Mariano Diaz Eager to Switch Allegiance to Spain After Goal Against AS Roma

Gianni Verschueren@ReverschPassFeatured ColumnistSeptember 20, 2018

Real forward Mariano Diaz, down, celebrates with defender Marcelo after scoring his side's third goal during a Group G Champions League soccer match between Real Madrid and Roma at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Spain, Wednesday Sept. 19, 2018. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez)
Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

Real Madrid forward Mariano Diaz got on the scoresheet in Los Blancos' 3-0 UEFA Champions League win over AS Roma on Wednesday and told reporters after the match he's keen on switching international allegiance to Spain.

Per AS, the striker has already played for the Dominican Republic in a friendly, but he's still eligible for La Roja.

He said the European side would be his first choice and also opened up on inheriting the No. 7 shirt from Cristiano Ronaldo:

"I would love a call from Luis Enrique, I hope I can be in the national team.

"I'm very happy with the goal I scored, thanks to Marcelo's pass and my team-mates.

"I was eager but not in a hurry [to play]. I just wanted to work to get the opportunity from the coach.

"I have the seven but it's just a number. I do not give it more importance.

"I have a lot of respect for Cristiano and all the players who have worn it."

The 25-year-old returned to the Spanish capital this summer after a season with Lyon but had yet to feature for the club until Wednesday night.

Mariano was a late substitute in the second half and promptly opened his account in the final minutes to complete the 3-0 win. 

Sportswriter Sid Lowe loved what he saw:

Mariano was born and raised in Spain but had eligibility for the Dominican Republic and made his debut for the team in 2013. He scored in a 3-1 friendly win over Haiti and has ignored call-ups ever since, keeping his options open.

Per Onda Cero (h/t AS), Mariano spoke about his desire to switch to Spain last year when it seemed nothing more than a dream. Then-national team coach Julen Lopetegui said he was keeping an eye on the forward and later brought him back to Real after taking the job with Los Blancos.

His good form in France and subsequent return could open the door to La Roja, but he faces strong competition. Mariano isn't even a starter for Real, and that isn't likely to change in the near future.

Karim Benzema is the team's top option at striker and has been for a long time. At the age of 25, Mariano is no longer a prospect developing and waiting for his chance―he's a back-up with limited long-term upside for the European champions.

Diego Costa, Rodrigo, Alvaro Morata and Iago Aspas all sit ahead of him in the La Rojapecking order as things stand, and there's a lot of young talent on the horizon for Spain. Jordi Mboula, Rafa Mir and Abel Ruiz are all exciting names to keep an eye on for the future.

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