Spain Euro 2024 squad guide: A teenage record-breaker and Rodri in the middle, but the scandal lingers


Spain are still weighed down by the fallout from the Luis Rubiales scandal, along with the other issues which were unearthed as a result. They have talent, particularly Manchester City’s Rodri, plus a record-breaking young sensation, but expectations back home are low.

How to follow Euro 2024 on The Athletic…

The manager

Even Luis de la Fuente himself was surprised when he was promoted to take over Spain’s senior team by Luis Rubiales, who had fired previous coach Luis Enrique following Spain’s last-16 exit to Morocco at the 2022 World Cup.

De la Fuente was a double La Liga champion at left-back with Athletic Bilbao in the early 1980s. After moving into coaching, he worked with different generations of Spain’s national teams, winning an Under-19 European Championships in 2015, the Under-21 Euros four years later and getting the under-23s to the final of the most recent Olympics in 2021.

A regular at his local gym and church, he has a more conciliatory and less intense personality than his predecessor, and has tried pretty successfully to build a club-like atmosphere among a group of players which is without too many big names or egos.

The 62-year-old is more comfortable on the training ground than in front of the cameras, so you won’t catch him on Twitch, unlike Luis Enrique. He has stumbled into a few media storms though and has had a rocky relationship with some reporters, especially those who are close to Real Madrid and Barcelona.

Despite his best attempts, he remains linked in many minds with Rubiales, especially those who remember him applauding the now disgraced former federation president’s infamous ‘I will not resign’ speech in the days following the controversy at last summer’s Women’s World Cup final.

Spain coach Luis de la Fuente (Denis Doyle/Getty Images)

The household name in waiting

A fairytale 15 months has seen Barcelona’s Lamine Yamal become the youngest ever La Liga player (15 years, 290 days), Champions League starter (16 years, 83 days) and La Liga scorer (16 years, 87 days). The Catalan-born graduate of Barca’s La Masia academy also marked his senior international debut last September by becoming Spain’s youngest ever male player and scorer (16 years, 57 days).

Yamal has often outshone much more experienced Barcelona team-mates this season, showing phenomenal maturity and decision-making as well as dribbling and shooting ability. He ended his first full senior campaign with seven goals and 10 assists in 50 club appearances.

Still wearing braces over his innocent smile, Yamal will become the youngest player in European Championship finals history if he features at all in this tournament (the current record is 17 years, 246 days). The story could have an even more fairytale ending — he turns 17 on July 13, the day before the final.

Spain’s teenage record-breaker Yamal (Pierre-Philippe Marcou/AFP/Getty Images)


Although their current crop of midfielders are not at the level of trophy-winning predecessors such as Andres Iniesta and Xavi, Spain’s strength remains in the centre of the pitch.

Few who have watched them over the last two decades will be surprised that they were top of UEFA’s official stats for possession (67.6 per cent), passing accuracy (90.8 per cent) and most passes completed per game (660) during Euro 2024 qualifying.

While Alvaro Morata is captain by dint of seniority, it’s Manchester City holding midfielder Rodri who is the team’s on-pitch leader. He should gel well with Barcelona playmaker Pedri, who is finally returning to form after two years of fitness issues. RB Leipzig’s Dani Olmo, Fabian Ruiz of Paris Saint-Germain and Girona’s Aleix Garcia are also technically and tactically excellent at moving the ball around.

De La Fuente does like speed and directness on the wings through Yamal and Athletic Bilbao’s Nico Williams, but that remains more of a Plan B against opponents who are proving difficult to break down.


Centre-back has been a problem for some time. This was seen when France-born but Bilbao-developed Aymeric Laporte was persuaded to switch allegiance to Spain before the previous Euros in 2021, and underlined when De la Fuente kept him as first choice even after he left Manchester City for the Saudi Pro League’s Al-Nassr last summer.

Laporte’s preferred partner in the middle of the back four under Luis Enrique was either Pau Torres, formerly at Villarreal and now of Aston Villa, or Eric Garcia, who spent last season on loan to Girona from Barcelona. Neither has featured much under De la Fuente, with Real Sociedad’s Robin Le Normand, also French-born, a regular since he also made the switch to represent Spain a year ago.

The lack of options has seen Barcelona’s Pau Cubarsi, who only turned 17 in January but started 18 La Liga matches this season and three more in the Champions League, fast-tracked into the senior setup and Real Madrid veteran Nacho recalled at 34 for his first caps since 2018. Both were named in Spain’s provisional 29-man pre-Euros squad.

Spain did not have too many defensive issues in the qualifiers — just five goals conceded in their eight games with Scotland, Norway, Georgia and Cyprus — but better-quality opponents over the weeks ahead in Germany may be able to take advantage.

Robin Le Normand (Pierre-Philippe Marcou/AFP/Getty Images)

Something you didn’t know

Dignitaries at Euro 2024 stadiums in Germany and TV viewers back home are likely to see a lot of Vicente del Bosque — Spain’s coach when they won the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012 — over the next month or so.

That’s because Del Bosque has been appointed to a new ‘Normalisation, representation and supervision committee’, which is the Spanish government’s response to the global media storm caused by Rubiales’ now infamous behaviour after Spain won last summer’s Women’s World Cup final.

Despite attempts to make it look otherwise, the shadow of Rubiales’ reign still hangs over the Spanish federation. The national team training ground near Madrid was raided by police officers while De la Fuente and his players were working there during March’s international break.

Rubiales’ hand-picked successor, Pedro Rocha, was named the federation’s new permanent president in April, with no other candidate capable of gathering enough support to challenge for the position, despite himself being under investigation as part of a corruption case involving his old boss.

So Del Bosque’s new role is to be a respected representative of Spanish football for public and international consumption, while Rocha and others from Rubiales’ time remain the main power brokers back at federation headquarters.

Vicente del Bosque (Pierre-Philippe Marcou/AFP/Getty Images)

Expectations back home

At the preliminary squad announcement on May 27, heroes of Spain’s Euros victories in 1964, 2008 and 2012 called for everyone in the country to get behind the team. De la Fuente also asked the media to play their part in supporting the players, by not focusing too much on non-sporting issues — i.e. corruption investigations.

With such noise still around the team, and a realisation today’s generation do not look particularly golden, expectations are not high — even though Spain won last summer’s four-team Nations League finals by beating Italy and then Croatia (two of their group opponents this summer).

“Our group is very difficult, there will be surprises at this Euros, for sure,” said De la Fuente at the preliminary squad announcement. Less than half of the 29 players he named that day appeared in the Champions League last season, and most of the current established stars at Real Madrid and Barcelona, La Liga’s two biggest clubs, play for other countries.

Though, at the squad announcement, Euro 2008 winner Joan Capdevila did make a point of recalling how few pundits gave that Spain team a chance of lifting the trophy.

It might not seem to make for an ideal environment, but sometimes uniting against external parties can help bond a team together and motivate unexpected triumphs.

Spain’s provisional squad

Goalkeepers: Unai Simon (Athletic Bilbao), David Raya (Arsenal), Alex Remiro (Real Sociedad).

Defenders: Dani Carvajal (Real Madrid), Jesus Navas (Sevilla), Aymeric Laporte (Al Nassr), Robin Le Normand (Real Sociedad), Nacho (Real Madrid), Dani Vivian (Athletic Bilbao), Pau Cubarsi (Barcelona), Alejandro Grimaldo (Bayer Leverkusen), Marc Cucurella (Chelsea).

Midfielders: Rodri (Manchester City), Martin Zubimendi (Real Sociedad), Fabian (Paris Saint-Germain), Mikel Merino (Real Sociedad), Marcos Llorente (Atletico Madrid), Pedri (Barcelona), Aleix Garcia (Girona), Alex Baena (Villarreal), Fermin Lopez (Barcelona).

Forwards: Alvaro Morata (Atletico Madrid), Joselu (Real Madrid), Mikel Oyarzabal (Real Sociedad), Dani Olmo (RB Leipzig), Ferran Torres (Barcelona), Nico Williams (Athletic Bilbao), Lamine Yamal (Barcelona), Ayoze Perez (Real Betis).

(Top photo: Getty Images; design: Eamonn Dalton)

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