In many ways, Bolton is a lot like Spain.
Unfortunately, we can’t think of anything witty to back up that opening sentence, so let’s just delve into one of the more bizarre titbits of England’s UEFA Nations League game against Spain on Saturday evening.
Because believe it or not, two players who turned out at Wembley for Luis Enrique’s side spent their formative years in the north west, playing for Bolkton back when they were in the Premier League.
That’s right, in over seven and a half years, Marcos Alonso and Rodrigo went from struggling to break into Owen Coyle’s first-team to tormenting the Three Lions at the home of English football.
The pair started in Spain’s 2-1 win, giving Enrique his first win as the national team boss and giving all of us England fans a post-World Cup reality check.
But it’s a far cry from the last time they started in a game together, which amazingly was way back in January 2011 in an FA Cup third round clash against York City.
That was then, and this is now.
These days, both players are aged 27 and are perhaps at the very peak of their respective careers.
Alonso is considered one of Chelsea’s best players at the moment and has been a consistent presence in their starting line-up since moving from Fiorentina at the start of Antonio Conte’s reign in 2016.
Last season, he netted seven times in the Premier League despite mostly playing as a left wing-back, and has seemingly adapted well to Maurizio Sarri’s system this season.
In fact, Sarri described him as the ‘best left-back in Europe’ last weekend.
Things are maybe even better for Rodrigo.
The nippy forward is the linchpin of Valencia’s attack, notching 16 goals in La Liga last term to earn himself a spot in Spain’s World Cup squad over the summer.
So it’s brilliant to think that both made a name for themselves turning out for the Trotters back in the day.
So how did it all come about?
Well, while Alonso was born in Madrid and began his career with Real Madrid’s youth academy, Rodrigo was actually born in Rio de Janeiro and moved to Spain in his youth, starting out with Celta Vigo before moving to Real Madrid to complete his development.
But the two then found themselves in a very different environment for the 2010/2011 season, when they each joined up with Bolton.
Alonso moved for around £1.6million and was talked up by Coyle as a long-term successor for veteran full-back Paul Robinson.
Rodrigo was a little harder to come by, initially turning down the Trotters to sign for Benfica, only to join Coyle’s side on loan a month later.
It’s probably fair to say that Alonso did the better of the two at the Reebok Stadium.
The Chelsea favourite stuck for three years, enjoying his season in 2012/2013 when he managed to score his first-ever goal – in a 3-2 win over Wolves – and was voted The Bolton News’ player of the year before moving to Fiorentina that summer.
Rodrigo’s loan-spell only last one season, and in 17 appearances in the Premier League he managed just a single goal.
Of course, things did get better for him, as he went back to Benfica the following year and managed to establish himself as one of the Portuguese league’s best wingers, even winning the league title and appearing in two Europa League finals before joining Valencia in 2015.
And now, they’re each seemingly a big part of Spain’s future under Luis Enrique.
With a small army of greats retiring from the national team in recent years, including David Silva, Andres Iniesta and Gerard Pique, it seems there’s finally a place for thee two former Bolton youngsters in a side that can certainly challenge for glory at Euro 2020.
Just don’t forget where you came from, lads.
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