World Cup campaign against Portugal on June 15 in Sochi and also take on Iran and Morocco in Group B.
Spain’s 23-player squad:
Goalkeepers: Kepa Arrizabalaga (Athletic Bilbao), David De Gea (Manchester United), Pepe Reina (Napoli)
Defenders: Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea), Dani Carvajal (Real Madrid), Jordi Alba (Barcelona), Nacho (Real Madrid), Nacho Monreal (Arsenal), Alvaro Odriozola (Real Sociedad), Gerard Pique (Barcelona), Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid)
Midfielders: Isco (Real Madrid), Thiago Alcantara (Bayern Munich), Sergio Busquets (Barcelona), David Silva (Manchester City), Andres Iniesta (Barcelona), Saul Niguez (Atletico Madrid), Koke (Atletico Madrid)
Forwards: Marco Asensio (Real Madrid), Iago Aspas (Celta Vigo), Diego Costa (Atletico Madrid), Rodrigo (Valencia), Lucas Vazquez (Real Madrid)
Adriana Garcia is a Valencia-based football writer who covers La Liga for ESPN FC.