Spain coach Moreno hails record-breaking Ramos

By Sports Desk October 12, 2019

Sergio Ramos was hailed as an "incredible" servant to Spain by coach Robert Moreno after becoming the most-capped player in the team's history.

Ramos made his 168th international appearance in a 1-1 Euro 2020 qualifier away to Norway on Saturday, edging ahead of his former Real Madrid and international team-mate Iker Casillas.

The defender has won two European Championship titles and a World Cup with Spain and has indicated he wants to play at next year's Olympic Games in Tokyo, while he previously set reaching 200 caps as a target.

While the Olympics starts less than two weeks after Euro 2020 ends, complicating Ramos' potential schedule for next year, Moreno praised the Spain skipper for his continued desire.

"Ramos' record is incredible," Moreno told a news conference. "And he still wants to compete, win titles.

"I want to congratulate him publicly and hopefully he can give us joy for much longer."

Among the celebrations for Ramos there was disappointment for Spain at Ullevaal Stadion, though, as Joshua King's second-half stoppage-time penalty prevented La Roja from sealing a spot at the finals with three games still to play.

Bournemouth striker King struck from the spot after Kepa Arrizabalaga's clumsy challenge on Omar Elabdellaoui saw referee Michael Oliver point to the spot.

"I'm left with a bad feeling because when you concede an equaliser at the end it is not good," Moreno added. "We tried to have the ball and control, and in the last minutes we had to kill the game.

"I liked the attitude of the team, but not the first half. In the second half we have tightened up more, we generated opportunities to score the second goal ... but in the end the control has been lost."

Spain will have another chance to secure qualification when they travel to play Sweden on Tuesday.

Moreno said: "We are going to try to win in Sweden, and we are going to try to score 28 points [in the group campaign] since we will not be able to get 30. Norway have been very strong, and played with the ambition of a team that still has options [to qualify].

"They go crazy when there is a team that has nothing to lose, and that's what happened to Norway."

Spain's line-up to face Norway included players from 11 different clubs, with Moreno accepting it might be beneficial were clubs such as LaLiga giants Barcelona or Real Madrid providing more talent to his squad.

"We have many players from many teams," he added. "I would love to have seven players from the same team, who will play together every week ... but that is not the case.

"It is a statistic that I did not know, but it means we have many good players in many good teams."

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    The former Barcelona coach stepped away from his role earlier this year as his young daughter Xana battled bone cancer. She died in August.

    Former assistant Moreno took on the job in his place, but Luis Enrique is now back in charge, taking over a Spain team arguably in better shape than the one he left.

    Qualification for Euro 2020 is clinched, while Moreno brought in a number of new faces - including members of Spain's successful European Under-21 Championship side.

    Luis Enrique would do well to note the progress under Moreno, and we have picked out five breakthrough stars who can have a role to play at next year's finals and beyond.


    FABIAN RUIZ

    Arguably the outstanding player of that European Under-21 Championship team, Napoli midfielder Fabian had already caught Luis Enrique's attention and was called up in March. It was under Moreno that he established himself, though, making six appearances since his June debut. Fabian idolised Xavi as a child and he looks capable of running the midfield at the Euros.

    PABLO SARABIA

    Slightly older than some of the new faces at 27, Sarabia was made to wait until after his big move to Paris Saint-Germain in July for a first call-up. It will not be easy to hold down a place at PSG and nor has a fledgling international career been straightforward, but injuries saw Sarabia, an exciting, effective creator, recalled this month and he scored against Malta.

    DANI OLMO

    Winger Olmo left Barcelona's academy for Dinamo Zagreb in 2014 but, still just 21, looks all the better for the first-team opportunities. He starred for the Under-21s and then scored three minutes into his senior debut. Olmo is already fielding questions on a potential return to Barca and, whether now or in the future, looks set to be a Spain regular.

    MIKEL OYARZABAL

    Although 22-year-old Oyarzabal had featured once for Spain before Moreno took charge, he never featured under Luis Enrique - earning his sole cap for Vicente del Bosque ahead of Euro 2016, for which he did not make the squad. After a couple of seasons scoring regularly in LaLiga, however, Oyarzabal is back in the mix and opened his international account against Sweden in June.

    GERARD MORENO

    Sarabia may have been made to wait for senior recognition, but Gerard - also 27 - is a true late bloomer. Uncapped at youth level, the Villarreal striker debuted in October and scored three times across the November international break. Gerard has netted eight goals in LaLiga already this season and will hope to retain his form with the Euros approaching fast.

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    Luis Rubiales does not believe the Royal Spanish Football Federation (RFEF) is guilty of mis-handling Luis Enrique's return to the role of Spain coach, despite Robert Moreno reportedly being upset at how the situation has been managed.

    Rubiales confirmed on Tuesday that Luis Enrique will return as coach and lead Spain at Euro 2020.

    The former Barcelona coach began a leave of absence in March and officially resigned in June as his young daughter, Xana, battled bone cancer. She died in August.

    Moreno took over and won each of his three matches while overseeing the team in a caretaker capacity and recorded a further four wins and two draws after assuming the position on a permanent basis.

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    "It was clear that in the moment that Luis Enrique felt strong to return, the door was always open for him," Rubiales told a media conference. "I have always said that, and have always been honest, nobody can feel tricked.

    "We want to thank Robert Moreno for his work, he did very well, and we are very happy with what he did. But Robert Moreno told us he'd spoken with Luis Enrique, who had told him he wanted to return. We found out through Moreno that Luis Enrique wanted to return.

    "We knew Luis Enrique wanted to return but [sporting director Jose Francisco] Molina and I decided not to say anything until after the qualification phase was done.

    "On Sunday, Molina spoke with Robert Moreno, and Robert Moreno said he wanted to know now what is going to happen. Molina told him to wait, but if Luis Enrique wants to return to his job we will consider it.

    "On Monday, we received a message from Robert Moreno, who said he would not stand in the way of Luis Enrique returning.

    "The first person who knew that Luis Enrique wanted to return, even before us at the federation, was Robert Moreno.

    "We have always acted with respect and transparency. And we have kept our word. The federation has acted coherently with everyone. We are loyal to Luis Enrique and the person who occupied his job.

    "Luis Enrique stepped down for the worst possible thing that can happen in a family. He has always been the leader of our project and has a contract until the [2022] World Cup in Qatar.

    "We had a meeting set up with Robert Moreno at 10:00 (9:00 GMT) this morning. But he did not come, just two lawyers. If he decided not to talk to the press yesterday [following the Romania game], we must respect that.

    "I believe we have acted - on all levels, with humility - I cannot find any mistake. If there was one I would apologise, but we have been very honest."

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