Following the recent regional elections in Spain, there is an increasing chance that the Spanish region of Catalonia could become an independent nation. The pro-independence parties narrowly missed out on winning 50% of the Catalan vote, but won 72 out of the 135 seats available. Surely it will not be long before a referendum on independence takes place.
Already, La Liga officials have discussed what would happen to Barcelona, Espanyol and other Catalan teams (more on them later) should Catalonia become an independent nation. The president of the Liga de Fútbol Profesional, Javier Tebas, and the Spanish sports minister, Miguel Cardenal, have both said that Barcelona would not be able to compete in La Liga. Tebas tweeted:
Therefore if La Liga is forced to split, it is likely that so too will the Spanish national team.
Exploring the Concept of a Catalan National Team
The Catalonia national football team have actually been competing unofficially for years. They play at most a few friendlies a year, and most recently played against the Basque country’s own national football team in late December last year. They do have an official squad, but because they are not affiliated with FIFA or UEFA they are unable to play in the World Cup or European Championship.
If Catalonia does go independent, this is roughly what the starting line-up would look like. There will be other players who stake a claim and perhaps they will use different formations to accommodate certain players, but the team and squad in general looks rather strong.
Goalkeeper: Kiko Casilla (Real Madrid)
As Victor Valdés’ career looks to have stalled, it is best to choose someone whose own career is nearing its peak. Kiko Casilla recently re-signed for Real Madrid for a fee of €6million. He will be used as backup for Keylor Navas and is unlikely to feature too much for Madrid this year, but he is still an excellent goalkeeper.
His career took a while to get going — at the start he could barely get a game for Real’s reserve sides — but, after a few loan spells, he finally nailed down the no.1 spot at Espanyol and became a key figure in their side. He made well over 100 appearances for Catalonia’s second best team, and was a crucial part of the side which finished a respectable 10th in La Liga last season and also made it to the semi-final of the Copa del Rey.
Casilla is an agile goalkeeper capable of making excellent reaction saves. Moreover, he has strong positioning and good concentration. With the defence that a Catalonia side would be able to boast in front of him, he would have no trouble keeping clean sheets.
Likely second choice: Jordi Masip (Barcelona)
Right-back: Martín Montoya (Internazionale, on loan from Barcelona)
Montoya has only played a supporting role to Dani Alves in his career so far. However, the 24-year-old has a chance to prove himself at struggling Inter Milan in Serie A this season. He has represented Spain at every junior level, as well as Catalonia unofficially, and has three Liga titles and a Champions League to his name already.
As one would expect from a product of La Masia, he is very skilful for a defender, and his pace makes him able to cover both ends of the field easily. He has a tremendous workrate, but his main problem is his habit of losing concentration and making too many defensive errors. His pace makes him able to make up for his errors on occasion, but he still can be a liability, which is why it is unlikely that he will make it at Barcelona.
Nevertheless, he has a very good career ahead of him — if not at elite level — and with Gerard Piqué protecting him he should be a solid unit in the hypothetical Catalan side.
Centre-back: Gerard Piqué (Barcelona)
Not much more needs to be said about Piqué: he is one of the best, if not the best, centre-backs in the world. He will be one of the most important players in the Catalan side, and will ensure that they are hard to score against.
Centre-back: Marc Bartra (Barcelona)
Like Montoya, Bartra has spent much of his time at Barcelona waiting in the wings, but he is a perfectly sound defender and would flourish alongside Piqué, particularly as his positioning is so good. Strong, intelligent and good on the ball, don’t bet against the 24-year-old becoming one of the most dependable defenders in world football in years to come.
Left-back: Jordi Alba (Barcelona)
Perhaps the man that turns this defence from a good unit into a formidable one. Alba is arguably the best left-back in the world at the moment, and would give Bartra plenty of support — taking some pressure of Piqué — as well as being a constant threat going forward.
Defensive midfielder: Sergio Busquets (Barcelona)
Again, not much needs to be said about him. He is almost indisputably the best holding player in world football, and would improve the already solid Catalan defence whilst stringing together all the team’s attacks. Any side looks good with Busquets calling the shots.
Centre-midfield: Cesc Fàbregas (Chelsea)
Though he is going through one of the most barren spells in his career, if Fàbregas can improve he will be a crucial part of this team. He is one of the best passers around when on form, and will create endless chances for the Catalan attackers, particularly when supported by Busquets.
Centre-midfield: Andrés Iniesta (Barcelona)
Though he is beginning the twilight of his career, Don Andrés is still one of the best midfielders in the business. He and Fàbregas would give other midfields nightmares whilst splitting defences open with their through balls.
Perhaps if Fàbregas and Iniesta are unable to reproduce their best years, Barcelona’s latest promising midfielder, Sergi Samper, could form a pivot in defensive midfield with Busquets and pass teams to death.
Note: Iniesta is originally from Albacete, but has mentioned in the past that he “feels Catalan”, and would be eligible to play in the Catalan side should they go independent.
Winger: Gerard Deulofeu (Everton)
Two seasons ago, the youngster lit up the Premier League whilst on loan at Everton. Since his career has stalled a little bit, and Deulofeu has some attitude issues to address, but nevertheless he is still one of the brightest talents out there.
A more difficult loan spell at Sevilla led to his parent club, Barcelona, letting him go, and now the 21-year-old is back at Everton. This season will be a very interesting one for the blue half of Merseyside and, if he can get his mojo back, Deulofeu will combine powerfully with Ross Barkley and Romelu Lukaku. As for his place in the Catalan side, his pace and skill means that he will be able to combine with the rest of the midfield to cause havoc.
Winger: Aleix Vidal (Barcelona)
Vidal lit up La Liga and the Europa League for Sevilla last season, causing Barcelona to pay an initial €18million for his services. The 26-year-old will not be able to appear for his new side until January due to their transfer embargo, but when he does, he will make all the difference to the team. He has few, if any, weaknesses and is the final piece in the jigsaw for this Catalan midfield. He and Deulofeu could devastate opposition defences if both reach their potential.
The only problem as far as wingers go for Catalonia is that both Deulofeu and Vidal are naturally right-sided. However, the two should both be able to adapt to playing on the left, and perhaps the Catalan side would use the tactic of switching the two throughout the game.
Striker: Jonathan Soriano (Red Bull Salzburg) or Bojan Krkić (Stoke City)
Jonathan Soriano is one of the most natural goalscorers in Europe and has been scoring goals for fun in Austria. His career started very slowly, but he finally hit form for Barcelona B and is currently averaging nearly a goal per game for Salzburg. He needs to prove himself on a European platform, but the 29-year-old can score goals in any side and would flourish with the creativity of the Catalan midfield behind him.
Since the Austrian league doesn’t have the greatest reputation, perhaps a better choice would be someone who is proving himself in the self-proclaimed “best league in the world”: Bojan Krkić.
Bojan looked like Barcelona’s next big thing in his early days, but he never quite made it to the elite level and signed for Stoke City in 2014. His career has enjoyed a renaissance and he has become a fan-favourite at the Britannia Stadium. Since he often plays on the wing he is not as natural a goalscorer as Soriano, but his wonderful skill means that he would be able to combine well with the rest of the side.
The community needs to become an independent nation first, but this Catalonia side looks like a strong one. It has a great spine and is unlikely to ship too many goals, particularly with arguably the best centre-back, left-back and defensive midfielder in the world in the side, and will be able to create chances for fun with its midfield. Though the break up of La Liga could have disastrous implications for Barcelona, a Catalan team would challenge for major honours.