Enrique calls up Gavi for Nations League semi-final


Madrid (AFP) – Luis Enrique called up Barcelona’s 17-year-old midfielder Gavi to the Spain squad on Thursday, despite the youngster having only four La Liga appearances to his name.

Barcelona’s 18-year-old playmaker Pedri also made a return after being left out in September following his hectic summer playing at both Euro 2020 and the Olympics.

But Luis Enrique deemed it too soon for Barca’s Ansu Fati, the 18-year-old who has made only two appearances for his club after 10 months out with a serious knee injury.

Gavi was the surprise inclusion in another youthful Spain squad, who face Italy in the semi-finals of the Nations League in Milan on Wednesday.

“When you see him playing at this level, he impresses,” said Luis Enrique. “I have known him for a long time, he was already a stand-out player in Barca’s reserve team. I have no doubt about the level he will reach in the future.”

The other notable players on the list are the full-backs, with Sporting Lisbon right-back Pedro Porro, Chelsea veteran Marcos Alonso and Tottenham left-back Sergio Reguilon all included.

Villarreal’s 18-year-old left winger Yeremi Pino has been rewarded with a first call-up after some excellent recent performances and there was a place for midfielder Mikel Merino of Real Sociedad, who has also enjoyed a strong start to the season in La Liga.

Luis Enrique admitted he wanted to pick Fati but said: “The best for now is that he is not with us, that he stays with his club and that he regains his level. I am sure that he will be able to help us again in the near future.”

It is the third consecutive squad for which Luis Enrique has decided not to call up any Real Madrid players, with Nacho Fernandez, Miguel Gutierrez and Marco Asensio among those ignored.

Spain squad:

Goalkeepers: Unai Simon (Athletic Bilbao), David De Gea (Manchester United/ENG), Robert Sanchez (Brighton & Hove Albion/ENG)

Defenders: Cesar Azpilicueta (Chelsea/ENG), Eric Garcia (Barcelona), Aymeric Laporte (Manchester City/ENG), Inigo Martinez (Athletic Bilbao), Pau Torres (Villarreal), Sergio Reguilon (Tottenham/(ENG), Marcos Alonso (Chelsea/ENG), Pedro Porro (Sporting Lisbon/POR)

Midfielders: Sergio Busquets, Pedri, Gavi (all Barcelona), Rodri (Manchester City/ENG), Koke (Atletico Madrid), Mikel Merino (Real Sociedad)

Forwards: Pablo Fornals (West Ham/ENG), Marcos Llorente (Atletico Madrid), Pablo Sarabia (Sporting Lisbon/POR), Mikel Oyarzabal (Real Sociedad), Yeremi Pino (Villarreal), Ferran Torres (Manchester City/ENG)

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