Monday 5 December 2016

Spanish boss delays decision on De Gea's 'mental' fitness

Jim White

Published 13/06/2016 | 02:30

De Gea denied any wrongdoing when speaking to the media last week and has assured his manager that the charges are groundless. Photo: REUTERS/Vincent Kessler
De Gea denied any wrongdoing when speaking to the media last week and has assured his manager that the charges are groundless. Photo: REUTERS/Vincent Kessler

David De Gea will play for Spain against the Czech Republic today only if manager Vincente Del Bosque is happy after making a last minute assessment of the goalkeeper's mental condition.

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"If the player is able to play, then he'll play," said Del Bosque, speaking ahead of the Group D game in Toulouse. "If he's not we will take another decision without any problem."

The goalkeeper, who has been implicated in a criminal investigation involving alleged sex trafficking and prostitution, trained yesterday afternoon at the Stade Municipal with the rest of his team- mates. He swapped jokes as he went through his warm-up, outwardly apparently unaffected by the scandal enveloping him in his homeland.

De Gea denied any wrongdoing when speaking to the media last week and has assured his manager that the charges are groundless.

What the issue undoubtedly has done is present Del Bosque with a challenging selection puzzle, one which he will not resolve until this morning.

If he deems that, with the scandal swelling back in Spain, De Gea is not mentally up to the game - much in the same manner that the player's then Manchester United manager Louis Van Gaal did last summer when he was subject to transfer speculation ahead of an aborted move to Real Madrid - then Del Bosque will be obliged to turn to Iker Casillas.

However the former national captain and holder of a record 167 national team caps, is arriving in France at the tail end of a wretched season.

At his new club Porto, Casillas let in more goals than any of his predecessors did in more than a decade. And it was he who many Spanish fans hold as largely to blame for the calamitous defeat by Holland in the opening game of the 2014 World Cup, a result game which blew their defence of the trophy immediately off course.

Del Bosque, though, trusts the former Real Madrid player who lifted the Euro trophy in 2008 and 2012, as well as hoisting the World Cup in between, and he would have little compunction in calling him up if he felt De Gea was distracted by the accusations.

While he might have reservations about De Gea's preparedness, he does not feel that the controversy has any wider debilitating effect on team morale.

"They're big guys, they're fine," he said of his players. "They are experts in football. And this experience they are going to take into every game, they are very capable players, they know how to compete."

Asked what it was that most made him believe in a group of players that no longer has Xavi in midfield, Del Bosque answered: "Their experience and their ability.

"Every final brings with it its own uncertainties but we have that tournament expertise."

veterans This is Del Bosque's fourth and final tournament in charge of the team before he steps down. They have won two of those three, plus the 2008 European Championship under Luis Aragones that began what has been a golden era.

Four of Del Bosque's starters will be veterans of that win in Austria eight years ago. David Silva, Cesc Fabregas, Andres Iniesta and Sergio Ramos will all face the Czechs.

Asked if the controversy around De Gea would bring the squad closer together, Ramos' response suggested that the controversy over the 25-year-old goalkeeper has had the sort of bonding effect on the Spain squad that the 'dentist chair' front pages had on the England camp in 1996.

"When something happens to one of the players then the others support him so maybe it helps a little bit but the group is very united anyway.

"It was not very nice news to receive but when you're with a team-mate he has the support of the whole group. We're not going to say anything about it, he has said what he wants to say himself."

Spain ought to get off to a winning start. The Czech Republic are contemplating playing 35-year-old Tomas Rosicky as a false nine which points to them not being at the height of their powers.

Telegraph.co.uk

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