The recent Catalan referendum has seen incredible amounts of political intrigue for months now, which has only been intensified after the result, with the vast majority of those who voted wanting to secede from Spain and form their own independent nation. It’s an incredibly complex situation spanning politics, economics and the whole of society.
But on this blog, we’re going to examine an aspect that doesn’t really matter at all. Barcelona defender Gerard Pique has said that he would retire from the Spanish team if his teammates and fans did not want him there, which brings up a mildly interesting point on the possibility of him playing for Catalonia, along with various other Spanish players and internationals. But how good would a Catalonia side really be? Would they be capable of winning an international tournament? Let’s examine the potential players and find out!
Real Madrid’s backup keeper Kiko Casilla (above) is probably the most high-profile name eligible in goal. The 31-year-old has made five appearances for Catalonia since 2010, although he did also appear once for Spain in 2014. Casilla has been an able deputy to Keylor Navas for Madrid since his transfer in 2015, and would surely be able to continue that ability onto the international stage.
Other options include the former Barcelona keeper Jordi Masip, now at Real Valladolid, or Espanyol stopper Pau Lopez, who spent last season on loan at Tottenham.
The aforementioned Gerard Pique (above) is such an important player at the heart of Spain’s defence. Striking up a frankly ridiculous partnership with Madrid’s Sergio Ramos, Spain have one of the most formidable centre back duos in world football. Yet it appears that Pique’s time with the Spanish national team could be at an end, with his vocal support for Catalan independence making him very unpopular with certain groups of Spanish fans, and he was whistled and jeered by some during Spain’s recent World Cup qualifiers. It isn’t inconceivable that Pique could switch allegiances in the future which could be a massive boost to Catalonia’s chances.
And Pique isn’t the only top defender who’s eligible. Barcelona teammates Jordi Alba and Aleix Vidal are both able to switch allegiances, which would give Catalonia great options at full back. Dortmund’s Marc Bartra, a fellow La Masia graduate, could partner Pique at centre back, and the likes of Sergi Gomez and Andreu Fontas could be equally capable. Aarón Martín is a bit of a hot prospect at left back who is also an option.
It would be interesting to see legendary midfielder Xavi back on the international scene. Now at Qatari side Al Sadd, the former Barca man has made twelve appearances for Catalonia already alongside his 133 caps for Spain. But it is surely Sergio Busquets (above) who would theoretically be the heart of the Catalan midfield. The world-class defensive midfielder has recovered his form after a tough year or so and is back to his meticulous best, and he is the kind of midfielder who would slot into any team in world football and improve them.
Spain’s riches in midfield mean that Catalan options are pretty dazzling themselves. Cesc Fabregas is a top player in the right system, and the idea of reuniting with his former Barca teammates Busquets and Sergi Roberto is a tantalising one. Víctor Sánchez is a stalwart for Espanyol and could also be a valuable addition, while Sergi Samper and Marc Roca are younger options. On the wings, there is again heavy Barcelona influence. Gerard Delofeu and Isaac Cuenca have experienced mixed fortunes in recent years, but could jump at a possibility to play international football regularly.
Perhaps the weakest area of the potential Catalan side, the best option for an out-and-out striker would probably be Espanyol’s Gerard Moreno, a good player who’s become more well known throughout Spain in the last couple of seasons. There’s also something intriguing about the idea of Bojan Krkić returning, who is back playing in Spain after a mixed spell at Stoke City. Keita Baldé is an excellent player who has deserved his move to Monaco, and could provide more firepower from wide areas.
However, perhaps the most interesting option of all is Lionel Messi (above). The Argentine forward is the best player in the world and would obviously be an incredible ‘get’ for Catalonia. Messi has lived in the region for most of his life and, in theory, could qualify, and with Argentina currently on the verge of not even making the 2018 World Cup, could he be tempted for an attempt with a different side? Probably not, but it would be an incredible story!
Aleix Vidal – Marc Bartra – Gerard Pique – Jordi Alba
Cesc Fabregas — Sergi Roberto
Lionel Messi————————————–Keita Balde
Subs: Jordi Masip, Andreu Fontas, Aarón Martín, Sergi Samper, Víctor Sánchez, Gerard Delofeu, Bojan Krkić
Could Catalonia Win Anything?
The potential Catalan side is certainly not a bad one at all. While it may lack strength in depth, that starting eleven could arguably rival most other sides. Any team with Lionel Messi, Gerard Pique, and Sergio Busquets is going to have at least a decent chance of winning something. But international football is a difficult scene on which to win anything. Germany are a truly world-class side, and have much greater strength in most positions than Catalonia may possess. The likes of Brazil and France are also strong sides, and plenty of others are attempting to make the step up like Belgium, Portugal, Poland, and Chile. Catalonia would certainly have a chance at doing well, but it would be unlikely that they’d achieve any major success at tournament level.
But they’d definitely knock out England in the quarter finals.