Carles Puyol’s necessary knee surgery has ruled him out of Euro 2012 and Vincent Del Bosque now has a selection dilemma to overcome if Spain are to successfully defend their title at 5/2.
Puyol’s understanding with fellow Barcelona defender Gerard Pique has been a key element of Spain’s recent tournament achievements, but the discomfort faced in the recent 4-0 victory over Espanyol will require surgery to repair.
The typical recuperation period for the surgery is around six weeks, but Spain have taken the decision to discount the 34-year-old entirely from their plans.
There are four players seemingly battling to fill the void, with Sergio Ramos and Javi Martinez perhaps the most likely to be deployed alongside Pique.
Ramos has spent much of the campaign in central defence at Real Madrid, but has regularly been utilised on the right by Del Bosque.
Switching him inside and picking Alvaro Arbeloa at right back looks the obvious solution, but this may reduce the attacking thrust in the wide areas.
Alternatively, Raul Albiol has played regularly for Spain of late, but his lack of first-team appearances for Real Madrid this season must be a worry, while he has hardly been impressive on the international stage.
With the vast number of central midfield options at Del Bosque’s disposal, there is the option of moving Sergio Busquets back into defence, but none of Xabi Alonso, Andres Iniesta, Xavi or Cesc Fabregas are as useful at breaking up play.
Therefore, Javi Martinez may be the man to replace Puyol.
Despite being known as a midfielder, Martinez has often played in central defence for Marcelo Bielsa at Athletic Bilbao this season, in much the same way as Javier Mascherano has been converted at Barcelona.
The ball-playing nature of Spain and the fact that they are so heavily influenced by Barcelona should ensure that Martinez fits into the formation with little problem, but his lack of big-game experience may be a slight concern.