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Luis Enrique explains decision to replace Jose Gaya in World Cup squad

Luis Enrique explains decision to replace Jose Gaya in World Cup squad

Spain boss Luis Enrique has insisted that he does not regret his decision to pull Jose Gaya out of the squad for the 2022 World Cup and replace him with Alejandro Balde.

Gaya had been selected in the initial squad for the competition in Qatar, but he was replaced at the end of last week after picking up an ankle injury during a training session.

Balde has since been called into the squad, with the teenager set to provide competition for his Barcelona teammate Jordi Alba at left-back.

There has been controversy surrounding Enrique’s decision, with Gaya’s club side Valencia already declaring him fit to play, according to AS.

However, the Spain head coach stands by the decision, insisting that he simply could not take any chances when it came to the left-back spot.

Valencia defender Jose Gaya pictured on January 24, 2021© Reuters

“With regard to Gaya, it happens everywhere,” Enrique told reporters. “I have to make decisions. If I followed my heart based on his professionalism, he’d be here, but I can’t make decisions based on my heart. I have to use mind.

“In three games he’d not have been able to play 100 per cent. I have to make the best decision for the whole team and the whole country. Imagine if I’d listened to Valencia or what Gaya wanted, which was normal, and then imagine if [Jordi] Alba is injured.

“We’d start the World Cup with no left-back, then imagine what you’d say about me. You’d ask why we risked the situation.

“My mind said I should make the best decision for the team, and there’s no doubt the best is to have two fully fit full-backs for the World Cup.”

Jordi Alba celebrates scoring for Spain on September 24, 2022© Reuters

“You might not believe this, but I can’t keep waiting for someone [to be fit], because no one else will be able to adapt to demands of left-back.

“A winger can act as a wing-back at times, but left-back is unfortunately the only position I cannot wait for.

“If it happened to a centre-back, I’d wait, but I only have two players for the left-back position. I’m truly, deeply sorry for Gaya, I really like him, he’s a great guy and he has had very bad luck, but I have to think with my mind what a coach should do.

“He’s been unfortunate with the injury, he did it while crossing, and it was something I’d never seen before. But I’m sure he’ll get something positive in future.”

Spain will open their Group E campaign against Costa Rica on Wednesday afternoon, before facing Germany and Japan on November 27 and December 1 respectively.

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