Football, as we love to proclaim to the ‘non-believers’, is a religion that is like no other. It brings together people of all castes, creeds, sex and faith without discrimination. It unifies all who love the sport, with the only division being the club you choose to support – a mere sub-caste, just as Roman Catholics and Protestants are to Christianity, Shia and Sunni are to Islam, and so on. However, there is one thing that no religion, including football, can escape: Politics.
Catalonia is a nation that has been a part of Spain since the 1700’s, but calls for independence have only grown stronger since 2010, when the Constitutional Court in Madrid claimed that there was no legal basis for recognizing Catalonia as a nation within Spain. That aside, Spain have been struggling with an economic crisis, and Catalonia, a wealthy region, is trying to escape this and avoid paying millions to Madrid in taxes. After a number of referendums, they finally declared themselves independent earlier this week.
Economic and political issues aside, the independence has ultimately had an effect on football. For so long, Barcelona has been recognized as one of Spain’s best teams. However, the city of Barcelona is the capital of Catalonia, and independence from Spain now means that the club may be forced to leave La Liga – Spain’s top flight league. It will also have an effect on the Spanish national team, as a number of the starting XI hail from Catalonia.
Here, we look at what the two national teams are set to look like after the separation.
GK – David de Gea
Spain’s best keeper without a doubt; arguably even the best in the world. De Gea hails from the capital city of Madrid, and his place in Spain’s starting XI will remain untouched by the political unrest in the country.
RB – Dani Carvajal
The Real Madrid defender is originally from Leganes, and is Spain’s first choice right-back. Lucky for them, he will be staying that way.
CB – Sergio Ramos
This is probably the area Spain will be most affected. Sergio Ramos’s partnership with Gerard Pique has been the core of the Spanish defense for years. However, while Ramos is a proud Spaniard hailing from the city of Seville, Pique is from Barcelona, and the independence will see them split up once more, having already been arch-rivals at Real Madrid and Barcelona.
CB – Nacho
With Pique at the heart of defense for so many years, appearances have been hard to come by for Real Madrid’s Nacho. However, with him gone, the 27-year-old Madrid-born star will probably take his place.
LB – Cesar Azpilicueta
Another one who will benefit from the independence is the Chelsea star, who will fill in for Jordi Alba. Azpilicueta is from Pamplona, the capital of Navarra in northern Spain.
CM – Andres Iniesta
Despite being at Barcelona for his entire career, Iniesta is not actually Catalan. He comes from Fuentealbilla, a small village in the province of Albacete, Castile–La Mancha. The independence is bound to make things sticky for his club, but in International football, the country’s 2010 World Cup final hero will continue to play for and represent them.
CM – Ander Herrera
Herrera has played for his national side just twice in his career, having struggled to get into the side because of the likes of Sergio Busquets and Cesc Fabregas being preferred over him. However, with both players set to switch national teams, this may be Herrera’s opportunity to get more games for Spain, with his Bilbao roots making him a perfect candidate to be a central figure for the squad.
RCAM – Thiago Alcantara
A very odd combination here, but Thiago was actually born in San Pietro Vernotico, Italy, to Brazilian parents. He moved to Spain at the age of 5, and as a result, was allowed to represent the country at every level.
CAM – Isco
Isco was born in Benalmadena, a town on southern Spain’s Costa del Sol. The Real Madrid star has been a fixture in his country’s starting XI recently, and he will be crucial to the side ahead of next year’s World Cup.
LCAM – David Silva
Man City’s creative engine was born in Arguineguin, and has been a massive player for Spain over the last decade. Now aged 31, Silva has been playing for his country for 11 years, and was a crucial player in the 2008 and 12 Euro wins, as well as the 2010 World Cup success. He has amassed over 100 caps for his country, one of only eleven players to do so. He will look to increase those caps even further with another major tournament on the horizon.
ST – Alvaro Morata
Morata is another player from the capital city of Madrid, and will remain untouched amidst the political drama. Set to be Spain’s no.1 striker at the World Cup in Russia.
GK- Kiko Casilla
Although Casilla now plays for Real Madrid, the keeper represented RCD Espanyol’s reserve team 25 times before making 115 appearances for the senior team. Espanyol is another Catalan city, and another one of Barcelona’s arch-rivals. Casilla may well represent Catalonia, but the people of the nation’s capital may be forgiven for having some reservations about him.
RB – Aleix Vidal
The Barcelona defender was born in Valls, Tarragona, Catalonia, and was first called up to the national side in December 2013. However, despite 3 appearances for them, he was still given permission to represent Spain, and did so on just one occasion back in 2015. Now that Catalonia are independent, it is likely that Vidal will go back to playing for the Catalan national side.
CB – Gerard Pique
A massive miss from the Spanish XI. Pique has been one of the most outspoken people on the issue of independence, repeatedly stating his pride at being a Catalan, and was a well-known supporter of the independence movement – a stance that has landed him in hot water with Spanish fans on several occasions, especially in what will now prove to be his last game for Spain. Having been so crucial to the country’s success over the last few years, he has finally had his wish granted, and is now set to represent his hometown instead of Spain.
CB – Marc Bartra
Now plying his trade with Borussia Dortmund in Germany, Bartra initially played for Espanyol as a child before coming through the ranks at Barcelona’s fabled La Masia. He has made 5 appearances for his native Catalonia, while also being called up to the Spanish squad on 12 occasions.
LB – Jordi Alba
Like Bartra, Alba has also made 5 appearances for Catalonia. However, it is with Spain that his International career has flourished so far, with 56 appearances for the country till date. Alba hails from Barcelona, and is also a key player for the city’s main club, so he will not be adding to those Spanish caps anymore.
CDM – Sergio Busquets
Busquets has exactly 100 caps for Spain, and is another player who has been magnificent for the Spanish national side over the years. However, he too, is from Barcelona, and is likely to stick to the Catalan national team after his nation’s independence.
CM – Cesc Fabregas
Fabregas’s origins will be yet another blow for the Spanish national side, due to the fact that he has represented them 110 times throughout his career. The Chelsea midfielder is from Barcelona as well, which means that he will have to swap national teams.
CM – Sergi Roberto
Roberto has made 4 appearances for Spain, but 6 overall for Catalonia, and that number is set to grow even further now. The 25-year-old is from Tarragona, and it is expected that he will represent the nation of his birth.
LW – Gerard Deulofeu
Deulofeu came through the ranks at Barcelona, and despite racking up five appearances for Spain’s national XI, the winger hails from Girona, Catalonia, and is likely to follow the other players into playing for his hometown.
RW – Cristian Tello
Tello has not been seen on the international stage for quite a while now. After showing so much promise at Barcelona as a young player breaking through, his career has faded out of the limelight since his departure from the club. With the Catalans now feeling the need to find players for their national side, it could finally see the winger return to action for the country of his birth.
ST – Bojan Krkic
Like Tello, Bojan showed incredible promise at Barcelona. Now with Stoke City in the Premier League, Bojan’s career with the Spanish national side ends with just a single cap in 2008. He has already made 13 appearances for Catalonia, and the independence is now likely to see him increase that tally significantly.
Manchester United fan, Wayne Rooney is his role model. Passionate writer who has written for several sites in the past. He’s also an aspiring pianist and creates background music for BlameFootball’s Youtube channel.