Luis Enrique is optimistic that Spain will win this year's World Cup, despite being drawn in a tough group that contains fellow heavyweights Germany.

Top seeds Spain were placed in Group E in Friday's ceremony in Doha along with Germany, Japan and either Costa Rica or New Zealand, who meet in a play-off in June.

Spain and Germany, who lifted the famous trophy in 2010 and 2014 respectively, will face off in the competition for a fifth time.

La Roja have failed to beat Germany in their previous three group encounters, but they won their most recent World Cup meeting in the 2010 semi-finals.

They have met just twice since then in competitive games, with Spain hammering Die Mannschaft 6-0 in the Nations League in 2020 after a 1-1 draw in the same competition.

Germany have replaced Joachim Low with Hansi Flick since then, however, and are unbeaten in nine games under their new boss, winning eight of those.

The inclusion of a Japan side that reached the last 16 in 2018 and one of the play-off winners makes for a tough group, but Luis Enrique is in a bullish mood.

"It's going to be nice. It's a great group with a great rival, one that we'll enjoy. You don't play at World Cups often," he told reporters.

"My body has stayed as it was before the draw, the same. Regardless of who we got, being in the tournament is already a prize.

"Being seeded means what has been done in recent years counts. We know about Germany but not so much the rest, though we have time to analyse them.

"Competing against us is very complicated and it will be difficult to beat us. Anyone can beat us and we can beat any team.

"It is time to enjoy and be optimistic. We are Spain, seventh in the world ranking and we are going to conquer the world."

 

Spain's huge showdown with Germany will take place on November 27, their second group game.

Should Spain advance, as expected, they will meet either Belgium, Croatia, Canada or Morocco from Group F in the first knockout round.

Fernando Hierro, who took charge of Spain for their disappointing 2018 campaign when exiting to Russia in the last 16, believes facing Germany will give La Roja a chance to lay down an early marker.

"People give a lot of importance to the draw, but if you want to be world champion, you have to beat them all," Hierro said. "World Cups are won, not lost. 

"It is true that everyone pays a lot of attention to the draw for the first group phase. 

"But the most important thing is that in the end, if you want to be world champion, you have to beat everyone.

"Therefore, sooner or later the best teams will arrive, and the World Cup will be decided there."

Luis Enrique believes Spain have what it takes to win the 2022 World Cup, but adds his side will still have to contend with luck after a 5-0 rout against Iceland.

Braces for Alvaro Morata and Pablo Sarabia, plus Yeremi Pino's first goal for his country, helped La Roja to a runaway victory against their visitors at the Riazor.

After struggling to break through a stubborn Albania on Saturday, Tuesday's performance fell more in line with the high-energy performances of Euro 2020 last summer.

With a semi-final finish at their last major tournament as incentive, Luis Enrique certainly feels he has the players to help him go one step further and claim victory in Qatar later this year.

"We are capable of fighting anyone," he stated. "We are going to be competitive, for sure.

"The luck factor is important, as we saw in South Africa, and we hope to control everything that does not depend on that luck factor."

With several names pressing for inclusion, Luis Enrique further admitted whittling his squad down from the roster of players in contention for a place will be just as tough a task in itself too.

"It's going to be tough," he added. "26 [players]? Only 11 play. What I can say is that this team is going to compete with anyone and put anyone in trouble.

"But make no mistake, anyone can beat us. The atmosphere that lives in this team is very special. The base you know what it is.

"We will assess when the time comes. What matters is the mentality of adding. My parameters are not going to change."

Spain coach Luis Enrique sees plenty of room for growth in Barcelona star Pedri, suggesting he "can improve everything".

Pedri announced himself on the international stage at Euro 2020, where he made the most final-third passes (177), before achieving the same tournament-leading feat with the Under-23 squad at the Tokyo Olympics (83).

The midfielder also started in the 2-1 friendly win over Albania on Saturday, his 11th consecutive appearance under Luis Enrique without losing for Spain, only Jose Gaya (15) boasts a longer such streak.

Former La Roja midfielder Cesc Fabregas heaped praise on the 19-year-old, in an interview with Marca, while praising Barca head coach Xavi for trusting Pedri when others may favour a more "combative" player.

Luis Enrique echoed Fabregas' sentiments at Monday's pre-match news conference ahead of a friendly with Iceland, but claimed the teenager can still develop all areas of his game.

"Sports players are talented athletes, we do not care about age, or physique," the Spain boss said when asked about Fabregas' comments. "If we had that idea, Pedri would not play a single minute, nor would he be in the squad. Here what we're looking for is football talent, it's very easy.

He added: "The first time I saw Pedri was when he was playing with Las Palmas, already at that age we saw that he was something special.

"What does he have to improve? Everything. He can improve everything. With that ability and talent, even his defending, he can improve everything.

"You have to let him grow and develop. We have always liked players with that football brain and tactical profile."

Pedri joined his coach at the news conference and suggested he does not feel the added pressure on him as world football hails his potential.

"I am aware. I take it very calmly, I have to take the weight off myself. The team is more important than a player," he said.

Pedri and Barca team-mate Gavi have drawn comparisons to Blaugrana greats Xavi and Andres Iniesta, but he acknowledged it will be difficult to emulate the legendary pair.

"Xavi and Iniesta? Hopefully," he responded. "It's very difficult to do what they did. I have a spectacular relationship with [Gavi], I have a special appreciation for him and I think he has very good potential."

Fellow Barca midfielder Sergio Busquets remains captain of the national team, but Luis Enrique suggested the 33-year-old must continue with his performance levels to keep the armband.

"No one is irreplaceable. We are all aware of the importance he has in the national team," he said of Busquets. "If his level is the same as always, he remains captain and gives us everything he gives us.

"His behaviour is exemplary but also [Jordi] Alba and Koke, they perform a similar role and are important."

Speculation has persisted over Luis Enrique's future, with suggestions he may soon opt for a role in club football. However, the former Barca coach was quick to reiterate his desire to work with the national setup.

"I've explained it to you so many times and in different ways," he told reporters about his plans. "It's up to you. In Qatar? Sure, I will be in charge. I want nothing more than to represent my country at the World Cup."

Luis Enrique promised Spain would not wait another 18 years before playing in Catalonia again after a noisy home crowd roared his team to a 2-1 win over Albania.

La Roja had not played in the region since February 2004, when they tackled Peru in a friendly at the Montjuic Olympic Stadium, so Saturday's game was significant from that perspective.

With many in Catalonia harbouring hopes of independence from Spain, Saturday's match at Espanyol's RCDE Stadium was a test of what loyalty there remained to the team.

Head coach Enrique was pleased it proved overwhelmingly positive, and late goals from Ferran Torres and Dani Olmo, either side of a freak equaliser, carried Spain to victory.

"The people deserved that joy," said the Spain boss. "Barcelona likes the national team and the national team likes to come to Barcelona.

"I have been here for many years, and they have always treated me with respect and affection. Catalonia always respects."

 

Luis Enrique – who previously played for both Barcelona and Real Madrid, and coached the former from 2014 to 2017 – added: "It would have bothered me a lot not to win, because of the unique atmosphere that we have experienced.

"I don't remember a game, where I have played or coached, in which the fans have been so decisive. It is impossible that we will be another 18 years without coming here."

Spain remain a work in progress, and they struggled to convert possession into clear-cut chances for long stretches of this friendly fixture. They had 81.5 per cent of possession and played a startling 948 passes to 212 by Albania.

From this they attempted 13 shots, and their expected goals total – reflecting the quality of chances – was a modest 1.7 against a team ranked 65th in the world by FIFA.

Substitute Yeremi Pino created the 75th-minute opener by winning possession from dawdling defenders and threading an ideal ball that Barcelona forward Ferran Torres cracked beyond Etrit Berisha.

Pau Torres then headed a long ball against Albania's Myrto Uzuni and the ball squirted past goalkeeper David Raya to bring Albania level with five minutes remaining.

Olmo had the final say, however, with the RB Leipzig man curling a fine finish into the top-right corner.

"There is a lot of room [for improvement] because we are one of the youngest teams," said the coach. "We do a lot of things well, but we still have a way to go."

Luis Enrique explained his reason for not signing a new contract as Spain coach is so that it is easy for him to depart if La Roja disappoint at the World Cup.

The 51-year-old former Barcelona player and coach returned for his second stint in charge of Spain's senior side in November 2019.

Five months earlier, he had stepped down for "family reasons" that were later confirmed to relate to his young daughter suffering with cancer. She died in August 2019.

When Luis Enrique made his return to the Spain setup, he only signed a three-year contract that would keep him in charge until the end of the 2022 World Cup.

Since then, he has led Spain to Qatar 2022 and presided over La Roja's run to the semi-finals of Euro 2020, impressing neutrals throughout the tournament.

However, despite what has been a largely positive spell at the helm, there remains a degree of doubt over Luis Enrique's future, which he was refreshingly honest about.

Asked why he had not yet signed a new contract beyond the World Cup, Luis Enrique – who has recently been linked with Manchester United – said: "I'm in heaven.

"Not renewing, I've done it for you [the media]. As I'm not going to have a contract [after the World Cup], if things go wrong in the World Cup, you won't have to ask me to be fired any more."

But his amusingly frank response was qualified by an insistence that there is no issue between himself and either Luis Rubiales or Jose Molina, respectively the Royal Spanish Football Federation's (RFEF) president and sporting director.

"I feel super supported by both the president and Molina," Luis Enrique continued. "They signed me not once but twice.

"In the circumstances in which I came back, I will never forget it. I am going to fulfil my commitment, which is until after the World Cup."

Spain's preparations ahead of the World Cup continue with a friendly against Albania on Saturday at Espanyol's RCDE Stadium in Cornella de Llobregat, near Barcelona.

It will be Spain's first match in Catalonia for 18 years, having last played in the region in February 2004 for a friendly with Peru at the Montjuic Olympic Stadium.

La Roja and Catalonia have had a rocky relationship over the years, but Luis Enrique is excited for such a momentous occasion.

He said: "It's going to be a party. I hope we're at that level. Eighteen years is a long time... We already know the circumstances surrounding this type of occasion, but we face it with great enthusiasm.

"I took it for granted that [the stadium] was going to be full. The last time I played [for a Spain team] in Barcelona, it was the final of the [1992] Olympics and it was full.

"It was one of the best matches of my life for the gold medal. I have no doubts, I hope we can do it, turn it into a party."

Argentine forward Paulo Dybala is set to exit Juventus at the end of this season.

As a result, the Bianconeri are assessing their options for a replacement.

Juventus are currently fourth in Serie A after an excellent run of results which have put them into the title picture.

TOP STORY – ZANIOLO FRAMED AS DYBALA REPLACEMENT 

TuttoMercato claims Juventus have set their sights on Nicolo Zaniolo as Dybala's replacement, with the Roma attacker unlikely to renew with the Giallorossi before his contract expires in 2024.

The first domino in this instance is Dybala, whose contract expires at the end of this season. Juventus have no intention of extending according to Fabrizio Romano. Romano claims the 28-year-old will not move another club in Serie A, opening up a move to long-time suitor Tottenham.

According to TuttoMercato, Juve have chosen Zaniolo as their replacement and would be ready to make a move in the upcoming transfer window. Whether they can manoeuvre to match his current market value of €40million remains to be seen, however.

ROUND-UP

- Per Sky Sports, Manchester United have narrowed their shortlist for a permanent manager down to Ajax's Erik ten Hag, Sevilla's Julen Lopetegui, Spain boss Luis Enrique and Paris Saint-Germain's Mauricio Pochettino .

- Inter have targeted Edinson Cavani as a replacement for Alexis Sanchez, according to La Gazzetta dello Sport.

- Calciomercato reports Arsenal will make a move for Arthur in the upcoming transfer window, as contract negotiations with Juventus have broken down.

- Arsenal are also keen to tie Bukayo Saka to a long-term contract, in attempts to fend off outside interest for the 20-year-old, per The Athletic.

Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea has been left out of the latest Spain squad by Luis Enrique, while Barcelona's Sergio Busquets is "rested".

La Roja play friendlies against Albania and Iceland during the upcoming international break, and Luis Enrique has replaced De Gea with another goalkeeper from the Premier League, Brentford's David Raya.

From the previous squad for the final World Cup qualifiers in November, in defence, Inigo Martinez and Jose Luis Gaya are replaced by Diego Llorente and Marcos Alonso, while Marcos Llorente and Pedri come in as midfield options in place of Busquets and Mikel Merino.

Raul de Tomas and Ferran Torres are selected among the forwards, with no place for Rodrigo, Pablo Fornals or Brahim Diaz.

Speaking at a media conference after the squad announcement, Luis Enrique said that Busquets' omission was merely to keep him fresh. The 33-year-old has played 39 games in all competitions for Barca this season.

"In the case of Busquets, it is a personal decision," he confirmed. "He is the player who accumulates the most minutes and I want to have the best version of the captain for the games in June, and I have decided to rest him.

"He is having a spectacular season."

The Spain head coach also said the two upcoming fixtures should not be treated like friendlies, and challenged his squad to show their "ambition" and "hunger" as the World Cup at the end of the year draws closer.

He added: "Since November, the wait has been long [to play again]. They are not friendlies for the players nor for us because the World Cup is close. It will help me to see the level of the players, their ambition, their hunger."

Spain squad in full:

Unai Simon, Robert Sanchez, David Raya; Marcos Alonso, Jordi Alba, Aymeric Laporte, Pau Torres, Eric Garcia, Diego Llorente, Cesar Azpilicueta, Dani Carvajal; Rodri, Koke, Pedri, Marcos Llorente, Gavi, Carlos Soler; Dani Olmo, Pablo Sarabia, Alvaro Morata, Raul de Tomas, Ferran Torres, Yeremy Pino.

Spain head coach Luis Enrique moved to end speculation over interest from Manchester United as he questioned reporters whether it was April Fools' Day.

United announced on Sunday that they were parting ways with manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer following a 4-1 humiliation at Watford – their heaviest defeat against a promoted side since September 1989.

Pressure had been building on Solskjaer since a 5-0 crushing by Liverpool on October 24, which was United's largest margin of defeat at home to the Reds and the first time they had trailed by four goals at half-time in the Premier League.

Saturday's demolition, which followed a home humbling against Manchester City prior to the international break, proved the final nail, and United are now in the market for a new boss, at least on an interim basis until the end of the season.

Reports have linked the likes of Zinedine Zidane, Brendan Rodgers and, later, Luis Enrique to the role, with Cristiano Ronaldo said to want the former Barcelona coach to join him at Old Trafford.

However, the Spain boss has quickly quashed any talk of a move as he expressed his desire to stay with the national team, who qualified for the 2022 World Cup with a 1-0 win over Sweden in the final Group B fixture.

Questioned on the speculation by La Sexta, Luis Enrique replied: "Is it April Fools' Day today?

"I am already in the biggest team in Spain, the national team.

"We are 5,000 players, I have the players I want. What's bigger than that? The future changes in 15 seconds. Now we have to enjoy ourselves, and I am happy where I am."

Former midfielder Michael Carrick is set to take temporary charge of United, who travel to Villarreal in Tuesday's Champions League clash before visiting Chelsea on Sunday.

Luis Enrique said Spain's automatic qualification for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar has "taken a big weight" off his shoulders.

Alvaro Morata's late goal helped Spain clinch a 1-0 win over Sweden in Seville on Sunday and secured top spot in Group B of European qualifying.

Sweden will go into a play-off next March to reach the tournament while Spain can begin preparations for their 12th consecutive World Cup finals.

Only Brazil (all 21), Germany (18) and Argentina (13) have qualified for more consecutive tournaments than Spain, who have reached every finals since 1978.

"Today has been a very beautiful day. We have suffered a lot, but the players have had faith and have taken their deserved prize," Spain head coach Luis Enrique told a media conference.

"It is an excellent group of players. Not only the 25 who are here but all those who have been coming. 

"We are already in the World Cup and to be honest I have taken a big weight off my shoulders.

"I have felt much more pressure in these last games than in the European Championships or in the Nations League. 

"When you have to achieve something that seems easy or you have to do it because of history, you put pressure on yourself.

"We have worked on the psychological aspect and we have transmitted to the players the necessary confidence. We have generated enough to win the game."

Morata has played 50 games for Spain in all competitions since his debut in November 2014 against Belarus and since then he has netted 23 goals for La Roja.

His winner against Sweden after coming on as a substitute means he has 10 more goals than any of his compatriots during that time and Luis Enrique hailed his impact for La Roja.

He said: "There is not a player that represents more than Morata overcoming adversity and criticism. 

"Morata is always available to help. He is a very versatile player."

Morata acknowledged it is unthinkable for Spain, who won the World Cup in 2010, to not qualify for the tournament.

"Spain has to be in all the World Cups," Morata told RTVE.

"We have worked a lot to achieve the goal.  We have also had bad times together, now every time there are more nerves and more emotion.

"I needed to qualify for the World Cup and win, we are a great group and we deserve to be in the World Cup and we will be there."

Spain qualified for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar after a tense 1-0 victory over Sweden that was secured by Alvaro Morata's late winner.

Sweden needed to win in Seville on Sunday to top Group B but will go into the play-offs instead after Luis Enrique's home side saw out a nervy final match of their qualifying campaign to clinch the automatic spot.

Emil Forsberg had two clear-cut goalscoring opportunities for Sweden at the Estadio La Cartuja but was unable to test Spain goalkeeper Unai Simon.

Morata gave Spain victory with a close-range strike on the rebound with four minutes of the game left after Dani Olmo had seen his effort hit the crossbar.

Luis Enrique wants the home crowd to be the difference for Spain against Sweden in their final qualifier for the 2022 World Cup on Sunday.

La Roja moved top of Group B after beating Greece 1-0 on Thursday, taking advantage of Sweden's shock 2-0 defeat in Georgia.

A first-half penalty from Pablo Sarabia was enough to secure victory for Spain in Athens and meant they now have their fate in their own hands, needing just a point to secure qualification for Qatar 2022.

Speaking before the crucial game in Seville, Luis Enrique said: "It is very important to focus on the difficulties we can expect, which will be many. They defend very well. I hope that [the fans] will help us in the delicate moments.

"This will not be a party until the game is over. Our job is to close with a victory, but they are a rival and that will not be easy."

Spain and Sweden drew 0-0 in the group stages of Euro 2020 earlier this year, while the Swedes won the reverse game in World Cup qualifying 2-1 in September, and Luis Enrique was asked if he intends to change his approach this time.

"I am not going to change anything beyond nuances. Sweden defends very well and at the top they have fast people, which causes problems against you. 

"In the European Championship we were better, and I don't think we deserved the defeat in Stockholm. But football does not know about merits or justice, it only knows about results. That is why we need the public because with them, we are stronger and they are weaker."

The Spain head coach was also asked about Zlatan Ibrahimovic and whether he would prefer to see the legendary striker on the pitch on Sunday.

"That's your problem, that of Sweden and its coach, not mine. I have never met Ibra. I don't know him," Luis Enrique added.

"The truth is that with Ibra the direct game improves, but that is only part of the attack. Ibra boosts Sweden's long game, but we'll see if he comes out when they give his line-up. If he plays we will try to deactivate him, but 100 per cent it will be impossible."

Luis Enrique insisted Spain will be going for the win against Sweden on Sunday even though a draw would be sufficient for his team to win Group B and qualify for next year's World Cup in Qatar.

Spain moved top of the group after beating Greece 1-0 in Athens, taking advantage of Sweden surprisingly losing 2-0 in Georgia earlier on Thursday.

A first-half penalty from Pablo Sarabia was enough to secure victory for La Roja and means Spain now have their fate in their own hands, but Luis Enrique said they will still go for the three points when they host Sweden in Seville in their final group game.

"On Sunday we will go out to win as we do every game against a very difficult opponent, but one that we know very well," Spain head coach Luis Enrique told reporters.

"I hope that the fans will be the 12th player for us."

Luis Enrique was happy with how his team played in Greece and said that he saw improvements from the home side from their first meeting in the group, despite the fact that the reverse game in March finished 1-1.

"Greece has improved a lot since the first game we played in Spain," he added. "Thanks to the attitude and effort of my players, we have taken the game forward against a very hard-working team.

"I think we could have played better. We had a first part of control in which we neutralised their attack.

"I was happy with the attitude of the team. They have not been gripped, which in these games is not easy.

"The players have done a great job, they have overcome difficulties and are ambitious.

"We have a positive dynamic. There are always things to improve, but that we receive support is due to the effort of the team."

Luis Enrique allayed fears about Gavi after the teenage midfielder came off in the second half with what appeared to be a facial injury, saying that he is "fine". The Barcelona starlet was impressive once again, completing 100 per cent of his 43 passes, including 32 in the opposition half.

Spain's game against Sweden will be played at Estadio La Cartuja in Seville, and Luis Enrique emphasised again he wants the fans to roar his team over the line on Sunday.

"In my time as a player we qualified for a World Cup against Denmark in Seville. I don't remember a similar game in my career in which the fans carried us like that day," he said, recalling the qualifier for the 1994 World Cup against Denmark, which Spain won 1-0.

"La Cartuja has to bounce."

Spain boss Luis Enrique insisted no amount of pressure could affect him ahead of his side's key World Cup qualifier against Greece.

The 2010 world champions are in action in Athens on Friday, with an automatic place at Qatar 2022 potentially on the line.

Should Sweden defeat Georgia in the earlier Group B match, Spain will be unable to catch them in top spot if they do not take all three points against Greece.

John van't Schip's side could still clinch a top-two finish if they beat La Roja, whom they held to a 1-1 draw in the reverse fixture in March.

Yet Luis Enrique does not believe the fear of missing out on a guaranteed place at next year's finals will disrupt their preparation. 

"Luis Enrique was born with pressure," he told reporters on Wednesday. "I've been dealing with pressure since I was 18 years old and I feel comfortable.

"After seeing how the team is training, I can only convey the confidence they give me.

"We've had pressure for every game. I haven't looked for an example in any other game.

"Greece are a really well organised team, that's the truth. In the reverse game we created few chances, fewer than we wanted. They play well and that's why we have to be good in pressing.

"I'll sign now for a game in which we keep the opposition trapped in their box."

For Spain, the game has been compared to their Euro 2020 group match against Slovakia, when a 5-0 win sent them through to the knockouts behind Sweden after they drew their opening two games.

If they win, they will head into their final game against Sweden knowing that finishing top of their group is still in their own hands.

"It's only one game," said Luis Enrique. "We're not going to make the mistake of thinking it's Sweden. We'll think about Greece – nothing else exists.

"Spain are obliged to try to win every game. The obligation is to win every game and to do it with our weapons. There's always pressure to win.

"I'm really lucky, because after seeing the two training sessions at Las Rozas, I'm more than optimistic. The belief, the rhythm, the quality they have... I feel more than confident and calm when preparing and evaluating this game.

"I'm very fortunate to be the coach of a country that has at least 60 players of international standard, at least for me."

Luis Enrique welcomed the imminent appointment of Xavi as head coach of Barcelona but doubts he can offer any worthy advice to the Camp Nou legend.

The long-awaited return of Xavi now appears a formality after Al Sadd announced Barcelona had agreed to buy the 41-year-old out of his contract.

Spanish newspaper Sport has reported Barcelona and Xavi are planning to split the cost of buying the coach out of that deal with the Qatar Stars League team.

Barcelona have encountered major financial problems but are optimistic Xavi will be the man who leads a turnaround of their fortunes on the pitch.

Heading into this weekend, they sit ninth in LaLiga after 11 games, having won just four times in the competition. A trip to face Celta Vigo in their test on Saturday, with Xavi reportedly set to be presented on Monday.

Spain boss Luis Enrique played for Barcelona from 1996 to 2004, overlapping with the early years of Xavi's playing career, and later coached the team from 2014 to 2017, winning a stack of trophies including two LaLiga titles and a Champions League.

"It was almost an announced rumour that Xavi would have the chance to come back to his home. Hopefully he will have a great time there, hopefully he will be able to win many things with Barcelona," Luis Enrique said at a news conference on Friday, after announcing Spain's squad for their upcoming international fixtures.

"It's true that I have been in the dressing room at lot at Barcelona, but also at ​​Sporting [Gijon] and Real Madrid. And as a coach I've also been in many dressing rooms.

"But in this one, specifically, Xavi has been there much more than me. I think he will almost be able to give me tips."

Xavi played 767 games for Barcelona, which is a tally only beaten by Lionel Messi (778), whose close-season exit to Paris Saint-Germain has left Barcelona reeling.

In all, Xavi won LaLiga eight times and the Champions League on four occasions before ending his long association with the club in 2015, having played in a treble-winning campaign under Luis Enrique.

Now Xavi is heading back to the Catalan giants, reportedly on an early morning flight from Qatar on Saturday, and is already being portrayed as a saviour.

There could be bumps along the way, given Barcelona's current crop of players does not match up favourably against the teams that Xavi played in while previously with the Blaugrana.

Al Sadd even referred to the "critical stage" at Barcelona as they announced Xavi's exit.

Luis Enrique said: "I hope it goes very well for him and that he can achieve many things with a club as big as Barca."

Luis Enrique lauded Spain "pillar" Sergio Busquets after his exploits in the country's trophy-less Nations League Finals campaign.

Spain fell short in Sunday's Nations League final, beaten 2-1 by reigning world champions France at San Siro in Milan.

Karim Benzema and Kylian Mbappe cancelled out Mikel Oyarzabal's 64th-minute opener and while Spain were left emptyhanded, veteran captain Busquets produced another impressive display in the middle of the nation's rebuilding project.

Busquets provided his 10th assist for Spain and first since November 2019 having teed up Oyarzabal, while the 33-year-old captain led the team in tackles (four) and total duels (17) after finishing with a 92.2 per cent passing accuracy – only bettered by Eric Garcia for La Roja.

"Busquets has been named the best player of the tournament. That says a lot about his level. He's vital for us. He's the captain, but not only that," Luis Enrique said during his post-match news conference.

"He's also somebody who gives some values off the pitch and on the pitch. He gives you calmness, quietness. He's our pillar on which our defensive and attacking game are based.

"How much we've won, I don't know, but I know we were able to win against the European champions and play almost evenly with the world champions, so for the players and the team, that is all good.

"And of course, every time it will be more difficult for me to make the next selection, and that is good for me and good for us. The important thing is the team maintains its personality and will to win."

Spain ended the decider with 63.9 per cent possession and 624 passes, compared to France's 354 total passes.

Luis Enrique's Spain were left to rue a missed opportunity, having lost to eventual champions Italy on penalties in the Euro 2020 semi-finals.

"Nothing was missing. It was a shame that once we scored that opening goal, that France went up the other end. It was a shame to concede when we just scored, because that's when France were at their weakest. That's the only regret we can have," the former Barcelona boss added.

"What are we missing? We're not missing anything at all. We still need to keep that same confidence, and we need to try press ahead with what we've been doing." 

"As usual, no matter who we're playing against, Spain will always play its game," Luis Enrique said. "Sometimes we play a bit better than other times, but that's normal. But I think all fans would agree that Spain always plays the same way. No matter where, no matter against whom. So I am satisfied with what I have seen this tournament."

Page 1 of 5
© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.