Picking a Spain Starting XI Without Barcelona and Real Madrid Players
Spain is currently the best team in football and is in the middle of their Golden Age.
The current team is experiencing historic success which also coincides with Barcelona being one of the most dominant club teams ever.
This often causes some to inaccurately say that Spain is basically just Barça without Lionel Messi.
While the differences in tactics, attacking ability and even formation are very different, it is fair to say that La Roja is currently thriving largely on the strength of Spain's two greatest clubs—Barcelona and Real Madrid.
What some fail to realize is just how much world class talent exists at nearly every position beyond those two clubs.
This article will look at just that. Here I list a Spanish starting XI without using any players from La Liga's two best teams.
The sheer amount of world class talent and stellar potential should show not only how enviably deep the Spanish National Team is, but also prove that the current Golden Age will not end any time soon.
All the talk has been about David de Gea since his move to Manchester, but Vicente Guaita is the best Spanish keeper at 25-years-old or younger.
His save percentage was the best in La Liga last year and one of the tops in Europe. His shots saved per game also ranks among the best in the business.
Unfortunately, the Valencia keeper may miss the chance to start because of his age and the age of Spain current No. 1.
Iker Casillas has long had a lock on the starting gig for Spain and will probably hold the job for many years to come.
By the time San Iker is ready to retire, Guaita may be the best Spanish shot-stopper around, but could also be a bit too old to be invested in as the starter with a younger player like De Gea being chosen to start a new era.
This may seem unfair since Guaita is the better player, but he would not be the first great Spanish keeper to miss his chance to play.
In truth, La Roja has one of the deepest, most talented pools of keepers of any team.
Great veterans like Diego Lopez and Miguel Moya could start for most national teams in the world, but will probably retire without a single cap.
Perhaps a move to a bigger club like Barcelona would be enough for Guaita to earn a cap and finally become an undisputed starter, but that is not certain at all.
Honorable Mentions: Gorka Iraizoz, David de Gea, Miguel Moya
The former winger is not as defensively reliable out wide as the likes of Sergio Ramos or even Alvaro Arbeloa, but his attacking skills and link-up play is as good as any Spanish right-back.
The Atletico Madrid star will be one of the main contenders for a starting spot in Brazil in 2014 and his success at the club level will be one of the main arguments in his favor.
Honorable Mention: Andoni Iraola, Hugo Mallo, Cesar Azpilicueta
The one area where depth is a real concern for Spain is in central defense.
Carles Puyol has very little time left with La Roja and while Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique are world class defenders, there isn't much cover in the middle after those two.
Alvaro Dominguez was considered a favorite to make the senior squad just two years ago, but inconsistent play has hurt his chances a bit.
The 23-year-old earned his first cap this year and has had a solid start to his career in the Bundesliga, but there is no guarantee he will be selected for La Roja any time soon.
Honorable Mentions: Iñigo Martínez, Marc Valiente
Victor Ruiz is definitely not a world class defender, but he is as good as any center-back outside of Barcelona and Real Madrid.
More importantly, at just 24 years old, the Valencia man still has time to become a top player.
Ruiz has really taken big strides over the last two seasons and has formed a nice partnership with Adil Rami.
With few better options being available to Vicente del Bosque, a fine next couple of seasons could earn Ruiz a spot on the senior squad in Brazil.
Honorable Mentions: Alberto Botia, Aythami
Malaga's star full-back is one of the more underrated Spaniards outside of La Liga.
Monreal is a more complete left-back than Jordi Alba and perhaps a bit better overall, but not playing for one of Spain's elite clubs hurts his chances of playing for the national team a bit.
Alba's superb play at the Euros probably sealed his starting spot for a while and he should only get better, but the former Osasuna star will provide excellent competition in the build-up to the next World Cup.
Honorable Mention: Nacho
2012 was a big breakout year for Beñat both domestically and for the national team.
He has become one of the elite central midfielders in Spain and even Europe, earning recognition from Vicente del Bosque.
The Real Betis star has led his team to Champions League contention with phenomenal long passing, a great partnership with Cañas superb vision and incredible defensive skills.
In this starting XI the 25-year-old could play either pivot position, anchoring the midfielder while shielding the defense just as comfortably as driving the unit in front.
Honorable Mentions: Javi Martinez, Ander Herrera
If not for the superior Sergio Busquets and Xabi Alonso, Mikel Arteta would be one of the top contenders for a starting spot in Spain's central midfield.
The Arsenal man has really blossomed in the latter stages in his career and 2012 might have been his best season as a footballer.
He has become one of the premier holding midfielders in England and his intelligence and ability to read plays makes his job look a bit easy.
With the likes of Javi Martinez and Ignacio Camacho starting to hit a great stride, Arteta will probably never start in a major tournament for Spain, but that is just a testament to how incredibly deep the position is.
Honorable Mentions: Ignacio Camacho, Mario Suarez
The Chelsea superstar followed his former teammate's footsteps by taking the Premier League by storm.
Just like David Silva before him, Juan Mata brought Spanish flair, technical superiority and creativity that fans of English football are simply not as privy to as commonly as La Liga supporters.
Mata immediately became one of the key players for the Blues and continues to work his way up the ladder for La Roja.
Honorable Mentions: Jesus Navas, Markel Susaeta, Joaquin
In many ways, David Silva perfectly shows how unrivaled Spain's and La Liga's midfield talent is today.
Before moving to the Premier League, Silva was one of La Liga's top midfielders. In England, he was almost immediately recognized as perhaps the best in the league.
The versatile visionary has struggled to maintain top form this season, but he remains one of the premier attacking midfielders in all of football.
Honorable Mentions: Michu, Koke
Last season I ranked Santi Cazorla as the best midfielder in Spain and many people said I was overrating him.
Now, after moving to Arsenal and instantly becoming one of the elite midfielders in England, those people are finally seeing the truth that has been evident for years—Cazorla is one of the most versatile, creative midfielders alive.
The Spaniard was bought from Malaga at an embarrassingly low rate and Arsenal fans could not be more thankful for the Spanish club's financial struggles.
If Cazorla keeps his form up, he will play a big role in Spain's title defense at the next World Cup.
Honorable Mentions: Isco, Iker Muniain
The veteran Valencia striker scored more goals in 2012 than any other Spanish striker in football besides Ruben Castro (who matched him with 20 goals).
In truth, Roberto Soldado has been the best Spanish finisher for the last couple of years, but playing for Valencia as opposed to Barcelona or Chelsea has caused him to miss out on more chances to play for Spain.
The former Castilla star is not as well-rounded or creative as Iago Aspas, but he is as good a finisher as there is in Spain.
The great poacher is the ideal man to play alone atop the 4-2-3-1 formation used here.
Honorable Mentions: Iago Aspas, Ruben Castro, Fernando Llorente
If Vicente del Bosque were to use the 4-3-3 that he often relied on in the Euros this past summer, a few changes would be made to this formation.
First off, while Beñat and Mikel Arteta are superb defensive midfielders, they are not quite as intelligent as Sergio Busquets and neither are real enforcers that would excel best without the front cover.
Javi Martinez would be the better choice as a lone holder with Santi Cazorla and Beñat in front of him.
Secondly, Iago Aspas would be the better choice to lead Spain's attack.
Of all the Spanish forwards and goal threats, none are better suited to play the central, false 9 role than the Celta Vigo superstar.
His vision, link-up play and finishing give him the perfect combination of skills to play the position.
Finally, Jesus Navas would be a better option out wide than Juan Mata. He is a better crosser, has more pace, is arguably the best winger in all of football and is perfect for the 4-3-3.
Please let us what you think of this team and discuss any different selections you would make for Spain.