BARCELONA (Reuters) – Barcelona defender Jordi Alba was surprised by his omission from the Spain squad by his former Barca coach Luis Enrique but said he has not sought an explanation for his exclusion.
Alba has played for Spain at four major international tournaments but on Friday was left out of new national team coach Luis Enrique’s first squad list for the UEFA Nations League games against England and Croatia. Atletico Madrid midfielder Koke was another surprise absentee.
Valencia defender Jose Gaya took Alba’s place in the squad while Chelsea left back Marcos Alonso was also called up by Luis Enrique.
“I didn’t expect it, but I also didn’t expect to go to the European Championship in 2012 after my performances with Valencia. It’s not up to me whether the coach calls me up or not,” Alba said on Sunday after creating two goals and scoring one as Barcelona thumped Huesca 8-2.
“I would like to play for the national team but it’s the coach’s decision and I have to respect it. Last season was very good and this one has started well. I value what I do for my club and we’ll see what happens with the national team.”
Alba was a first-choice player in Luis Enrique’s first two seasons at the club as the Catalans won successive La Liga titles as well as the Champions League and lifted the Copa del Rey twice. He did lose his place in the team to French defender Lucas Digne for stages of the coach’s final campaign.
Alba appeared to criticise Luis Enrique in an interview last year, saying he knew he would fare better under current coach Ernesto Valverde than under his predecessor.
Luis Enrique refused to answer questions about Alba’s omission from the squad in a news conference on Friday, saying he would not speak about any players who he had excluded.
“I don’t know why I didn’t get called up, because I know when I’m playing well and when I am not. All I can do is respect the decision that has been taken,” Alba said.
“I don’t have a problem with anyone on a professional level. I’m playing well for my club and that’s my job. If it goes well, maybe I’ll return to the Spain team.”
Reporting by Richard Martin, editing by Ed Osmond