Guided by their best player Rodri, Spain wants to see its Nations League victory as the prelude to a new golden era, with the likes of young Gavi, goalkeeper Unai Simon and the “French” guard Laporte/Le Normand.

Rodri, the leader

“This generation promises a lot,” says Rodri, who has won everything this season with Manchester City and the Seleccion.

At 26, the only scorer in the Champions League final against Inter (1-0) is the star of this team. He came into the spotlight at the end of a gruelling 66-game season for him, in which he scored a hat-trick for the Sky Blues and beat Luka Modric’s Croatia in the final (0-0, 5-4 on penalties), one of his rivals for the unofficial title of world’s best midfielder.

Above all, the new boss instilled his winning mentality in the team. “We were very strong mentally,” he said after the Rotterdam final, wishing to “create a winning culture,” as between 2008 and 2012, Spain won two Euros and a World Cup. When asked about the Ballon d’Or, he replied that “of course it would be huge, but I don’t think much about individual trophies, I think collective, winning as a team.” And so it begins with Spain.

Gavi, the future genius

Behind Rodri pushes La Roja’s true prodigy, Gavi, 18 years old, only 1.73 m tall, with the activity of a pinball machine and already the vice of an old hand, as evidenced by his devious little tricks against the Croatian midfielders, who have repaid him well.

Coach Luis de La Fuente “prefers him as a playmaker, but it’s hard to find a Gavi who plays badly wherever he’s positioned. He represents the present and the future.” A tireless ball-hunter, Gavi has never ceased to amaze since Luis Enrique called him up for the first time for the previous edition of the Nations League, at the tender age of 17, when he had only made six professional appearances for FC Barcelona. The coach, now being courted by Paris Saint-Germain, was right on the money: Gavi, with 21 caps to his name (3 goals), is already indispensable.

Unai Simon confirmed

There’s nothing quite like winning a penalty shoot-out to establish a goalkeeper’s status. After Doha’s disastrous run against Morocco in the World Cup Round of 8 (0-0, 3-0 on penalties), and the Euro 2020 semi-final defeat by Italy (1-1, 4-2 on penalties), Unai Simon finally came out on top, stopping shots from Lovro Majer and – with a magnificent save – Bruno Petkovic.

Injured in March and replaced by Kepa Arrizabalaga, the Athletic Bilbao goalkeeper proved his worth once and for all. Once again, it was a choice made by Enrique, the previous coach, who absolutely wanted an eleventh outfield player, a keeper capable of playing with his feet. “And now he’s stopping penalties too, he’s a great keeper,” concludes de la Fuente.

Laporte/Le Normand, the “French” lock

The French-born hinge worked well. While Aymeric Laporte (22 caps, 1 goal) is a fixture in his third tournament with La Roja, newcomer Robin Le Normand was a convincing performer, having already won his second cap.

Although Laporte hit the bar with a shot that looked like a match ball, he commanded his defence with authority. Le Normand exuded authority for a debutant. “It’s been an incredible ten days,” he said in the mixed zone. “Over the next few days, I’m going to take a step back from what’s just been achieved, the matches I’ve experienced, what I’ve done with this team… It’s beautiful, and now I’m going to savour it.”

Despite a penalty for a handball after his first ten minutes in the “rojo,” Le Normand is “pretty happy. I was up to the job. There’s still a lot to work on, but it’s positive for the future.” A future that smiles on the new Spanish generation.

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