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Try not to weep in horror as we compare Spain and England’s midfield options

Why not purge yourself of any optimism you may have about the Three Lions' World Cup chances?

On these shores, there is outrage at Gareth Southgate’s decision to omit Jonjo Shelvey from England’s World Cup squad.

Meanwhile, in Spain, Julen Lopetegui is ready to casually discard Javi Martinez, Cesc Fabregas and Juan Mata, among others – such is the strength of the midfield options available to him.


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Here, we compare the midfielders who were selected by Southgate with those selected for Spain’s 23-man squad.

Be warned, it’s doesn’t make for pretty reading, unless you’re Spanish that is…

Eric Dier v Sergio Busquets

They share the same barber but that’s as far as it goes

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They share the same barber but that’s as far as it goes

They have equally bland barnets but they’re worlds apart in terms of honours.

England’s designated ‘hard man’ is still waiting on his first medal of note while the Catalan oasis of composure probably keeps his Copa del Rey trinkets in a box in his attic.

Both of them have a tendency to run through treacle but when it comes to passing and retaining possession, Busquets is the clear winner.

Jordan Henderson v Thiago Alcantara

Which one is in the Champions League final though?

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Which one is in the Champions League final though?

One of them is an exquisite passer, an aesthetic dribbler, a dictator of tempo… and the other is Thiago Alcantara.

Just kidding.

Hendo may have improved under Jurgen Klopp and impressed in crucial Champions League fixtures, but let’s be honest, Thiago’s natural talent puts him in another league.

Fabian Delph v Andres Iniesta

Imagine if Iniesta spent a season at left-back

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Imagine if Iniesta spent a season at left-back

This is where it starts to get embarrassing.

Both champions of their respective leagues, but the difference is Delph played the majority of his games at left-back and had Benjamin Mendy not been injured, he would hardly have played at all.

On the other hand, Iniesta is one of the greatest players to ever grace a football pitch.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek v Koke

You’ve probably got the gist by now…

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You’ve probably got the gist by now…

We are fully paid up members of RLC’s fan club.

The Chelsea midfielder impressed on loan at Crystal Palace either side of his injury but he’s still raw and lacking in experience.

Koke is still only 26-years-old but he’s already played over 400 professional games.

Another naturally-blessed player, the Atletico Madrid loyalist would be a guaranteed starter for Southgate if he was born in Margate instead of Madrid.

Dele Alli v Isco

Ah, here we go, a more even contest. Right? Hello?

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Ah, here we go, a more even contest. Right? Hello?

We’ve matched these two up as both could operate as midfielders or as forwards in support of a traditional No9.

Dele’s numbers make for pleasant reading — after three seasons he averages (ever so slightly under) one goal every three games.


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Isco’s Real Madrid record doesn’t match up but he’s often operated in a more withdrawn role for Los Blancos.

At international level however, he has ten goals in 26 caps, including a hat-trick against Argentina in March.

Whereas Dele hasn’t scored for England since 2016 and has just two goals from 23 games.

Jesse Lingard v David Silva

J Lingz v D Silvz

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J Lingz v D Silvz

Man United’s dancing No14 experienced a breakout season in 2017/18 and fans were quick to Photoshop his head onto Lionel Messi’s body after a flurry of goals in the first half of the campaign.

Rewind a year and the United academy product wouldn’t have fancied his chances of making the World Cup squad but it’s a mark of his progression that there were few doubts over his inclusion.

Man City’s resident magician played as well as he ever has this season passed.

Silva is a veteran of 118 international caps and only Fernando Torres, Raul and David Villa have scored for goals in Spain’s history.

A class act.

Lewis Cook/Jake Livermore v Saul Niguez/Luis Alberto

Saul’s face pretty much sums it up

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Saul’s face pretty much sums it up

The battle of the back-ups.

Well actually, given Spain’s tactical preferences, there’s every chance Saul will be reserved a seat on the plane to Russia (UPDATE: he has been selected).

Whatever the case, this is a stark mismatch.

Cook and Livermore spent the season in and around the relegation dogfight while Saul and Alberto flirted with Champions League qualification, successfully so in the former’s case.

Gareth Southgate named his England World Cup squad this afternoon

PA:Press Association
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Traumatised yet?

Well, that was suitably sobering, wasn’t it?

Have you lost your faith in England’s potential to lift the trophy?

No, us neither — come on the boys!


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