The line-up against Portugal of Aymeric Laporte and Pau Torres, two left-handed centrals, is Luis Enrique’s latest transgression against what he describes as “hot topics installed in football”, whether it be having a fixed eleven, a backbone or not rotating goalkeepers. Between his commitment to performance to build an eleven and the need, the manual of the Spanish coach does not fit some of the unwritten laws of football such as the supposed weakness of aligning two central zocatos. “It is not something usual”, admits Laporte himself, “I had played with another left-handed center-back only a couple of times, but I was on the left side. It was with Umtiti in the lower categories of the French team, but I felt comfortable with Pau, although I had to play on the right side, ”says the Manchester City defender.
“It is not common and normal, it is difficult because it is difficult to find two left-handed centrals with this quality and this physical plant,” wielded Luis Enrique at the end of the match. However, in the November call-up, for the Nations League matches against Switzerland (1-1) and Germany (6-0), the coach included Íñigo Martínez and Pau Torres on the list, who did not play a just minute together. Their predecessor, Robert Moreno, also cited them in a three-game window and didn’t match them either.
Necessity points to being the reason why Luis Enrique may have in mind to establish such an unusual couple. When in September FIFA rectified the regulations that allowed the change of association to players who had already played matches with a national team, if they met a series of requirements, the federation resumed the possibility of nationalizing Laporte. At that time, the option of playing with two left-handed centrals was not contemplated because the Ramos-Pau Torres duo was curdling. Since Luis Enrique began to consider that the Madrid center-back could stay out of the Eurocup, the idea of playing with Pau Torres and Laporte gained strength. From the federation, the evolution of football itself in the last 20 years was already wielded, reflected in the now non-negotiable foot game of the goalkeepers, to break the taboo.
History remembers more specific cases than a stable pair of left-handed centrals. Former international Manolo Jiménez had to make use of that solution when he led Sevilla by lining up Dragutinovic and Escudé. “It was not a whim, he had the rest of the central injured. After many tests in training, I concluded that it was the best and things went well, ”recalls Jiménez. “It doesn’t have to be an inconvenience, the only thing you have to decide is which of the two plays on the right. If you take the line-ups of the League matches, you can see that there are defenses made up of four right-handers and nothing happens. I saw both of them well, with good starts and prevailing in the anticipations ”, Jiménez abounds.
“The good player does well on the right or on the left. We must not put buts to Luis Enrique’s decision, “warns Andoni Goikoetxea, who as a left-handed central defender defended the national team’s jersey in the 80s.” I never played with another left-hander, only on the day of 12-1 in Malta, as Maceda went to the attack desperately, I told Camacho that the two of us stay alone defending. It is also a question of quantity, the left-handed center-back has always been highly valued due to its scarcity ”, adds Goikoetxea. The most used argument to defend that it is not convenient to play with two left-handed centrals is their more closed laterality. In theory, right-handers have an easier time activating their other profile. It is also usually explained that the clearances always go towards interior areas with two zocats in the axis of the defense. Clichés that Luis Enrique has been forced to ignore in order to break down another taboo.
Up to nine combinations in 21 appointments
In the 21 games that he adds in his two stages as coach, Luis Enrique has used nine pairs of center-backs, almost always with Ramos as one of them when participating in 15 games. With the camero and with Nacho he made his debut in the position in September 2018 at Wembley (1-2), in the first match of the Nations League. The English visit, three months later (2-3), ended with Nacho, who has not returned to the national team since then. Albiol, Íñigo Martínez, Eric García and Pau Torres were the other four companions of the absent captain. The other five couples that Luis Enrique has used and of which Ramos has not been part have been: Diego Llorente-Mario Hermoso; Diego Llorente-Eric García; Eric García-Íñigo Martínez and Pau Torres-Laporte.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.