Spain coach Luis Enrique on Monday left veteran defender Sergio Ramos out of his Euro 2020 squad but called up centre-back Aymeric Laporte, who recently switched his football nationality.
Ramos, the 35-year-old Real Madrid captain has struggled with injuries this season and has played just five times since the start of the year.
“It was a very difficult decision but he has not been able to play this season and has hardly trained since January,” Luis Enrique told the press conference as he announced a 24-man squad.
“I called him yesterday (Sunday), it was hard, difficult. I feel bad, because he is very professional and he helps the national team a lot. And he can still help it in the future. But I have to look for the best for the squad,” the coach said.
This season Ramos has missed games after catching Covid-19 and also because of injuries to his right thigh, his left calf and, most recently, his left hamstring.
He was in Madrid’s squad for Saturday’s final game of the season against Villarreal but did not start.
The absence of Ramos means there is not a single Madrid player in the Spain squad.
“It pains me not to have been able to help my team more and not to play for Spain but, in this case, the best thing to do is rest, fully recover and come back next year like we’ve always done. It hurts not to represent your country, but I have to be honest and sincere,” he wrote on Twitter.
“I hope we have a great Euros. I’ll be another fan cheering on from home.”
Spain have also qualified for the Olympics where they are scheduled to kick off the tournament against Egypt on July 22 in Sapporo their Olympic July 21, ten days after the Euros end.
Ramos could be selected as one of three overage players. Luis Enrique refused to comment on the possibility because he does not select Olympic squad.
Laporte, a 26-year-old Manchester City defender, was born in southwest France and was called up three times for Les Blues but never made it onto the pitch.
Luis Enrique said Laporte’s selection “has nothing to do” with the absence of Ramos.
While France coach Didier Deschamps has a wealth of central defenders to choose from, Luis Enrique has had fewer options since Gerard Pique retired in 2018.
Ramos has been an automatic starter when fit with a number of players, including Villarreal’s Pau Torres, Real Sociedad’s Inigo Martinez and Eric Garcia of Manchester City, playing alongside him.
After an impressive start at City, Laporte suffered a knee injury in 2019 and has not been a regular under Pep Guardiola this season.
In the absence of Ramos, two 32-year-old Barcelona players, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba, become the veteran leadership in a rejuvenated squad.
Luis Enrique has been able to test many young talents in recent months, and has called up a large number of them for the Euro, including Garcia, Pau Torres, Ferran Torres, Mikel Oyarzabal, Pedri and Dani Olmo.
Spain established themselves as one of the favourites with a 6-0 thrashing of Germany in the Nations League in November when Manchester City’s Ferran Torres hit a hat-trick and Oyarzabal of Real Sociedad also scored.
Goalkeepers: David De Gea (Manchester United/ENG), Unai Simon (Athletic Bilbao), Robert Sanchez (Brighton/ENG)
Defenders: Jose Gaya (Valencia), Eric Garcia, Aymeric Laporte (Manchester City/ENG), Jordi Alba (Barcelona), Diego Llorente (Leeds/ENG), Marcos Llorente (Atletico Madrid), Pau Torres (Villarreal), Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea/ENG)
Midfielders: Fabian Ruiz (Napoli/ITA), Pedri, Sergio Busquets (Barcelona), Rodri Hernandez (Manchester City/ENG), Koke,(Atletico Madrid), Thiago Alcantara (Liverpool/ENG).
Forwards: Dani Olmo (Leipzig/GER), Mikel Oyarzabal (Real Sociedad), Ferran Torres (Manchester City/ENG), Gerard Moreno (Villarreal), Alvaro Morata (Juventus/ITA), Adama Traore (Wolverhampton/ENG), Pablo Sarabia (Paris Saint-Germain/FRA).